World-Building: A Minimalist Approach

By Angela Dell’Isola

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By a virtual show of hands: when I say “world-building,” how many of you immediately think of Tolkien? Or George R.R. Martin? J.K. Rowling?

The term tends to be heavily linked to fantasy and science fiction, because it often implies building something from scratch: producing maps; coining new words, phrases, or languages (back to you, Tolkien!); and constructing full-fledged structures for the governments, economies, and social frameworks of their alternate realities.

This is one approach to world-building, and it’s yielded some pretty fantastic (see what I did there?) results. But is it the only approach? I don’t think so, and it’s not exclusive to fantasy and science fiction. World-building can be an important tool across all shelves, and it doesn’t need to be a 20,000-league dive. Cue “minimalist world-building.” It sounds like a total oxymoron, I know. Continue reading

“Clayton Byrd Goes Underground” by Rita Williams-Garcia: A Discussion Guide for Writers

In Rita Williams-Garcia’s middle grade novel Clayton Byrd Goes Underground, the sudden loss of a beloved grandfather, a disconnect between mother and son, and the young protagonist’s desire to become a Blues musician collide. By studying Williams-Garcia’s novel, writers can examine how to write sound and musical imagery, how to weave adult relationships and points of view into a middle grade novel, and how to use secondary or ancillary characters to create conflict, mood, tension and setting.

Picture1Use the discussion questions on your own or with a book group to investigate Clayton Byrd Goes Underground. As you consider each question, take note of how your own manuscripts apply Williams-Garcia’s methods.

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