Dimitris set me a challenge...

Dimitris set me a challenge...
Photo by Julia Joppien / Unsplash

Amidst the fun and chaos of WorldEmber 2022, World Anvil enabled a new redeemable-with-points interaction on their Twitch streams - a custom challenge from Dimitris, the founder of World Anvil.

So many people rushed to redeem it on the first stream that by the time I wanted to get one too on the second stream, the point cost had increased and I couldn't grab it... BUT in true community spirit, Secondhand very kindly gifted one to me!

Table of Contents

šŸŽÆ The Challenge

On the 19th December, I received my challenge in a TikTok video from Dimitris...

@dimitrisromeo #worldanvil@World Anvil Worldbuilding #mission #melior #worldember ā™¬ original sound - Dimitris R Havlidis
Hello TJ, I hope you're doing well.
It's time to get your mission!

Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is....
(A very difficult one for you, I promise you.)

You're an amazing creator, you have created mind-boggling, incredible articles that get people to just get stuck to your world and don't want to stop reading.

But you're missing something very important:
FOCUS! (I told you it's going to be a hard one!)

In the past you have created mind-boggling, incredible articles, people know you for your incredible CSS skills, (like mad skills, man!) but do you know what else I know [about you]? (Yes, I'm calling you out now.) - Your inability to focus.

Your mission is to create a very very fully and detailed version of Bradstowe! I want to see EVERYTHING!

Good luuuuuck!


šŸ‘€ The Problem

Dimitris knows me well and it's true that in my worldbuilding I've frequently jumped from one region to another and from this concept to that concept - usually without much connecting material between the places.

I've been fast-travelling and teleporting across the map, revealing the fog of war in blotches rather than taking a scenic adventure and discovering locales and characters along the way.

I feel like this gif of a puppy rapidly switching focus and excitement between a plant, a tennis ball, its own leg, and the person filming really sums up my experience!

EDIT: Catoblepon very kindly personalised this gif for me and it's perfect
A puppy rapidly switches focus and excitement between a plant, a tennis ball, its own leg, and the person filming.

There was of course another small problem, and I think maybe it was a test... I have already created the city of Bradstowe in my world! There's an article for it, a city map, and a lot of connecting articles! But as this challenge was set in the middle of WorldEmber (where only new articles count towards the wordcount goal of 10,000 words in December) I knew I had to focus on reaching my time-sensitive goal first before taking on the mission from Dimitris.

šŸ“ The Vague Plan

I'm actually writing this blog post before I take on the mission because I find it easier to make a plan of what I'm going to do (y'know, for the focus thing).

So here is my plan for tackling the mission:

Editing TJ: this all got put on hold as I came down with a flu and then right after I got better I got hit with the corona virus. womp womp.I prioritised my health and got plenty of rest, I'm all better now :D
  1. Reach my goal for WorldEmber 2022 DONE
  2. Enter my shiny articles to the World Anvil Worldbuilding Awards (WAWA) DONE
  3. Review my article for Bradstowe and write a list of all the existing articles I have that can connect to it
  4. Review my city map for Bradstowe
  5. Plan out the new and updated information that needs to be included in the city article
  6. Just write the damn thing!
  7. Consider updating the map if I want and need to
  8. Share the before & after
  9. Report back to Dimitris
  10. Review what I've learnt from this mission and make plans for the future

šŸ’© The Old

Oof. This is one of the earliest articles created in my world, back before I had any concept of the apocalyptic Rupture that impacted the world of Melior only fifty years ago (y'know, the event that opened rifts to countless unknown realms and introduced magic to the world?). Reviewing this article now, it feels so dry and lifeless šŸ˜¬ I even had an old comment from someone asking if it was an alternative history setting for 19th century Earth. I'm glad I got the inspired time frame to come across, but I really need to improve the communication of this being a fantasy setting! šŸ˜…

I can summarize the old article for you in one paragraph:

Bradstowe is the capital city of Orlend famous for its fishing industry and has had an industrial boom that revolutionised the city's technology, with new factories and huge steamshis being constructed.The city is home to the religion of the Originator's Order and the Abbey is an iconic landmark of the city.

Honestly that's pretty much all I described here! The old article was about 500 words of not much. It says nothing about the world or any conflicts going on - it could be anywhere really! None of the things described are elaborated on and it's missing a lot of new context that I now have for the world.

A screenshot of how the article looked before editing - a handful of small paragraphs and an embedded map.
How the article looked before editing (click to see full size)

Despite the plain article, I had since made a good handful of connecting landmarks and organizations within the city but I never went back to add them in.

Time for a bit of spring cleaning! āœØ

šŸ­ City Worldbuilding

I've made a backup copy of the old article to one side and I'm going to tear out absolutely everything and rebuild it from scratch, and I'll be putting back in the old segments with a bit of polish and shine where they will fit better.

I usually worldbuild at the same time as writing these articles, so this is my thought process as I go:

  • Starting with a clean slate, I'm going to write down some headers for the different topics I want to cover in the city. I'll tweak the wording of these titles at the end.
    For now, these are: an intro summary, history of the city, guilds & groups, districts, demographics, industry & magic.
  • I'm a visually driven person, it helps me to chunk out a basic layout because it gives me a structured approach to filling things in. For large sections I like to have plenty of room for text and maybe a supporting image, but for shorter or less important sections I prefer to put those into columns with smaller heading sizes.

Here's how it's looking with the sections planned out:

Screenshot of the work in progress article
How the article looks with a new layout and no content (click to see full size)

I don't have any blockquotes in there yet but I'll add some in once I've finished worldbuilding because they need to be relevant to the text they're next to.

Underneath each heading in my new layout I've added minimal notes to remind myself of what belongs in each section. I looked at my list of connected articles for this city and made sure that I covered the majority of them.

āœØ The New

Spongebob meme text: Several months later...

OhNo it's been three months since I opened the draft of this blog post šŸ˜± but to be fair I have kind of been a little bit busy selling up my possessions and packing all of my belongings into two suitcases to fly to Argentina to live with my husband šŸ„°

I managed to write the majority of the article before travelling and just finished the last bit off today! Here's the final result, and you can read it here: https://www.worldanvil.com/w/Melior/a/bradstowe

šŸ“š What I Learnt

The final article looks much better and does have a lot more depth to it than the original, but I'm not entirely happy with the final result šŸ¤”

On reflection I realised that it's down to the following:

  1. I felt uninterested in the topic and wanted to work on other things at the time, and this made it harder for me to feel enthusiastic about this article.
  2. Because this was a challenge set to me by Dimitris (and also that I didn't realise the first point) my brain got caught up on worldbuilding for another person, rather than for myself. I feel like I ended up making a very long, slightly more interesting city article, but nothing vastly unique or memorable in comparison to other worldbuilding concepts I've made.

I feel happy that the article is much better than it was before, and I'm glad to have completed this challenge!

The things I'm taking away from this are:

  • Saying "focus on this thing" and then also "I want to know everything about this thing" for me was a bad combo šŸ˜‚ I feel like if I'd continued I could have made an entire world based just on that city (which I don't want to do). For future projects I need to clearly define the scope of what I want to make and not drift down the path of worldbuilding disease (again)!
  • When I'm feeling stuck I need to listen to what I really want to write about and think about bizarre, unusual, and weeeeird stuff that will not only keep my attention but my readers, too.
  • Finishing something feels really good! Much like with art, it can be really hard to stop working on a thing and say "okay, this is done now". I'm trying to remember to aim for "finished, not perfect" but it's a really hard habit to break.
Update: I got some nice feedback from Dimitris :D
Comment from Dimitris: "TJ, this is incredible work, clean, refined and focused. I deeply enjoyed the blogpost and the way you went about it. Knowing yourself and understanding why you do or don't do something is something that really only comes from ... well ... focusing (introspection) and you did that well.   I am so very proud of you for your work and your commitment. This is truly something that deserves to be recognised. Well done."