Diving into World Anvil's Rivers & Waterways Competition

In this post I share my step-by-step worldbuilding process for competitions, plus 26 worldbuilding prompts for rivers!

Diving into World Anvil's Rivers & Waterways Competition
Photo by Nitish Kadam / Unsplash
Table of Contents

How I worldbuild for competitions

⏱️ TL;DR

World Anvil have kicked off their latest worldbuilding competition! It's all about Rivers & Waterways, and I want to write something I'm proud of before the deadline of May 28th, 2022 also there's a really cool participation prize from Kobold Press that I want.

In this post: I share my step-by-step worldbuilding process for answering this prompt, plus a big ol' brain dump of ideas and resources to inspire you.

πŸ˜… I'm actually worldbuilding as I'm writing this blog post, so you get to see my raw thought process as it emerges!

πŸ”¬ Dissecting the prompt

Before I begin worldbuilding, I always read through the competition page to break down the prompt and see what the creative constraints are.

"Tell us about a river or waterway in your world, and why it's important!"

Creative constraints:

  • Time - deadline of the 28th May 2022
  • Template - must use the Geography article template on World Anvil
  • Wordcount - under 2500 words total

πŸ’­ Thought process

Now that I know what I'm working with, I like to do a big ol' brain dump (you can see mine at the bottom of this post).

How I do a brain dump:

  1. Open up the Rivers & Waterways competition page and read the extended prompts and inspiration provided there.
  2. Grab my note-taking methods of choice, and start writing down any keywords or questions that spring to mind EVEN IF THEY'RE RUBBISH AND I WON'T USE THEM.
  3. Start branching off from keywords to create a mindmap of connected ideas that lead to more keywords and areas of my world, Melior, that I want to explore.
  4. When I don't know about the topic or want to get more ideas, I start researching on reddit, youtube, and wikipedia (I've shared some links at the end of this post).

Why doing a brain dump is important for me:

  • It's like taking an actual dump and I feel much better afterwards! πŸ˜…
  • It's important to get all of the weak ideas noted down and out of the way to make room for the good ideas.
  • Often, looking at the bad ideas sparks inspiration for something unique!
  • When I've got a big page of ideas to draw from, the blank canvas of writing an article isn't daunting any more.

πŸ† The competitive bit

The Rivers & Waterways competition on World Anvil has an awesome participation prize from Kobold Press and a grand prize for the winners, too.

BURNOUT WARNING:Every time I'm about to take part in a challenge, competition, or event, I get clear in my mind "Why do I want to do this, and what is my desired outcome?"The prize is really appealing to me in this competition, so I will take part and put in a solid effort. BUT! That's not my "why".My goal is: to expand my world by making an article that I'm proud of.After all, if I don't win, I can still buy the prize another day!

With my goal now set, it's time to write! πŸ™Œ

Photo by Klara Avsenik / Unsplash

Just write the damn thing

πŸ“š Deciding what to write

First, I ask myself two questions:

  1. What small concepts or ideas do I have already in my world to expand upon?
  2. Do I want to make something completely new?

For this article I want a bit of both - a brand new concept connected to an existing area or thing in my world that needs a bit more fleshing out.

From my brain dump of keywords, something caught my attention with the idea of a floating market.

🧱 Expanding the ideas

That's it. That's all I have at this stage.
"Floating market".
Now what?

Glancing back at my creative constraints for this article, the wordcount is a maximum of 2500 words to work with (and I don't have to fill them all, either).

To help keep my momentum, I take my starting point and then ask The 6 Questions (who, what, where, why, when, how) and tailor them to the prompt I'm answering (which is primarily about the river, not the floating market).

Dividing the maximum wordcount limit of 2500 words between the 6 questions is just over 415 words each, which has broken down that broad limit into smaller (easier) chunks to fill out.

To make it even easier, I can then split each 400~ word part into 4 smaller questions of 100 words each.

I've listed these questions below under worldbuilding prompts for rivers!
The Damnoen Saduak floating market is a more authentic floating marketing outside of Bangkok that has countless narrow canals, fragrances of spices and flavors washing over you moment after moment, fresh fruits piled high upon on rafts, and a raw experience that truly takes you as far away from what a market experience usually is.
Photo by Marek Okon / Unsplash

⁉️ Making it memorable

Reflecting upon the meta page of Melior, my dark fantasy worldbiulding project, the tones for my world are: chaos, caution, a generous portion of dark humour and puns. Some articles will make you go "awww!" many will cause you to "oh no..."

To make my floating market concept memorable I thought about the following questions:

  • What do people rarely talk about regarding rivers?
  • What are the opposites to this concept?
  • What would I least expect to see?
  • How can I describe the senses?

I set a timer for 15mins and this was my thought process that lead to my final idea:

The river is located somewhere within the Melopian Commonwealth regions of Melior, meaning the common currency used there will be koinz, and the language spoken would be rrΓ©raliΓ‘zi. I have a few sporadic articles relating to the heart of the commonwealth, the country of Kweil - perhaps the river is one of the most important ones there, and was the key to important international travel across the seas. Maybe the river is home to the capital city Idura? And the floating markets have been part of culture there since forever.But what do they sell? I've already written about bioluminescent glow-jelly, originating from Orubian shores - perhaps glowtech related items? Or maybe the markets are able to operate at night thanks to the lights?The thing I'd least expect to see in the floating markets of a bustling capital city would beeeee... πŸ€” really big bones or fossils that are so large they would interrupt the flow of daily life if the people hadn't found ways of overcoming such large physical obstacles.

Sounds good to me! On to the article πŸ™Œ

The river CΓ‘ruc basin - Melior

✨ Presenting an article

I always start my articles with a summary paragraph, which acts a bit like a TL;DR but also serves as an intro hook for the article. (My secret is that I end up writing this last, once I've got some lore to reference!)

I then made headings for the major topics I'd be writing about: Geography, Flora, Fauna, Idura, Impact of the Rupture, River Industry, and The Floating Bones Market.

I pasted in my bullet point notes beneath each section and worked on expanding them further. The bones concept from earlier changed quite a lot, but I love how it turned out!

On my final read through and polishing stage I made sure that each section was being relevant to the original prompt about the river, and I made some more connections to other parts of my world to bring it all together.

Here's the final result! ✨

River CΓ‘ruc
The largest river in Kweil and home to the beating heart of the Melopian Commonwealth.

How would you answer this prompt? If you're already part of the wholesome World Anvil community check the competition page on how to participate. If you found this post helpful in any way and are interested in using World Anvil to create your world, please consider joining using my special referral link below!


🧠 Big ol' brain dump of ideas

waterways, ocean, bridges, technology, hydro-power, waterfall, climate (hot/cold?), plants & species (aquatic/non aquatic), pollution, sewage, water treatment, sanitation, transport, food, farming/agriculture, history, mythology/folklore, lost treasure, wreckage, political/country borders, war & conflict, water based military/guard, crime, smuggling, pirates, river mouth, delta, rapids, underground rivers, cave rivers, creek, canyon, gorge, levees, canal, locks, floating market, religious/cultural significance, current, tidal influence, glacier, mill, dam, sports, traditions, water colour, name, tributaries, source/spring, fjord, minerals, clay, ferry, metaphor, reservoir, lake, erosion, sediment, cartography, size, sluice gate, barge, gatehouse, floodgate, floodplain, fishing, settlements

Photo profile: @profepix
Photographer: @yuriy.bogdanov
Photo by Yuriy Bogdanov / Unsplash

🌎 Worldbuilding prompts for rivers


  • Who lives on/along/near the river?
  • Who uses the river?
  • Who has a famous connection to the river?
  • Who rules, guards, or claims to own the river?


  • What is the river called?
  • What do people use the river for?
  • What resources does the river provide?
  • What species live in/along/near the river?
  • What connections does it have to other bodies of water (such as tributaries, lakes, or oceans)?
  • What dangers does the river hold?


  • Where is the river located?
  • Where is the river's source and mouth?
  • Where does the river allow access to?
  • Where does the river become impassable?


  • Why do people use (or avoid) the river?
  • Why were settlements, structures, or bridges placed at those locations relating to the river?
  • Why is the river culturally significant?
  • Why is (or was) the river religiously or spiritually significant?


  • When did people build and settle on or near the river?
  • When was a significant settlement or structure built near the river?
  • When do people use the river the most (times of day/seasons)?


  • How do people make use of the river's resources?
  • How do you traverse the river?
  • How is the river maintained, if at all?
  • How was the river used historically?
  • How often does it flood?
Rocks in the mighty river
Photo by Daniel Beilinson / Unsplash