WorldEmber 2023 | E. Christopher Clark

WorldEmber 2023

My focus in 2023 has been on balancing my mental health with my desire to be creating things all the time. I’ve been much more selective about what I say “yes” to; I’ve forced myself to take breaks in between big projects; and I’ve done my best to learn how to be still, to relax, and to give myself grace as I recover from the huge projects I tend to undertake. If I’m going to succeed with WorldEmber 2023, it must be more of the same. And so, I, E. Christopher Clark, pledge to write at least 10,000 words of new worldbuilding in the month of December 2023.


Yes, I’ve managed to write 25,000 words each WorldEmber for the past two years, but I don’t want to push it. If I hit a bigger number, fine. But I don’t want to be burned out come January. I want to enter the new year ready to continue my work on myself and my work-storytelling-life balance.


As in the past, this document will be my single place for gathering preparatory materials and doing my homework.



Week 1 Homework: Pledge

I’ve handled the pledge itself above, but the other thing we worldbuilders have been tasked with doing this week is choosing an area of focus.


My area of focus will be on anything I need to keep writing my current work-in-progress, a graphic novel titled The Blood of Seven Queens. This will involve locations my protagonist, Frieda Jacobs, will travel through; characters she’ll encounter along her quest to catch the Big Bad Wolf; as well as props, weapons, and magics she or her antagonists will have access to throughout the story.


Secondarily, as time allows, I will be attempting to flesh out my stubs—a popular endeavor amongst Anvilites this year that I’ve heard called stub stomping, Stubocalypse. and many other amusing names.



Week 2 Homework: Prepare

For this week’s homework, we’ve been tasked with preparing our area of focus for WorldEmber.


Scope & Goals

As I mentioned last week, I plan to limit the scope of my WorldEmber endeavors to articles that will directly impact my current work-in-progress (The Blood of Seven Queens). That’s already led me to tweaking my “One of Everything” list below, and I imagine that work will continue throughout this month. It’s not that I want to abandon “just for laughs” worldbuilding altogether, but there is so much stuff I could be building up to help me through the rewrite of Seven Queens that I might as well keep my focus laser-sharp.


My goal? I want to make huge progress on the book in 2024. I would love to finish the dang thing, if I can. And I think that’ll be easier the more worldbuilding I’ve done in advance to help me through the drafting and revision process.


Here’s Ron Carlson on that very subject, from his book Ron Carlson Writes a Story:

Our rule for now shall be: include things. …[W]e’re looking for a way to survive the writing of the story. When in doubt, include things. We may have [our character] over the sink trying to get the lid off the espresso maker while not getting water on the sleeves of her silk blouse, and we may not know her state of mind, but at least we have that small appliance, the running water, and her sleeves to help us into the next sentence.

Theme & Tone

Somewhere along the way in my teaching career—probably from Janet Burroway’s Writing Fiction—I picked up the idea that, if the question “Who?” is about character and “When?” is about setting and so on, then “How?” is the question of tone and “Why?” is the question of theme.


It’s not a perfect parallel, but it almost works.


So, why am I writing about what I’m writing about? Because I like fairy tales and comic books and intertextuality. I like crossovers and remixes and mash-ups. I love the art of collage. I love how works of art can mean different things when they’re juxtaposed against one another.


I love the word juxtapose—maybe a bit too much, if I’m being honest.


And so, I write fairy tale retellings set in a post-apocalyptic world that blends mythpunk, steampunk, and cyberpunk.


But how do I tell those stories? What’s my tone? The truth is, I’m hard-pressed to tell you. Some folks will talk to you about how much my stuff makes them laugh. Some will talk about the brilliant twists and concepts. Some will mention the time I made them cry with a description of the last days of a white rabbit.


I keep wanting to classify the work that I’m doing on that mood alignment chart that goes around from time to time, but every site I find it on gives different examples for the different categories and they don’t seem to ever agree. On one site, I determined my setting was “neutralbright.” And yet, the last time I saw someone do a presentation on this stuff, the examples given for “neutralbright” were so unlike my world that they made my head spin.


All of that said, I think it’s super-important for me to answer this question for real at some point. I’m often faced with the sneaking suspicion that, while I think I’m writing one kind of story, I might in fact be writing something entirely different. And so, I ask you, constant reader, how would you describe the tone of my world?


Kitoypoy once called it “Terry Pratchett… but hornier.” Is that good enough? Should I just stop there and stick with that?



Pulling from my meta for my work in general, I plan to be listen to lots of Halsey and Nine Inch Nails this December (along with a heaping helping of whatever naughty pop music I’m digging on a given day). I plan to dig deep into my back issues of the comic book series Saga, Dawn, and Fables. And I plan to watch some stuff, but I’m not sure what yet. As I look at my list of movie inspirations, I’m realizing a lot of them are more geared towards future projects than this current one.


I also plan to take inspiration from some of my favorite worlds here on World Anvil: Cathedris, Culinarypunk, The World of Wizard’s Peak, and Etrea, among many, many others. The joy of these big community events here on World Anvil is working alongside so many other talented creators. See what they/you come up with is as much an inspiration as anything else.



Week 3 Homework: Welcome

It’s been a rough week here in Clarksville. I was laid off from my day job on Wednesday and I’m still recovering from that. And so, in that regard, the fact that this week’s WorldEmber homework is simply to “go to your world’s homepage and put yourself in your reader’s (or player’s) shoes”—a part of my world that I’m already very happy with—is great. And yet, because I’m feeling even more vulnerable and insecure, I face the challenge of this assignment with more than a little consternation.


See, included with the homework assignment was a blog post detailing examples of amazing homepages on World Anvil, but my homepage was not one of those listed. And while my rational, adult brain understands that there are probably hundreds of examples they could have chosen to highlight, the scared younger self inside of me who is afraid that everyone hates him—that part of myself that is super active right now, in the days following my university letting me go—he is convinced that the fact my homepage isn’t listed amongst the examples of “amazing” ones is reason enough for me to throw all of my other wants and desires aside and redesign my page from the ground-up.


When I try to tell him that I’m proud of the page and I don’t think it’s that bad, he points out that I have no sense of taste and am therefore not to be trusted. After all, Younger Me says, you don’t even like some of the examples they gave, so who are you to judge what’s good and bad you hack?! You phony! You liar, you cheat!


heavy sigh


And here I was about to try and write something positive to wrap up, but Younger Me decided he needs to tell you that the reason can’t put myself into my readers’ shoes is that I don’t have readers, that the only reason anybody consumes anything I make is because they feel sorry for me, and that I should go find the red button and delete my World Anvil page right now—along with every other thing I’ve ever put online.


So, I think I’m going to leave my homepage alone for now. And I’m going to consider the fact that I didn’t immediately go delete my page as accomplishment enough for this week.



Week 4 Homework: Gird

An old boss of mine used to be fond of the phrase “gird your loins.” He’d say it in advance of our annual conferences, just before an important but potentially difficult meeting with our board, or even just because it was a fun phrase to say. “Gird your loins.” Imagining him saying it to me is just as effective today as it was then, just as effective as the other phrase I remember fondly from back in those days: “just keep swimming” (a reference to the film Finding Nemo, if you’re not familiar).


This week’s WorldEmber homework is all about “last-minute prep” and to that end, I‘m going to address the points they raised in a quick, bullet-point format.

  • Do writing exercises. I was on-stream with Janet from World Anvil when this homework was announced, but I’ll reiterate here: I love writing exercises, and I will definitely keep my plethora of books and writing games handy in case I (or anyone visiting my streams during December) get stuck.
  • Find a support group. I wish I had the bravery to overcome my social anxiety and ask for admission to a chapter on the WA Discord, but I don’t. Instead, my support group will be the folks who stop by my Twitch stream Monday through Thursday each week; my friend Lissa, who I write with once a month; and my brother, once he comes home for the holidays.
  • Tidy up your writing space. I do plan on dusting my desk this week, now that there’s one fewer laptop taking up room (I was laid off from my day job recently, in case you weren’t aware). Other than that, I’ll probably keep things as they are—if only so that I don’t get so distracted by tidying up that I forget why I’m doing it in the first place.
  • Find a writing schedule. I plan to write from 8 am through 12 noon each day, allowing myself a brief lunch break before diving into writing with my Twitch community each weekday at 1 pm eastern. More writing may happen at other points in the day, given that I’m jobless at the moment, but we’ll see.
  • Stock your writing space. If there’s one thing our house is not lacking during the holidays, it’s snacks. My coffee and soda supply is also all taken care of. The thing I’m working on right now is stocking my writing space with art. I am whipping up all sorts of fun pieces to share with you throughout the month, stuff to go along with my “One of Everything” articles (see below).

And that’s that. Time to get back to creating that artwork. And oh my god, it’s going to be so good. I’m having so much fun, and I can’t wait to share with you some of these ideas I’ve been cooking up behind the scenes.


Bonus Homework: One of Everything, Year Three

For the past two WorldEmbers, I’ve embarked upon a little mini-quest of my own to write at least one article per article type available on World Anvil. It’s been a lot of fun, and I am so looking forward to doing it this year that I started jotting down ideas in August.


And so, here’s the ever-evolving plan:

  • Building:  
    • Camelot—the castle in the city of Covenant where Frieda’s distant cousin Claudia reigns as Queen of Promiseland at the start of The Blood of Seven Queens
  • Character:  
  • Country:  
  • God/Deity:  
  • Geography:
  • Item:  
  • Organization:  
  • Religion:  
  • Settlement:  
  • Species:  
    • Sleepwalkers (see: Bonnie McKee song)—parasitic species which feeds on the hopes and dreams of humanoid creatures, rendering them impervious to pain but slowly killing their souls in the process; causes people to sleepwalk their way through life and only detectable by someone who is close to succumbing to a sleepwalker themself
  • Vehicle:  
    • Emerald City Tram (since I put it in the gosh-darned comic just before midnight on Friday, October 27)
  • Condition:  
    • Troll Disease—thanks to Melissa Brennan, who, during our monthly call on Saturday, November 18, 2023, uttered aloud the phrase “this is how you become a troll” and inspired this idea
  • Conflict:  
  • Document:  
    • The Lost Triad comic book (opportunity to test out new comic-making techniques on a small scale)—and maybe the angle here is that Frieda used to read this as a kid
  • Ethnicity:  
    • Egregore (the ethnicity of amici imaginarium who we call gods)—one of whom is directly responsible for the events leading to Queen Daisy Rampion’s birth and traumatic early life
  • Language:  
  • Material:  
  • Military Unit:  
    • Threat Response Team (umbrella term for superhero teams)—with tie-ins to a medieval or industrial-revolution-themed team that Frieda encounters during her chase of the wolf
  • Myth/Legend:  
  • Natural Law:  
  • Plot:  
    • A Friends-like sitcom that is popular during Frieda's time. You can watch it on the EdenNet everywhere except the South. Down there, you have to see the cast perform the episodes live on tour. This might lead Frieda to open up technology restrictions once she unites the kingdoms.
      • The show is called “Bards” so that Frieda can ask the bard she meets “do you like bards?” And he can say, “no they’re awful” and she can explain “no, I meant the show.” It’s about bards hanging out at a tavern (like Central Perk) waiting to join an adventuring group
  • Profession:  
    • Dragon Watcher—which may be an opportunity to give nuance to the bard from the first draft of Seven Queens; maybe Frieda encounters him near the slopes of Dükuhüo Aüki where he’s watching for dragons to make ends meet until his “songwriting career takes off”
  • Prose:  
  • Title:  
  • Spell:  
    • Dream Manipulation—which doesn’t really tie into any current plans, but which is something I want to write about as a follow-up to Nightmare: The Plot (and maybe it’s OK for me to write a few articles that don’t tie into the current W.I.P.)
  • Technology:  
    • Artificial Life—but try to think of an angle that ties into the current W.I.P., or how it might help get you through the muddy middle of the plot in some way
  • Tradition:  
    • The Arrival of Refugees in Eden—but maybe expand it to cover the whole of what the Start of an Age is like, so I can explain (to myself, first and foremost) what the rules are about technology level and such—beginning with the First Age and going forward

An additional two notes about that last one from a brainstorming session on Sunday, November 12, 2023:

  1. When a Calamity happens, it obliterates everything from that point forward, so nothing survives.
  2. What arrives in Eden is only that which was in existence at the point in space-time when the Calamity struck.
Me, E.
WorldEmber 2023
December 1–31, 2023
Where? It’s a state of mind, man
Art thou Romeo?
Slowly, sustainably, and always remembering that this event is meant to be fun.
WorldEmber 2023: Dimi Mission
Generic article | Feb 4, 2024

In which Dr. Anvil challenges E. Christopher Clark to write about the cities of Eden during WorldEmber 2023.


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Nov 4, 2023 14:41

Whooo best of luck this year! You got this! Also, I love the bonus homework you've done. I'll definitely use that idea for future WorldEmber events ^^

Nov 4, 2023 15:45 by E. Christopher Clark

Thanks! Yeah, the One of Everything is a fun way to try out templates you don't usually use.

Now it's time for the awkward wave.
Nov 4, 2023 15:11 by Carolyn McBride

You inspire me with your bonus homework, and your rational approach to realistic world-building. Good luck with your goals!

Magic, Dragons & Drama! Uclandia   If the real world is more your thing, come visit Sitka Cove A small town on the brink of explosive change fueled by secrets!
Nov 4, 2023 15:46 by E. Christopher Clark

Thank you! Same to you!

Now it's time for the awkward wave.
Nov 4, 2023 15:49 by Dr Emily Vair-Turnbull

Good luck, Chris! :D And good luck with your mini-quest of one of everything! :D <3

Nov 4, 2023 23:09 by E. Christopher Clark

Thanks so much! I have a good group of stuff this time around. I'm sure one of them will give me a challenge when I'm least expecting it, but I feel good for now!

Now it's time for the awkward wave.
Nov 4, 2023 17:26 by Polina "Line" Arteev

The one of everything quest is so fun! I might try my own toned-down version hehe. Best of luck with your goals! We fight the burnout and busy life together!

Seek a new dawn, in Malkora!
Craft a bright new world, in Ayun Sovos!
The Feral Sovereign returns for Summer Camp 2024!
Nov 4, 2023 23:10 by E. Christopher Clark

Yes! And let me know if you do a toned-down version. For me the point the first time around was just to try some templates I hadn't played with much, so a toned-down version could definitely do that.

Now it's time for the awkward wave.
Nov 6, 2023 10:01

Love the personal quest you set up. Sure it will be fun! Best of luck for worldember and good for you for setting a smaller target and battling burnout in advance. I'm sure you'll do amazing!

Nov 6, 2023 11:49 by E. Christopher Clark

Thanks so much! And good luck to you as well, assuming you're participating. :-)

Now it's time for the awkward wave.
Nov 6, 2023 12:19

Yeah, I'm planning on it. Articles will be in German, though. Not expecting many clicks or reads on those, but that doesn't matter. Finally making progress on my project will be reward enough!

Nov 11, 2023 03:53

I for one enjoy a good ramble and think more people could benefit from doing so every once in a while. It allows the brain to do a bit of a purge and free up space for new creative juices.   As always I am looking forward to exploring more of your world and the wonderful juxtapositions and cultural references in it. And our awesome community always available when the gentle reminder is needed that Def Leppard was wrong, it is not better to burn out.

Feel free to stop by some of my WorldEmber articles if you want. My favorites are The Book of the Unquiet Dead, Outpost of the Moons, and The Emerald Hills. Feedback is always appreciated.
Nov 11, 2023 12:03 by E. Christopher Clark

Thank you for reading and thanks for the kudos on the ramble. It did feel good.

Now it's time for the awkward wave.
Nov 11, 2023 04:43 by Emily Armstrong

I hope you have a fantastic WorldEmber! Your plan sounds killer, reading down your "One of Everything" list gets me hyyyped to see what you do this year! And I'm honored to be on your list alongside such awesome worldbuilders <3 Good luck! You got this :D

Check out my worlds of Beckettville and Culinarypunk!
Nov 11, 2023 12:07 by E. Christopher Clark

Aw, thanks! I am also hyped for everything on that list. Plus, I can't wait to see what you cook up.     Pun VERY much intended.

Now it's time for the awkward wave.
Nov 11, 2023 14:51 by Chris L

I, of course, vote for Terry Pratchett but hornier. Honestly, it might be a good time to read a few of his books. For you, where you are, I'd say read "Equal Rites" or "Wyrd Sisters" to get the fairy tale feel. Also, you need to enter the zeitgeist of the '90's and finally get Sandman in your brain. Maybe get one of the "short story" collections: "Dream Country" and "Fables and Reflections" might get you in. I'm going to stop telling you what to do now and wish you good luck!

Learn about the World of Wizard's Peak and check out my award winning article about the Ghost Boy of Kirinal!

Nov 11, 2023 18:18 by E. Christopher Clark

It's funny you should mention Gaiman (by way of Sandman) because just this morning I came up with an excellent case for me reading his 1602.   I have peeked at the most recent Sandman follow-up thingie that he did (Requiem?) and that looked cool and I've also peeked at more of the trades at the local Barnes & Noble and I'm warming up to it. I might go to the library to pick them up.   As for Pratchett, it might have to be the same (the library, that is). Novels have been so hit-or-miss for me lately that I'm not wanting to invest a lot of dough in them anymore—since I end up donating more of them than I keep/finish. Thanks for the suggestions though, because he has such a vast catalog that I've never been sure where to start.

Now it's time for the awkward wave.
Nov 18, 2023 14:54 by Joella Kay

I love your writing voice. Easy to read and just pulls me along. (And I don't read things just because I'm sorry for the author.) Cuddle your younger self and remind him that he doesn't have your experience and skill.   I think your home page is just fine. And I'm sorry to hear about the day job. Being laid off is rough.

Nov 18, 2023 16:27 by E. Christopher Clark

Thank you so much for reading and for the words of encouragement. I'm feeling better today, in part thanks to kind folks like you.

Now it's time for the awkward wave.
Nov 19, 2023 00:03

I'm sorry you lost your day job. That's rough. As for the younger you ... don't be too tough on yourself, younger or older you. What is or isn't a 'good homepage' lies in the eye of the beholder. You can't make EVERYBODY happy. But nobody can. Somebody might love one homepage design and really dislike another but the next person might feel just the other way round. So as a final advice: You do you. And that's totally fine. Keep your chin up, hug your younger, insecure self and know that you are not alone with those doubts, fears and feelings.

Nov 19, 2023 01:15 by E. Christopher Clark

Thank you for the kind words and encouragement!

Now it's time for the awkward wave.
Nov 19, 2023 21:52 by Elspeth

I'm sorry to hear that you've had a tough week. It's difficult when life kicks us hard not to take it personally. I know it's hard but try not to listen to Younger You too much. Younger Me gets in my ear every now and again, and sometimes she's right, but sometimes I have to remind myself that she doesn't know everything. She thought self-cut bangs were a good idea and that definitely didn't turn out the way she'd thought. Stick with it. People read your work because it's good and because they want to. You've got this! :)

Nov 20, 2023 11:47 by E. Christopher Clark

Thank you for the kind words. You're right that it's important to listen to Younger Us, but not to do everything they tell us to do.

Now it's time for the awkward wave.
Nov 20, 2023 12:33 by Dr Emily Vair-Turnbull

Sorry you've had a tough week, sending you hugs. I definitely don't just read your world because I feel sorry for you - I read it because I enjoy your content. :)

Nov 21, 2023 11:43 by E. Christopher Clark

Thank you. I really appreciate the support. Looking forward to giving back to the community on Friday when I'm the guest on the World Anvil stream.

Now it's time for the awkward wave.
Nov 25, 2023 15:40 by Chris L

Looking forward to hanging out during your stream!

Learn about the World of Wizard's Peak and check out my award winning article about the Ghost Boy of Kirinal!

Nov 25, 2023 17:17 by E. Christopher Clark

It's going to be fun! Can't wait.

Now it's time for the awkward wave.
Nov 25, 2023 18:16 by Desdemona Rose

I am sorry to hear about the job! I went and followed your Twitch stream. I'm glad you've found something to be excited for. Art for my world is my big focus for January, since after Nov and Dec my wrists need a break from the computer.

Nov 25, 2023 20:51 by E. Christopher Clark

Thanks for the kind words, and good luck with the December and January goals (and whatever November goals might remain).

Now it's time for the awkward wave.
Nov 25, 2023 18:43 by jyliet of the house

Good luck with your goals! :D

Nov 25, 2023 20:51 by E. Christopher Clark

Thank you! And good luck with your goals too!

Now it's time for the awkward wave.
Nov 30, 2023 05:17 by Gabrielle Decker

I relate to this so much - much more than I'd like to admit. I, too, have similar goals about being patient with myself and not letting my competitive 'create all the things' part of me overwhelm me this World Ember. I wish you the best!

Nov 30, 2023 12:00 by E. Christopher Clark

Right back at you! Let's have fun. That's what the whole month should be about. Good luck!

Now it's time for the awkward wave.
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