Guide to Timelines

So you want to build a Timeline?

Compiled and Written by DreamMaker and Heath O'Donnell Edited by Ademal

Timelines are useful item to add to one's repertoire of tricks inside World Anvil. They can highlight important bits of a characters story, track the rise and falls of nations, even hide valuable information about your world. How, then, does one competently use this amazing tool?

How to Visualize Time

There tend to be 3 definitive ways of viewing time in most works of fiction. There are others, but these three are the most common and simplistic to start from, and form the basis of all the others.
Time and events progress in a linear fashion from a set event point which starts the story. Many movies and stand alone novels have this type of timeline. This works well for any work where events prior to the beginning of the story are unimportant to the story being told.
Time appears to progress in opposite directions from a set point or event, known as a Demarcation. Both ends go out to infinite time in either direction. This is the case for our real worlds Gregorian Calendar, which used the Birth of Christ as the Demarcation between two Eras. Is also useful with stories in which the events of the past effect the events of the future and should be knowable or at least re-searchable.
Time is broken into defined parts with important starts and ends. A good example of this is TV or book series where the events between the start and end of a book or season do affect the outcome of later additions, but are fairly contained within their covers.

Parts of the Timeline Feature

There are several tools within the World Anvils Timeline feature that are useful to have an understanding of before tackling your worlds Time Continuum.
Universal Time Date(UTD)
UTD is the basis for understanding time within your world, setting a zero point that all your important events continue after. This zero point can be the creation of your world, the birth of a major character, or the end of a Galactic War.
  Master Timeline
The Master Timeline is the log of all events within your world. It provides the whole of time for yourself and your readers to view.All events of the Marvel Cinematic Universe
  Parallel Timeline
A parallel timeline exists as a subsidiary to your Master, providing either a smaller snippet, such as the recorded history of a people, or as a true to the sense Parallel Timeline, allowing for events to run alongside each other. Great for stories with two Major Characters whose paths may only temporarily or rarely cross.Orry Main and George Hazard of North and South or Harry Potter's Point of View of events
  Article Timeline
A smaller snippet of time, focusing only on the events connected to the Articles subject, such as a city, nation, character, or mystical artifact.Anakin Skywalker's Lightsaber
Timeline Example
A Segment of a Timeline. Most Timelines can be split into at least two Eras, what came before a major event, and what came after. From there, further segments can be made, such as the reigns of kings, cultural movements, or technological eras.The Reign of King Henry, the Civil Rights Era, the Medieval Ages, or the Cold War
As of this writing, calenders serve the function of allowing the creation and use of Named Months in place of numbers. Your setting can have as many or as few months as you would like, and can be named in whichever manner pleases you.
  Historical Entries
Here, we get into the true meat of the Timeline Feature, the ability to create an event, and place it on a timeline to see its relation to other events. The very basic information needed is the Title and UTD Start Date. Filling in the short description will create a small excerpt when the event is seen on a timeline, while the longer description will show when the whole event is viewed.

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Building a Timeline

The first important step in design of your world's Timeline is deciding how many Eras you will need. For a Master Timeline, a before 0 UTD and after 0 UTD can be the easiest to start with. Further Eras can be put in other Parallel Timelines. These two give your world a basis, a simple idea of how to talk about time. Simply going to your World Configuration Dashboard and setting your two Eras will get you started.

What if you want 3 or more Eras, like a combination of Segmented and Ray Timelines? Also easy! Without touching you Worlds Configuration at all, simply go to Timelines, and begin creating your Eras.

As an example set of timelines, lets take the Real World. For this, we will be focusing on a single Master Timeline, and 3 Parallel Timelines.

Master Timeline

Here, we will set up our timeline to match the Modern Solar Calendar, in which the current year is 2018 CE. The Common Era (CE) will begin on 1 UTD, with our counting beginning at 1 and with the Era being the Current Era. Before the Common Era (BCE) will end at -1 UTD and will be the First Era, with Inverted Dates, also Counting from 1. This sets up our dates easily, and will put things in the proper order as they would be seen in any listing of world events.

Hebrew Calendar

This Timeline will be our first Parallel. This timeline is a ray type, as we will not be concerned with anything prior to Hebrew year 0. The Timeline Begins with what we will for now call the Genesis Era (GE) which begins in -3761 UTD. This will cause any event placed in 2018 on our Master to show as 5778 in the Hebrew Calendar.

Hijri Calendar

Unlike the Hebrew Calendar the Hijri or Muslim Calendar is line type, having two important Eras. The latter, calculated as After Hijri, the birth of Mohammed, is predominantly believed to equate to 570 UTD. This causes the current year to be shown as 1439 in our Master Timeline. It will still have a Count from 0, as will the prior Era ending in 569 UTD.

Long Count Calendar

Used by the Mayans, this calendar is also a ray type, like the Hebrew calendar. It's beginning date would be marked as -3114 UTD and would cause the current year to show as 5132 UTD.

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Timeline Editor



This is where you can find the timeline editor.
And this is the timeline editor main page. To the right, you can add a new timeline and above the list of your timelines, you can find the tabs for the Historical entries and your world's calendars. Let's click the wrench button next to the only timeline we have on this list.
This is what you'll see after you've clicked the wrench button. A list of your entries to the left and on on the right a set of collapsible boxes with different utilities. They are all collapsed by default, but in the above screenshot you can see the contents of the "Actions" box. View Timeline will open the timeline in your world's interface, while create historical entry will take you to that page, more about that further down.   You can use the tags in the Links box to link to the timeline from any text fields that allows BBCode. Of course, you can always use the mention system to link to it.   The Edit timeline box allows you to edit the timeline in general (not its eras or historical entries). Click Show advanced options to see all editing fields.
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Historical Entry & Era Editor

This is the Historical Entry main page, here you will see all your historical entries. Click on the Create new Historical Entry to create a new one! Of course, you can also quickly access the historical entry creation page from the green power hammer button.
This is the top of the "Create new historical entry" page, fill out all the information that you want to. There are more options than the ones in the screenshot, and some of them are hidden under the Show Advanced Options button.
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†This Era Name is implied due to a lack of straightforward answers being found by the author


Please Login in order to comment!
6 Sep, 2019 07:25

How do I delete a timeline? I didn't understand the structure and created parallels, instead of linear timelines...

7 Sep, 2019 12:08

Go to Timelines>Edit Timeline (wrench Icon)>Action Tab on right. Delete Timeline should be in red.   I suggest editing evemts first to make them appear in proper Timelines first, to save you time rewriting.

8 Sep, 2019 07:32

I got it. Thanks. Yeah, I had a better time, actually AFTER reading the instructions. SIlly me. Thanks for the answer, Heath.

9 Oct, 2019 20:19

I need help..... my event won't go to the right year I'm so confused. I'm planning a dystopia future story so I need 2 eras; before and after. The before is like right now until the war that creates the society my story takes place in. My even I'm trying to put is the war and I want it to be 1 BR to year 0 because it starts the new era but I need help.... please?

10 Oct, 2019 01:19

Hi! Sorry I'm just now responding, was on a media fast.   So, the current issue you are running into is that an event technically can not happen between eras. Eras bump up next to each other in the current system.   What I would do is choose to either have this event be the end event of the first era, or starting event of the second. It's honestly very likely that the war has a lot of post-time before your society actually changes, so you could actually fit more events in before the era does indeed change.

10 Oct, 2019 19:38

Ok thanks so much!

30 Oct, 2019 17:45

Is there a way to make parallel timelines next to an all encompassing Master timeline (which has the UTD) display their own years through different ages? IE; I have the master timeline start at 0, a parallel timeline start at 271000 UTD (set to year 0 in advanced options), next Era at 273046 UTD. In both eras I have an event, the first era event displays to correct year, the second reverts to UTD. Having a world with multiple groups of people who will have their own timelines, the master timeline with parallels for each made the most sense.

30 Oct, 2019 21:27

The timeline feature is telling my histories are "orphan histories" and I'm not a hundred percent sure how to fix that!

3 Nov, 2019 15:15

As long as your Events are not below the Orphaned Histories title, you are good.

11 Nov, 2019 04:52

Oh okay, that makes more sense! Thanks!

11 Nov, 2019 16:21

Hi! I created quite a few eras in my master timeline that go from -2000 - 1222 but when I set my current era which begins at 1221 it appears in the middle of my timeline instead of after/on top of the previous era. I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong. Is it that I have too many eras? There are 6 in total.

12 Nov, 2019 02:56

So my world has a timeline starting at UTD 0 and has 8 eras that are a few hundred years long each. I have every era set to "Begin counting at 1" because whenever I put in the UTD for an event (like the birth of a character), I want it to display the birth year in the year of the particular era, however in articles, it ONLY displays the UTD. How do I get it to display the year of a specific era, using a UTD input?   For example: I have an Emperor that was born in the 267th year of the 8th era. In UTD this is year 1,817. How do I get it to display his birth year as "267" using a UTD input of "1817" in the "Year of Birth" section of the article?

21 Nov, 2019 14:36

I'm wondering about this too! It seems very odd to label something using the UTD year but using the era abbreviation.

21 Nov, 2019 14:41

I figured it out! Edit the era and check the "Begin counting at 1" option in advanced options.

3 Dec, 2019 17:15

Riggletoes,   Sorry, I accidently tapped delete instead of reply, and so have completly lost your question. Feel free to swing by the Discord and hit me up (@PatheticBarrel) or just ask again.