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So, You Want to Build a Timeline?

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Guide to Timelines
Generic article | Mar 19, 2020

Understanding the Time-Space Continuum in World Anvil

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.
Ray 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.
Line 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.
Segments Time is broken into defined parts with important starts and ends. A good example of this is T.V. 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 subsidary 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
Eras 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
Calanders 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.
[img]Historical Entries  

Building a Timeline

Due to writer idiocy, please ignore this section as he makes changes
— PB
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.

†This Era Name is implied due to a lack of straightforward answers being found by the author

Time keeps on slipping, slipping...

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Author's Notes

This Article is Currently a Work in Progress, as new concepts and ways of fiddling with the Timeline Feature are being discovered.

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14 Apr, 2019 15:05

How to add things to the timeline? I already made several events to get an idea how the feature works but i cannot get them to be added to the timeline like the picture shown here in the article

15 Apr, 2019 15:30

Have you made the Timeline? Onve made, you can select the relevant Timeline() for the Event to appear in.

22 Apr, 2019 20:33

How do you add the Eras to your main timeline?

22 Apr, 2019 20:57

If you've already made a Timeline (seperate from setting up the main AD and BC eras of your world in World Configuration) select the Timeline from the Timeline Dashboard and on the right of your screen is a Create Era button.

26 May, 2019 15:39

Is there a feature to make Timelines or their Events DM-only? Have some secret events that need to be tracked but cannot be known by the players. Ponderous.

28 May, 2019 14:30

Sorry for the late reply, was having mobile phone issues. You should be able to set Timelines and individual events as Private and then give them Subscriber access, all from the respective editor screen. If not, I suggest hitting the Got an Idea? button below.

23 Jun, 2019 01:10

How can I sort my timelines? I created separate Parallel Timelines and I went back later and created a timeline that is earlier than the others - but I can't arrange it to be listed before the other timelines.

23 Jun, 2019 03:48

Timelines are considered to be *concurrent* at some point in their time. *Eras* are the way to have parts of a timeline be earlier than others.

18 Jul, 2019 13:16

Is it possible to hide the dates of some entries. I want to start the timeline with some divine actions that did not have an exact date of happening. I would like to have these events sorted in correct order so I need to use the exact dates but I would like to hide them. It doesn´t look good "Adam and Eve ate the apple in year 971 BC."

18 Jul, 2019 14:34

Use the Alternative Display Date, and, instead of exact dates in the Start/end fields, use Decimal ordering, where major events happen on the x000' S, next smaller ones happen inbetween those dates on the x00's and so on.

18 Jul, 2019 15:51

Amazing, thank you!

8 Dec, 2019 04:21

Hey there, I'm trying to figure out exactly what you mean here (I have the same issue as Switch) because every time I try to do anything with decimals in the fields, it throws me an error message. Could you elaborate in a bit more detail?

8 Dec, 2019 09:23

I really need to stop calling it decimal ordering,because Its not what I actually mean.   What I'm talking about is dividing thi gs by orders of tens, hundreds, and thousands.   Make every major event happen on ×000 number, the next event level down on every×00, then ×0, then ×'s.   Two Major events could be on 1000 and 2000, another thst ends up happening between the. Is in 1500, then 800, 450, 475, 478... Etc.

8 Dec, 2019 16:02

Ohhhhhhh okay, I gotcha. So just using the numbers as abstract placeholders to order things, rather than having to ascribe precise calendar-attached dates to them? Makes more sense now. Thank you!

15 Sep, 2019 02:24

How do i attach my timeline to another article?

15 Sep, 2019 14:56

Two ways.   In the Timeline Editor, you can select a single related Article for the Timeline to attach to, or you can type [timeline... Into the article.

29 Sep, 2019 02:11

What does it mean that my timeline is part of "Orphan Histories?" I'm new to World Anvil so still trying to figure things out.

29 Sep, 2019 17:48

Orphan Histories are Events that are put into a Timeline that contains Eras, but which fall outside of the Eras date range.   E.g, Timeline has a Era of Gods that ranges from 1-300. You make an event that happens in 301, that would appear in the Orphaned Histories.   Note: When you view your timeline, as the world owner, you will see the Orphaned Histories header at the bottom of your timeline. Any events under that header are Orphaned and will not show to other viewers. If it's above the Header, everything is good.

26 Oct, 2019 12:37

Hello, I hope this isn't a dumb question : I have two main eras in my timeline, BCE (Before Common Era) and CE (Common Era), and when I create a historical event taking place in year 1, I would expect it to appear as "1 CE" (since I had the common era begin on 1 UTD and the counting from 1), but it appears as "0 CE". I'm a bit lost, is it supposed to be like that ?

26 Oct, 2019 16:11

This is a known bug of the count from selection, where count from 1/0 actually counts from 0/-1.

26 Oct, 2019 17:59

Okay, thank you for your answer ! Also - and I'm sorry to bother you again - I was wondering if a historical event taking place in year -23 appearing with "-23 BCE" instead of "23 BCE" is also a known bug or if it's normal ?

26 Oct, 2019 18:02

It is a common issue. One I'm still attempting to find a work around for. Bug or normal... That's a debate.

26 Oct, 2019 18:39

Okay then, well thank for taking the time to answer my questions !

23 Jan, 2020 21:27

How does one create an Article Timeline? You mention it above and show an example but don't explain how to do it. I wish to insert an historical timeline for the Elves into my Species Article on Elves under the article header History of the Elves. But all see able to do is insert a link to it rather than the full content.

24 Jan, 2020 00:53

This is actually a part that has been removed. I need to rewrite the Article to reflect this. Thank you for bringing this to my attention.

4 Feb, 2020 11:29

Still struggling to find a way of displaying a timeline in an article.

24 Jan, 2020 22:27

So on my timeline I have multiple eras (6 Ages) and when a new age begins the date starts over from 0 but adds the abbreviation (ex. Year 3 of the 3rd Age [3.3A]) but on my timeline it shows from year 1 of the 1st age to the current year in the 6th age without starting the dates back to 1 on the beginning of each new Age so instead of showing that the current year is 566 6A it is saying it's 3521 since the beginning of history.

27 Jan, 2020 11:06

Each Era is labled according to UTD, where as the Events within an Era are labled according to the settings of the Era.