The WE 2021 Reading Challenge

Lessons learned from reading other people's WorldEmber articles.  

My Mission, Which I Chose To Accept

According to the Reading Challenge on the WorldAnvil Blog, I was to do the following.   pick 10 articles that other Anvilites wrote during WorldEmber
read them thoroughly and comment on them
list them in an article and write down what I learned from them
make a list of my New Year's resolutions inspired by that
publish the challenge entry and share it on the blog

The 10 Articles

Poetry and Idioms

I rarely think about quotes based on the topic of my article, and even less about poetry or other forms of art. But I enjoy reading quotes like those in this article, and I've noticed how they help with embedding a concept in the culture affected by it. They're also a great way to add flavor and life to purely informational texts.
Thinking back to the fairytales I wrote during last Summer Camp, I'm sure I'd have fun doing things like this in my own articles.

Materials and their Implications

I'm impressed by the level of detail here. From the way every scrap of the precious material is used, to the policies regarding its harvesting and the interspecies relationships stemming from said harvesting, there are a lot of ideas that are thought through much further than I'm used to doing.
I'm rarely writing about materials in the first place - and I realized that this may be because it's a daunting task. There are so many ways that materials influence cultures and the environment in which they live, and I should pay more attention to them.

The World Through Alien Eyes

It's easy to forget that every culture sees things through their own lens. This is even more true for people who live in a completely different environment than we do, like the ocean dwellers in this article. It's really cool how this article turns the familiar English vocabulary on its head. And once again, the subject of the article affects the culture's art, language and traditions - in a way that is relatable and yet quite different.
My own aliens started out as boring humans with funky colors, and although I've redesigned them years ago, I'm still thinking in far too human terms. I want to focus more on what sets them apart from us Earthlings and from each other.

Tackling Tricky Topics

A spell which makes the physical gender match that of the soul, so that others will perceive the target the way said person wishes to be perceived.
I found this one particularly touching because I keep encountering a lot of wonderful trans or non-binary people in various artist communities, and I approve of everything that allows people to be themselves. However, it also reminded me how cowardly I still am when it comes to addressing similar topics in my own work.   I still remember the years I spent in a fandom forum next to sexist, homophobic and otherwise toxic people, and how I learned not to draw their attention. And I remember the fairly recent instance of a "feminist" on Twitter spewing obscenities at me because I was friendly towards a trans woman. But now it's time to remember that my target audience does not include that kind of people. And if I happen to lose followers over expressing my worldview in my art, then good riddance.

Variations Of The Same Topic

What I liked most in this article were the different growth stages of these creatures.
I liked how they differed in the threat they posed towards their environment, and I was intrigued by the Artbreeder images used to illustrate them. This made me realize that I should pay more attention to infant or juvenile specimens of my species. Instead of considering them "unfinished" stages before the mature ones, I want to think more about how their anatomy or mental faculties affect the world around them.   Besides that, I want to try and integrate Artbreeder into my workflow. I can see it being useful to discover shapes and textures which I can then redraw in my style.

Milestones And The Culture Surrounding Them

I loved the in-depth description of the related ceremonies, the attire of the participants and the cultural variations. It reminded me how important traditions are for structuring a person's life or that of their community.
And just how deeply those traditions are woven into a culture - determining the value of family heirlooms, contrasting celebratory feasts with normal meals... The list goes on. Though I do have written a couple of tradition articles, they don't feel quite that connected to my cultures yet. I'd like to think more about the "ripple effects" that they have on daily life. And have a closer look at clothing or meals.

Personal History

Chalk is an interesting character with a detailed and eventful backstory. This made me realize how much a person may have gone through even before a particular story starts, and how it shaped them along the way. Therefore, I'd like to dive deeper into my own characters' past and figure out why they look that way or developed particular personality traits.
One other thing that caught my eye was the aptly-named "eye catcher" video. I like the idea of presenting characters along their leitmotif and associated symbols, and I'd love to try something similar for my major characters.

Religion And Society

I liked the religious ideas explaining why people go blind when staring at the sun or why mortals can't see it as a portal.
The latter was accompanied by a remark about how religions handle doubts in their claims.   As an agnostic living in a mostly secular environment, I find it difficult to write about religion. But this article reminded me how religion informs a society's taboos and provides explanations for not-yet-understood phenomena. I feel like I need more of that in my worldbuilding, especially given that one of my central characters still adheres to the traditional faith of her people.

The Evolution Of A Language

A language which evolved from another, complete with a history section about its usage in society. I really liked the comparison between this language's grammar and that of its predecessor. I found several aspects that I want to keep in mind while creating predecessors or dialects for my cultures' current languages.
Especially the simplification of grammatical rules caught my attention, such as the cases being replaced by prepositions or disappearing altogether.

Metaphysical Laws Shaping The World

This is a very interesting technique - part philosophy, part functional magic. I love how much it reveals about the worldview of the people involved with it. The article also mentions how this practice affects their economy, with different sellers providing different ingredients.   I have an unearthly power source in my world that is supposed to shape the life in it - but upon closer inspection, it does not really do so yet.
During the last year I've begun to look more closely at what it may affect, and now I have some more ideas where to direct my search.

My Resolutions For 2022

1) Explore Cultural Implications

  • What does the celebration of a given milestone mean for the culture as a whole?
  • How does a given material influence the surrounding ecosystem?
  • Which phenomena gave rise to religious views reflected in everyday customs?
  • How do my cultures deal with people who do not fit in with a given norm?

2) Explore Variations Of Topics

  • How do the current languages and dialects differ from their predecessors?
  • What dangers or benefits come with different growth stages of a given species?
  • How can anatomical, environmental or cultural differences make everyday objects and practices more alien?

3) Explore Ways To Add Flavor

  • What kind of visual or literary art do people create, based on historical events or natural phenomena?
  • What images or audio can I present in a video clip for introducing a given character?
Table of Contents

Cover image: by Kathrin Janowski


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