The Multi-Verse

by Joshua Johnson

Recently, I started work on a second series set on the world of Zaria. It follows a new set of characters and a new plot.

One of the aspects of fantasy worldbuilding that I’ve never really had a chance to explore (for one reason or another) is the concept of multiple storylines built out of from a common base.

Many of my favorite authors have done this in one degree or another, and I’ve always been interested in doing it. So I’ve started.

I’ve found it very interesting to begin planning multiple novels or series using common worldbuilding, without having them directly related. This approach has many benefits but many drawbacks.

I’ve found it convenient that I can use a lot of the same basic world information (length of the year, seasons, geography) when I’m plotting out the new series. I also have a lot of basic information about the nations of Zaria that I’ve been able to expand.

On the other hand, trying to manage multiple storylines has proven to be a challenge. While the new story doesn’t happen directly parallel with my existing story, there’s enough information that I’ve had to adjust the planning several times. I think that the biggest challenge has been managing multiple timelines and deciding where along the technology timeline each story is going to be and why.

So what authors have you read that have used a common worldbuilding base to write multiple stories that do or don’t intertwine? What do you think makes these kinds of worlds better or worse than linear or consecutive storylines within a series?

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3 comments on “The Multi-Verse

  1. Great topic, Joshua. There are a few authors out there who have done this, for sure. The first who comes to mind is Steven Erikson’s Malazan series. I’m also a big fan of Joe Abercrombie. HIs books all take place in the same world, often with a character from one story showing up in another, but all with the shared history. I think this lends a familiarity to the reader who has read previous books, but I can also see how it might be a challenge to a new reader if not handled well by the author.
    Good luck with this and let us know how it goes.

  2. Recently, I started crafting a series of short stories that take place in the world of my novels, but which stand alone, with few if any overlapping characters. My challenge has been to give enough context for the cultural details to be understood without overwhelming the reader with unfamiliar words, etc. It’s a balancing act, for sure!

    One thing I see when authors go outside their main series storyline to give fans “more” of the world, is that often the second and third stories aren’t anywhere as good as the originals. When Anne McCaffrey went back and wrote a novel describing the settling of Pern, for instance, it was utterly disappointing (to me) because there wasn’t really a good STORY there. She just detailed events, none of which in my recollection had any real drama associated with them. I think that’s the biggest danger: getting caught up in the world building and not providing readers with a compelling story.

  3. I’ve always thought this would be an interesting experiment. L.E. Modessit is another fantasy author who’s tried this to great effect. So long as your various casts of characters are vivid and the stories are engaging I can see where writing a collection of stories in this fashion could be a very rewarding experience. =D

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