The Story Universe

by RinjiPantera

& Mimic Kairatta


        The multiverse; an infinite collection of universes with their own set of worlds, species, characters, technology, etc. Each universe has its own set of rules and physics. A story universe is, for all intents and purposes, its own private plane of existence. While some universes may share similar traits and even planets (typically Earth), these commonalities are usually either public domain or freely shared among authors.

Access to each universe is strictly controlled by its own “author”. The author is, in a sense, that universe’s god. No matter how strong or powerful a universe-specific character may be, none are above that of the author...unless said character is an avatar of the author himself. However, it is usually ill-advised for an author to insert himself directly into his own universe. This often causes tears and breaks within its reality.

Then soon after, the universe attracts and is eaten by cosmic horrors beyond imagining.

Many authors, instead, use an avatar of themselves that comes in the form of an in-universe character. Unlike the author himself, this avatar is usually just another “mortal being” with no god-like powers that the author would invoke on his universe. This character may be rather ordinary or perhaps exceptionally extraordinary...but rarely on the level of the author himself. This allows the character to interact normally with other characters and not seem out of place amongst the other characters.

It is not unheard of for an author to share his god-like powers of literary creation with another author. While a different author would have no power in someone else’s universe, the sharing of power from a universe’s own author allows another to hold some influence of his own. Though this second author’s powers would be limited, he’s still technically more powerful than any of the original author’s characters because...god-like powers are also known as author powers. As a result, the second author will usually share his own characters, the one rule he still holds firm control over, with that shared universe.

While it is established that there are limitless universes in all of the multiverse, there is one plane of existence that is special. It goes by many names, but it is commonly known by its original description: The White Space.

The white space is technically not a universe or even a plane of existence. It is more of a demi-plane. Unlike actual universes, this demi-plane can be accessed freely by any author. However, the demi-plane is generally not a bother to anyone since it’s too small to be noticed on any large scale, much less be located anywhere amongst the multiverse. It is used for testing new characters, plot devices, worlds, species, and all the like to see what works for an author’s own universe. However, there is one danger when working within the white space.

Should the white space ever be overused by too many authors, it runs the risk of reaching critical mass. And if that ever happens, that would mean...

...CAMEOS & CROSSOVERS!!

Now cameos and crossovers are, in fact, a good thing when used properly. It can help add some extra appeal to a story within an author’s universe. Naturally, the author must have permission from another author to use his characters in the former’s universe. The difference between a cameo and a crossover is somewhat subtle. A cameo is usually little more than a brief appearance by an outside character with little to no influence on the story itself. The character is just there to be seen, not heard.

A crossover is where things get interesting. It’s when a character or set of characters from another universe appear in the author's own to help drive a story even further. However, it must be noted that it must be explainable how an outside character(s) can exist in a universe not native to them. For example, if the character is of a species not recognized in the author’s own universe, then that character wouldn’t believably exist there and it would break the story.

So while crossovers are fun to do and can help add some special flair to a story, it’s not advisable to go overboard with using them. In the end, it’s still your universe. So unless you’re merging two universes together (I’ll address this further shortly), make sure people don’t forget which universe they’re exploring.

When dealing with characters, there are specific guidelines an author must follow (yes, even “gods” have a code of conduct) to avoid making their universe unappealing to the masses.

  1. You can never have too many characters. However, it is best to limit the number of original characters, or OCs, to how many an author can handle collectively. Otherwise, you risk losing some to obscurity. An exception to this are one-off characters.
  2. When creating super-powerful/strong characters, always heed the words of Syndrome: “If everyone’s super, no one will be.” In other words, while having self-described characters, that can bend steel like a twig or shoot energy beams with the force of the Tsar Bomba, may seem appealing to you and may stroke your ego; bear in mind that without the ordinary folk, this makes your super characters the new average.
  3. This is a rule I’ve seen broken rather often, and for some, it may not matter much. However, for others, it can break your universe and drive off readers. This is a character that is, for all intents and purposes, overpowered or OP. Concerning rule number two, there’s nothing wrong with having a character or two (or perhaps even three) that can match or even surpass the Hulk in strength, Son Goku in power or The Flash in foot speed.

    However, if you have a character that is utterly unstoppable and untouchable, then there’s nothing for that character to strive for. He just becomes a pompous witness, second in power only to the author himself. An OP character, like a direct avatar of the author himself, runs the high risk of tearing apart the fabric of reality within that universe.
  4. Don’t be afraid to create rather ordinary characters. In fact, the more ordinary the character, the more room for growth (figuratively or literally speaking) that character has. As I’ve said, too many superhuman characters can prove detrimental to the well-being of your universe. Instead, create characters that are, well...weak! Make them relatable, as though you could see yourself meeting that character in another life. Give that character some flaws to go along with his set of strengths.
  5. Learn tropes, but don’t use cliches. This paradox both encourages and discourages the ideas of cliches and tropes. Tropes are patterns that are familiar or commonly found within any universe. But due to the familiarity, one could see it and predict what could happen next. Those that are often used in many worlds are called cliches. To learn of these events and traits, one can alter them to suit the situation more appropriately; thus creating an alteration, which breaks the cliche and becomes less predictable. This act is known as “Playing with a Trope.”. As it refers to characters, there’s the common trope and cliche of “The butler did it”. Point being, use tropes with care and minimize cliches when possible; though don’t feel you must forbid yourself from using the latter altogether.

These rules have a similar application to the likes of technology, plot devices and various other in-universe elements. Basically, a simple rule of thumb is to avoid veering to far to either end of the “power” spectrum. Balance is key.

Bottom line, there are many factors that can make or break an author-controlled universe. While it’s not always possible to predict which of those factors might result in one or the other outcome, however...above all, have fun!

THE        END