Do you love it when multiple series feed into the same universe? It's one of my favorite things as a reader and also as an author. Creating a Marvel Universe level of separate stories/series that are actually connecting the big picture can be a challenge, however.
Multi-Series Universes can have a couple different forms:
(1) You have close connections where the individual series follow one main set of heroes. These tend to either follow a linear timeline or they may have the same timeline from each main character's POV. The main characters often show up as the primary sidekicks in each other's series.
(2) You have semi-close connections where the first series follows one set of characters and then the next series follows spinoff characters such as children or younger siblings and friends. These connections progress with a linear timeline and often feature true cameo appearances by at least some of the previous series' main characters.
(3) You have what I call world connections where the individual series take place in the same world but there's not necessarily a close connection between the different main characters. These tend to move around more on the timeline scale and there might be fleeting blink-and-you-miss-it cameos but nothing more solid than sharing the same world. They also often feature different areas of the world, which contributes to the greater degree of separation.
I've written two of the three universe styles: Semi-close and World connections. What I love about creating multi-series universes is I don't have to always build my world from scratch because I've already defined the majority of the rules for the world with the first series. This is a fantastic time saver IF you keep a series or, rather, a WORLD bible. World bibles are definitely a must have if you don't want to spend precious writing time rereading books or being nailed in reviews for not following your own established rules. So one of my top recommendations for building a multi-series universe is to make sure you're updating that world/universe bible too.
Sometimes it is very easy to tell when you're going to create a true universe that extends beyond one series. This is great because it allows for pre-planning how the universe works beyond the first series. I did this with my fairytale retelling series because I knew I wanted a second series for the stories of various side characters and in some cases children. Love's Enchanted Tales and its spinoff Love's Further Enchanted Tales falls firmly into the second category of semi-close connections. LFET's first book, Dragon's Fire, will feature three secondary characters from my Twelve Dancing Princesses retelling and the children of the main couple from The Storyteller's Dragon.
The universe established with my fairytales primarily consists of a linear timeline. However, it will also feature several world connection series. The first of which will be out this fall. The Unseelie of Sonera trilogy has a loose off-the-cuff connection to my first fairytale series via some references to another continent but it's primarily a world connection. I very much enjoyed the extended freedom in regards to aesthetics and culture inspirations this has provided. My fairytales are primarily medieval with a sprinkling of India and Africa while the Unseelie trilogy is set on a continent featuring far more Greek and Roman inspiration.
Other times you might be surprised to realize your two separate series actually belong in the same universe. This usually requires some type of retconning to address any world building differences up to this point, which can be a big ordeal or resolved with a couple tweaks and some future crossovers. When I realized my two separate urban fantasy series worked best as a shared universe, I had already published several books in each series. So I had to make some retcon tweaks to the Therian Way's specific world building to allow Rogue Spotter to meld with it. Fortunately, this was an easy fix because they'd featured different sides of the country and my Therians were an established isolationist culture of shifters. Which actually worked out really well for creating some nice nuances to the world via the small differences in the two main paranormal cultures. I will publish the final Therian Way book next month and I really love how the universe has expanded since I first started. I'm also enjoying my timeline gap filling with a fun paranormal romance series featuring Fae and dragon billionaires showing the wider paranormal community's activities in the aftermath of Rogue Spotter's finale.
Creating a multi-series universe is possible for both pantsers and plotters. It can be both challenging and rewarding. As authors, we get to expand our own universes beyond what can be contained in a single series whether it's with close, semi-close, or world connections. The histories and background characters can be expanded without cluttering a single book or series, which also allows for changes in tone or POV style without being jarring. We give our readers multiple entry points into our universe timeline with the freedom to go backward or forward to enjoy more adventures. We also give them answers as to what happily ever after actually looks like for past favorite couples.
What are some of your favorite multi-series universes? Of the three types of connections, which ones do you love reading or writing the most?
Until next time,