Here is a guest blog written by Matthew Wayne Selznick. Matthew is an author of several books and has kindly offered his take on what a storyword is and should be in the context of your creative, fiction writing and how you can use this tool to help build your career. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Thank you Matthew for you great insight and advice.
Build A Storyworld and Build A Career
Beginning writers are in an enviable position: they have the chance to approach their craft in a way that will guarantee them enough storytelling opportunities to last their entire career.
The secret doesn’t lie in creating a series of books chronicling the adventures of a central character who readers will love — but that couldn’t hurt!
You won’t have to leap-frog from genre to genre chasing the publishing industry’s flavor of the month… but a willingness to be open to different genres is part of it.
You won’t need a publisher… but if you keep this strategy cooking with everything you write, you’ll have a better chance of attracting an agent, a publisher, or perhaps even the coveted cable television or movie deal… if that’s what you want.
The key is to not just think “story” when you write.
What Is A Storyworld?
I hope you’ll pardon the lapse into the third person… here is the definition of storyworld according to Matthew Wayne Selznick:
Storyworld: a milieu, including settings, characters, throughlines, background and other elements, shared by a variety of stories told in a variety of media.
Some examples of storyworlds:
- The Star Wars universe
- The Marvel or DC Comics megaverses
- Greek mythology
- The Law and Order television franchise universe
- The Harry Potter universe
As can be seen from the (very incomplete) list above, “genre” storytellers take full advantage of the storyworld model.
But the strategy need not be limited to science fiction, fantasy, or mystery stories, for example. There’s no reason literary, romance, or really any type of storyteller can’t use this powerful approach.
In fact, the best storyworlds allow their creator to craft any kind of story!
How Do You Build A Storyworld?
It begins with a basic assumption: whatever you write, every story could share continuity, setting, events… milieu… with every other story.
The exact details will depend on your preferences and the nature of your creative works, of course. The important thing is to approach everything you write from this perspective.
You may want to start a storyworld bible — a notebook, a text file, a wiki, whatever works for you — with some 10,000-foot ideas that apply to the storyworld as a whole. These can be simple notes (“There’s a quasi-religious thing called the Force that binds the galaxy together…” or, “Every story is based on a real-life crime trial ‘ripped from the headlines'”) or very detailed timelines, character biographies, overarching concepts, and the like.
For maximum effectiveness and long-term fertile story ground ripe for harvesting whenever you like, spend some time creating a storyworld arc — a long-term, broad-strokes outline of your storyworld’s dramatic cycle. Then, you can place every story you write (or whomever writes) in its appropriate place on the arc… and know where blank spots remain to be filled by new ideas.
For added fun and opportunities: include “branching points” in everything you write that could be expanded into stories of their own.
For example, a supporting character mentions off-handedly in one story that they got “caught up in something” and that’s why they’re late. It’s not critical to the story at hand… but it could be expanded into a completely different story of its own.
In my latest book, Pilgrimage — A Novel of the Sovereign Era, there are three such “story buds.” My first book, Brave Men Run, features a big event on the world stage that is viewed peripherally through the protagonist’s eyes… but will have its own spotlight in a future work. Down the line, as you build a body of work, your readers will enjoy following all the interconnected paths from one story to the next…
Why Build A Storyworld?
A storyworld is a tool to help you build a body of work in an organized, directed way. More importantly, it helps you establish yourself — in your own mind and in the eyes of your reader community — as more than an author. With a well-considered storyworld, you position yourself as a personal creative franchise manager.
What’s A Personal Creative Franchise?
Think of all the stories you want to tell about your characters and their storyworld. Now think of all the stories that could be told.
Plan for the day when you are able to invite others to play in your storyworld, either from an outline you provide, as a collaborator, or in some other capacity. Ideally, you will find yourself earning residual income from stories for which you own the intellectual property… whether you wrote them or not.
Seem far fetched? Can’t imagine the day when you’ll actually be hiring other writers to play in your sandbox?
I strongly suggest getting used to the idea. Authors — especially independent authors — must think like entrepreneurs (authorpreneurs, if you will — and I will!).
Your working capital is your imagination. Why not position the products of your imagination to earn as much as possible throughout your lifetime?
What Do You Think?
Do you agree that establishing storyworlds will help your long-term career as a writer? Are you already working on your storyworlds, or geared up to begin? Let me know in the comments! I’ll be sure to stop by the site on a regular basis and check in, and I’ll certainly reply to any comment I see.
If you’re interested in keeping up with my creative endeavors and musings on creativity in general and writing specifically, please visit my website, where you can subscribe to free e-mail newsletter or my blog or purchase any of my books, short stories, music, and other works.
I’ll see you there… and thanks, Debbi, for the opportunity to guest on your blog!
Matthew Wayne Selznick is an author and creator living in Long Beach, California. He is the author of the popular Sovereign Era storyworld, including The Charters Duology, featuring the Parsec Award nominated Brave Men Run and Pilgrimage.