There’s a lot of prepwork an author does behind the scenes when they start writing a novel or a series. Before a single word is typed for chapter one, the author needs to sort out characters, plot lines, villains and the world the story happens in. While the characters and plot might be the main focus, the setting and world building are important in a lot of different ways.
To create a world, the author must have a setting--sometimes several--some sense of history and current events. This gives the reader an anchor into what is going on around the characters as they move through the story. In some instances, authors create elaborate maps, time lines and even sketch out scenes. As a reader goes through several books by different authors in the same genre or subgenre, some of the worlds might look very similar. It brings up the question: Can stories by different authors take place in the same world?
Have you ever felt a strange sense of deja vu as you are reading a novel? Perhaps the character races seem similar to other books you’ve read. Even the setting can seem the same if you read primarily in a certain genre or subgenre. For the most part, novels and series have unique details that set them apart from similar stories, however, by using a familiar back drop--such as the modern world often used in urban fantasy--the author has a built in audience and may be able to take a few shortcuts in the overall world building process.
Let’s take a look at some examples.
The fantasy genre is full of stories that seem very similar. The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien is a very well known fantasy book. Tolkien created an elaborate world where humans, elves and other creatures populated a very volatile landscape. Not only did he write the Lord of the Rings, he also created elaborate histories and even languages for his stories.
Over the years, other authors have taken advantage of his elaborate work, not by copying it but by using settings and characters that are different yet have elements that mirror Tolkien’s work. Stories like the Dragon Lance books by Laura and Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis, use a very similar setting and types of races that mirrors The Lord of the Rings world. And at times you can say that those stories happen in the same world.
In both stories there is magic and wizards, humans and elves, hobbits and haflings and all manner of creatures and things that aren’t of our world. Many epic fantasy stories have elves as an aloof but benign race who look much like humans. Or use wise but dangerous wizards as pinnacles of the contrast of good and evil. Much like Middle Earth, the Dragon Lance series has an elaborate history, characters out of legends and even made up languages.
Other books such as the Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks, The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis and even A Song of FIre and Ice series by George R.R. Martin also share other very similar world building elements and other features such as races and even style. There are a lot of core similarities in these stories that make it somewhat possible that they take place on the same world. But some people will argue that there are enough differences that it isn’t likely.
However, there are other stories--particularly in the urban fantasy subgenre--that very well could take place in the same world.
Urban fantasy is a subgenre that takes place in a somewhat modern setting often involving magic, monsters and of course mayhem. Since the main setting is modern Earth, it’s easy to imagine characters such as Harry Dresden working as a wizard in Chicago and Rachel Morgan providing security for a high level client in Cincinnati. Since many UF stories are spread out across the globe, it may be easier for us to group them into a single world where the rules of magic apply, but just a bit differently in certain locations.
If you’ve read a few of the titles that Apocalypse Ink Productions has available, you’ve probably discovered that the stories have the same possibility. Karen Wilson can easily exist in the same world as Keith Murphy, Gordon Velander and Darien Yost. Even though magic works a bit differently and the monsters are a bit different, it’s not difficult to see them all in the same world.
So if you are reading novels and feel that some things are familiar and wonder if these characters exist in the same world as the ones in another book, don’t worry. We’ve all been there before. The question then becomes, Well why not?
~The Shadow Minion