8 Tips for Worldbuilding Multiverses

Photo by Alazar Kassahun on Unsplash

I like the idea of multiverses and all the amazing possibilities that the concept can bring.

But I think we can agree, especially in the west, that multiverses are not used to their full potential. Instead of improving a story and world, it weakens it.

This is a partial response to YoungRippa59 and his thoughts on multiverses. Especially the ones in Marvel and DC.

For any writers that want to explore the multiverse, here are 8 writing tips to improve the concept.

Ask Yourself The All-Important Question

Does your story need a multiverse? Few stories write multiverses well, even fewer need to do it.

I think many people underestimate how big one universe is. Aside from different physics, parallel versions, and power scaling, there’s little reason to use multiverses.

So ask yourself, do you need a multiverse in your story? Will adding another universe improve the story and world or are you using it for cheap thrills?

If you can write the story in another dimension or planet, then you don’t need a multiverse.

So if you’re dead set on writing a multiverse, let us start with the beginning phase.

Build It Up

You can just introduce a multiverse without build-up but the concept would lose its luster. That will tempt you to abuse the concept by throwing it out whenever you have a problem.

Just like shared universes, to make a great multiverse you need to build it up. Small mentions here and there, characters that don’t fit, threats outside space-time, and more.

The multiverse is massive and deserves to be properly built up. Especially if it’s a major part of your story and world.

If it’s not you don’t need to build it that much. A single foreshadow or plot thread is fine. Fairy Tail did this Mystogan a bit, whether the reveal was good is up to you.

But if it’s an important part of your story like in Marvel and DC, it needs to be unique.

Make it More Unique

We’re talking about a multiverse, it should be exotic and interesting. Most multiverses don’t take advantage of the fact it’s another universe.

You have unlimited freedom when designing a universe. Create new physics or have it take place in higher or lower dimensions.

Don’t make it just another earth but somewhere different. If you need it to take place on earth then make the changes extreme. Not just, it’s the same but evil.

This tip depends on your creativity and the story’s needs. Marvel used to do this like with the Zombie universe.

The one thing you can’t do is overuse evil counter parts.

Stop Using Evil Versions

This plot point has been done to death. It’s time to stop using evil versions of good characters. It’s usually not done well and doesn’t do anything for the story. No contrast or character exploration.

Sometimes they try, like Injustice with Superman, but they fail in the end. It’s used as another way to push mindless conflict and sometimes even harms character.

These are evil versions of the characters we love. That means that deep down, there’s a chance for Wonder Woman to kill kids and manipulate people. Injustice really harms her character because both good and evil versions are the same save for one slight change.

Ask yourself, different version or not, who wants to see Wonder Woman kill children?

As much as I hate the Goku Black Arc in Dragon Ball Super, it dodged a bullet by making Goku Black into Zamasu. As terrible as that was, better that than “Goku but evil”.

You can do this trope well though, the best version I can think comes from a fan manga. Deku Villain by Demongem1 tells the story of how Deku from Boku no Hero turns into a villain.

Most stories like this would just make the hero evil with little to no reason. But this one takes the realistic route and character exploration.

This take could easily happen in the original manga and so the choices evil Deku makes strengthens main Deku’s choice to be good. It contrasts Main Deku well without being too crazy.

It’s not perfect but it’s a step in the right direction.

So if you’re writing a multiverse story, don’t immediately jump to evil versions. When you decide to do it, make it realistic or make new characters.

A good example of this is Owl Man. He’s an evil version of Batman sure, but he’s his own character first.

Limit The Multiverse

If your multiverse is in the background then this is not important.

The biggest issue with multiverses that YoungRippa59 points out is apathy. Why care about a character that has infinite versions of themselves.

You can play into that making a character that wants to be the only one so kills the other versions. Like the plot of The One Jet Li Movie.

One method to fix this is to limit the multiverse. Instead of making them infinite, only have a handful of unique ones.

Like how a big open world is worse than a unique small city. Far Cry vs Yakuza.

If the small multiverse you create is unique then the audience won’t stop caring. Each one will have characters to care about and latch onto.

Even having 1 well-written evil version can work here. As long as it’s not the main version copied and pasted, you’re fine.

Another way is to not do it often.

Don’t Use It Often

You shouldn’t throw around multiversal threats around like common enemies.

If you’re writing something like Dragon Ball Super where characters are casually universal then skip this step.

Otherwise, jumping from universe to universe shouldn’t be a simple matter. There’s a universal distance and characters shouldn’t normally be able to travel that far.

So if you want the multiverse to have an impact, it’s better to save it for big conflicts.

Don’t devalue the unique and epic concept of a multiverse by traveling through it all the time.

This does not apply if that’s the whole point like Kingdom Hearts or Tsubasa Chronicles.

The final way is to make hard rules for the multiverse.

Have an Iron Set of Rules

No matter what you do, you need to set some rules and limitations. Building a multiverse is like world-building. It’s hard work but it’s required if it’s a important part of your story.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • How many universes are in your multiverse?
  • How does travel work between universes work?
  • Are physics different in each universe?
  • What types of planets exist in the other universes?
  • What are the major threats, if any, to the multiverse?

Whatever you decide, stick to it and keep the multiverse consistent.

Use it For Crossovers

The best way to write multiverses is to make it a crossover event. Some best and most interesting multiverses are crossovers.

The Capcom or Final Fantasy Multiverse comes to mind. It brings separate worlds together in an unexpected but welcomed way.

If you build up and leave bread crumbs, you can create a community treasure hunt until the reveal. This improves health and increases engagement with the property.

The only downside is that this takes much longer to set up but the rewards are immense. If done well enough, you’ll have an expansive and detailed multiverse to explore. A new mythology to captivate people.

Conclusion

That’s all I have to say about writing multiverses. I hope this helps anyone wanting to introduce the concept in their story.

The best advice though is to not be lazy. Don’t use Multiverses and alternative dimensions to retcon the past. It’s not a for excuse bad writing.

If you’re going to use it, give the concept the respect it deserves.

With that, I’m done.

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Blankmarks

I’m Blankmarks and I love magic in fiction. I’ll write about the various magic types and concepts not only for fun but to help writers create new magical worlds