Building a Sci-Fi Universe, One Story and Novel at a Time

For the past four years I’ve been writing novels and short stories that are all set in the same fictional universe. My intention is to world build on a galactic scale. My Epic Sci-Fi universe is book ended with the Star Trilogy novels. Each novel is set about 500 years from the other. So that leaves plenty of space in between to write related stories.

All the masters of Sc-Fi have written dozens of novels and short stories all set in the same universe. As a reader, my favorite authors have extensive universes with many stories set in them. After you read a few books, you start to become familiar with the universe and  it becomes a real place that you love to return to over and over again.

There are many ways you can achieve this in your writing. I’ve listed below the ones that I’ve used to flesh out my universe.

1. Tie-in short stories. If you write short stories, make them about characters who are also in your novels. A reader might find your work via a free short story and then come after your books to know more about that character. This also works the other way around and it give you the chance to get to know a character better by writing short stories about her before you do a full length novel.

2. Chapter header blurbs add depth in books. In my Star Trilogy books I use this technique to help world build. Each chapter has a quote from a book or journal that pertains to the action or the main character in each chapter. Sometimes I make references to short stories and sometimes I feature characters from the future, that I will eventually get around to writing stories about.

3. Make short stories that are related to each other and set in the same universe. My anthology Tales From Ocherva, Volume One, is filled with related stories, some featuring the same characters both android and human. This is a conscious effort by me to show character arcs through many, related stories. If you read TFO before you read the first Star Trilogy book, you already know all of the Stellar Rangers including the hero – Devon Ardel. When her character arc happens in Starforgers, what she has done in all those short stories now suddenly has more depth to the reader.

4. Have a series. I have many series of stories set in the same universe. There are the Star Trilogy novels and there are smaller series of short stories featuring the same character. The Stellar Ranger stories all feature a handful of characters on a single planet – Ocherva. I have another series of shorts about a smuggler named Joules Rouse. The first story of that series you can read for free here.

5. Create a timeline and a map of your universe. Below is the timeline I pieced together for all my stories set in this universe. The ones that are in italics are not yet written. There are 18 stories listed here. Enough to keep me writing for another five years. The year column starts with the creation of the Alliance just after Starforgers. It’s completely arbitrary and helps me determine things based on the length of the Great War.

Year Novels / Novella / Short Stories 
-2500 Voton (Planetary Novel)
-5 Tales From Ocherva, Vol One (Anthology)
Red Allen (Short Story)
Slag (Short Story)
Tin Star (Short Story)
Ocherva (Short Story)
Silicants Only (Short Story)
Rock Collection (Short Story)
The Outlaw and the Ranger (Short Story)
A Night at Downers (Short Story)
Erreurs d’Inattention (Short Story)
-2 A Promising Alliance (Short Story)
The Value of a Book (Short Story)
1 Starforgers (Star Trilogy, Book One)
Stand Down (Short Story)
5 The Rising
500 Starstrikers (Star Trilogy, Book Two)
505 XiniX (Planetary Novel)
505 The Renoke (Short Story)
Special Modifications (Short Story)
Revenge Stinks (Short Story)
Duel (Short Story)
510 Runner Blues (Novella)
1000 Starveyors (Star Trilogy, Book Three)
War Stories (Short Story)
1015 Tyrmia (Planetary Novel)

So as you can see, I’ve got my work cut out for me. But that’s a good thing right? I mean when readers discover you, it’s always best to have something for them to read. Because the most loyal readers will read everything you have written. With any luck, it will take them a while to get through your back list. Then they will be ready for next new novel or batch of short stories.

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