The Multiverse of Creative Writing

The Eye-Dancers explores the concept of parallel worlds, universes that exist, unseen, beside our own, like a billion billion invisible shadows.  On the surface, this seems like sheer fantasy, sky-high sci-fi that does not apply, in any realistic sense of the word, to the lives of anyone save speculative fiction lovers and quantum physicists.



But perhaps parallel-worlds theory is far more practical, far more applicable than it seems at first blush.  Take writing a novel, for example . . .

For our imaginary novel, let’s picture a story of, say, 90,000 words.  As the author, of course you go through the logical progression.  First, an idea strikes, hot, boiling, the literary waters frothy with enthusiasm and energy.  Then you make some notes–not too many–just various anchor points you need to keep in mind as you travel down the winding road of your imagination.  And then, finally, you begin.  You feel a thrill when you key in “Chapter One” on the first page and begin to tell the tale.



But let’s take a step back.  Are you writing just one single novel here, or are you, in actuality, writing countless novels?  Consider.  You have to begin your story somewhere.  And surely it could have begun in any number of places, with any number of potential scenes.  You have to choose one.  But what of the others, the scenes not chosen?  What happens to them?  In one sense, nothing.  They represent the “what-ifs,” the “might-have-beens,” the ideas, scenes, words, paragraphs that will never be written–at least not in this novel.



If we were to take a quantum mechanics–style view of this, however, the scenes that go unused are not necessarily discarded.  Rather, perhaps we can look at them as “parallel openings,” “alternate versions.”  Indeed.  Have you ever written an opening scene to a story and then, just out of curiosity, opened a new file and redone the scene, in a completely different way?  I have.  It’s the same story, the same idea, but, now with a new opening, the story takes a different shape, a divergent path, a back-roads route.  If you were to carry the experiment further, the first opening sequence (call it Novel #1) would naturally lead to another scene and then another and then another, multiplying all the way down the road of 90,000 words.  Whereas the second opening sequence (call it Novel #2) would lead to a different follow-up scene and then a different third scene, and so on, creating, in effect, a wholly different novel, even though both novels are, in essence, the same story, coming into being from the same idea, the same inspiration.



Everywhere you find yourself within the story arc, whether chapter one or chapter twenty-one, you have decisions to make.  Does Character Y really say that?  Does Character V really want to pull that stunt?  Of course, the characters themselves are the ones calling the shots, just as much, if not more, than the writer.  But they are calling the shots, at least in part and especially the further in you get, based on all of the events that led to that point in the story.  For every chapter, for every paragraph on the journey of 90,000 words, a decision is made, the sentence is written.  And for every decision made, there are a thousand, a million, a billion decisions not made, actions not pursued, word choices and plot twists never realized.



When viewed this way, each story is merely one small tributary branching off from a bottomless river, one possibility amid countless possibilities.  From a single idea is birthed an infinity of options.



Take, for instance, the following story premise.

A young man, call him Jim, is hired by a modestly sized computer software company.  He’s shown around, introduced to the employees, but along the way, he notices one cubicle in particular.  The name plate is still there–“Wayne”–the desk is strewn with loose papers, handwritten notes.  A coffee mug rests off to the side, Post-It notes are attached to the PC monitor, and old clippings of newspaper cartoons are tacked to the cubicle walls.  But as the days press on, first a week, then two, then three, Wayne never shows.  No one cleans off the desk.  Is he scheduled to come back?  Has he taken a leave of absence?  Has he been fired or did he quit in a rage, suddenly, with no notice?  Jim asks several coworkers.  They skirt around the question, evading, dodging, not wanting to say anything.



What happened?  Who is this Wayne, and why is his desk still littered with his notes and mugs and assorted papers?  If he isn’t going to come back, why not clean up his work space, or hire somebody else?

Jim can’t stop thinking about it.  He tells his girlfriend, his parents, his buddies.  They all say to forget it, who cares?  But he can’t forget it.  He can’t shake the feeling that something awful has happened, something monstrous.



Then, on an otherwise nondescript Monday morning, he receives an anonymous email.  The Sender is just called “6754.”  The subject line reads:  “Stop asking questions.”  The body of the email reads:  “Or else . . .”  And that is all.

Where can you take this story?  What would the opening scene look like?  Would it be Jim’s first day, spotting Wayne’s desk for the first time?  Would it be his asking a coworker about Wayne and getting the brush-off?  Would it be the mysterious email?  It could be any of these, and more.  And whichever scene is selected will impact the next scene and then the next, and the next . . .



In fact, perhaps we should start a new blog hop.  Blog hops have to start somewhere, right?  Why not call it the “Parallel Worlds of Creative Writing” Blog Hop!  Jim’s scenario can be used, or another can be created.  And, to begin, seven interested bloggers can write the first scene of the would-be story.  Then, each of these bloggers would tag another seven bloggers to write the second scene.  The thing is, if seven bloggers wrote the first scene, there would be seven unique opening scenes–one opening scene per each blogger.  When these bloggers tag the next group of seven bloggers, the latter would only be able to work with the opening scene they received.  So, in effect, the bloggers next up in the chain would each be working with different opening scenes–no two opening scenes would be alike.  The second wave of bloggers would write their scene, the next scene in the story, and then pass it along to a third group of seven bloggers each, and so on.  Every blogger tagged would be working with a unique chain and furthering that chain by writing their version of the next scene and passing it on.



The process could go on as long as interest remained, and by the end of the blog hop, there would be a plethora of versions of the same story, each thread, each individual blog-tag branching off in its own direction, visual manifestation, as it were, of the multiverse of creative writing.



Every time we begin a story, every time we start a new scene, we toss a pebble into our own personal literary pond, the resulting ripples circling out, farther, deeper, into the water.  And when it’s time to begin the next scene, the next chapter, the next paragraph, we can only choose one of them, the others drifting, away, out of reach.

All any writer can do is hope they choose the right one.



Thanks so much for reading!


39 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Carol Louise Wilde
    Mar 27, 2015 @ 17:28:41

    I like this way of looking at writing fiction. It’s exciting to think about. And It’s true. More than once a critique group reader has offered a suggestion after reading only part of the story and I’ve had to say, yes, I could do that, but then it would be a completely different story. Some of those stories I might like t write, others would have to be for someone else.


  2. Bonnie Marshall
    Mar 27, 2015 @ 20:39:21

    Eloquent and encouraging…as always. Smile.


  3. writerbeelove
    Mar 27, 2015 @ 21:29:04

    Looks interesting. I have it on my wishlist for now, until my book list dwindles a tad.


  4. Meredith
    Mar 27, 2015 @ 21:44:19

    Holy Schneike! (that’s pronounced shny-kee) Thanks for making my job as a writer that much more difficult. And intriguing. What happens when you write the story, publish the story, and then decide the “other road” would have made a better story? The whole process is maddening! I guess I don’t have to worry too much as I’m not a published author yet, but after reading this I don’t know if I can handle it despite my dreams. Yow.


  5. Rosaliene Bacchus
    Mar 27, 2015 @ 22:28:40

    Telling the story through different point-of-view characters can also lead to parallel worlds. Isn’t that what real life is?


  6. jjspina
    Mar 27, 2015 @ 23:33:09

    Wonderful post – so deep, Mike! You are so talented. How is your second book coming? I look forward to reading it.


  7. barbaramonier
    Mar 28, 2015 @ 12:23:15



  8. teagan geneviene
    Mar 28, 2015 @ 13:25:05

    Insightful, spot-on musings, Michael. Have a wonderful weekend. 🙂


  9. eemoxam
    Mar 28, 2015 @ 14:08:42

    Great post! Many times I have wondered what it would be like if my characters made different choices.


  10. Lyn
    Mar 28, 2015 @ 20:08:12

    Another great post Mike. You always have us thinking about avenues we may not have gone. I like the story concept of Jim and Wayne, but all you’ve done is made me want more. I’m with Jim, I want to know what happened to Wayne and who the mysterious “6754″ is.


  11. Thomas Weaver
    Mar 28, 2015 @ 21:35:24

    Reblogged this on North of Andover.


  12. Ste J
    Mar 29, 2015 @ 09:25:07

    An abstract idea to end all ideas, one idea could keep an author in books for years. Imagine that, a series of books on the variation of a theme. It is genius. Either that or through indecision nothing gets written which is a story in itself.


    • The Eye-Dancers
      Mar 30, 2015 @ 16:27:37

      That would be fascinating. It’s almost surprising that no author has ever attempted this–granted, it may get tedious reshaping the same idea time after time, but the result would always be a new story. An interesting way to spend two or three decades as a writer!


  13. theywalkthenight
    Apr 01, 2015 @ 02:56:32

    Reblogged this on Today, You Will Write and commented:
    You had me at parallel worlds…read more about story…


  14. Shelley
    Apr 02, 2015 @ 05:36:30

    Blog hop sounds like fun. Look forward to reading.


  15. conniecockrell
    Apr 05, 2015 @ 14:37:57

    Good post. Chuck Wendig on his site TerribleMinds does something like your 7 bloggers idea. Usually a 3 or 4 part story. Thanks for stopping by my blog.


  16. Carrie Rubin
    Apr 06, 2015 @ 16:08:34

    I like the idea of “parallel openings.” When we get so locked into our opening chapter early on, we risk setting the story on a path that might not best suit it. Playing around with different openings and seeing where each could take the story is an excellent exercise before really getting down to business.


  17. likeitiz
    Apr 07, 2015 @ 16:00:55

    You make it all sound like it’s such a breeze! I admire your various approaches. I’m also jealous you can do this. Maybe one day, I’ll give it a whirl. I’m not so confident I have what it takes, however.


  18. madelynmarch03
    Apr 22, 2015 @ 01:37:34

    Quantum physics and creative writing! Yes, it blew my mind. Lots to think about!


  19. delsheree
    Apr 22, 2015 @ 14:59:28

    Love this view of creative writing 🙂 Really gets you to start thinking a little more about what you’re writing!


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