Ever hear of the shared universe theory? It’s a theory in which fictional stories by particular writers, studios, showrunners or other creative bodies are somehow cobbled together in a such a way that they all exist within the same universe.
Sometimes the creative bodies put clues in their works to loosely link the worlds—Pixar, for instance, always has the “Easter egg” Pizza Planet delivery truck in every one of its films. Fans use this as evidence for the Pixar shared universe theory, though Pixar itself has never purported to support it.
What I find most fascinating is how imaginative fans are when it comes to linking the stories together. Take, for example, the JossWhedon shared universe theory, in which Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly and Cabin in the Woods all exist. The first two are natural links, Angel being a spinoff show from Buffy. But pulling Firefly, a scifi Western that takes place centuries after Earth has suffered catastrophe, into the mix requires a lot more creative thinking.
Maybe most creative of all: the Disney shared universe theory, in which 30 movies coexist in the same universe. Read this awesome and hilarious post to see how carefully fans are watching for those linking details.
Why go through the effort of seeding stories with these hints that could lead to a shared universe theory? Because it rewards diehard fans for paying attention. For the creator, it’s a fun inside joke, a wink and a nod to their fans and colleague. It’s also an unobtrusive way to acknowledge the process of creation, and how we build on what we’ve created before Because if there's anything we writers love, it's self-referencing our work.
I will admit my books all share a universe, though in my case, it’s much easier to fit contemporary romances together than most of the above examples. Many authors set their books in the same small town, or write stories for characters from previous novels. But I like a challenge. If you look closely at my upcoming January 2016 release, Red Carpet Arrangement, you’ll see a nod to my first book, Her Son’s Hero, and my third, In Her Corner, which are both about the world of mixed martial arts. And by my sixth book, which goes back to the small town of Everville from my second book, Back to the Good Fortune Diner, and fourth, Recipe for Reunion, there’ll be tons more little “Easter eggs” hidden throughout with nods to all the characters.
Got any shared universe theories? Do you watch any TV shows or movies and imagine how they’re linked? Ever try to link completely different works together? Comment below!