Winter is my usual writing season. The last few years of adaptation work to move my books into a streaming formats for shopping have happened mostly over the winter months, which means I didn’t have my usual snuggle-into-novel-writing-time. Crossing my fingers I get some good novel writing time in this winter. I’m hungry for it. Aching, actually. Anyone in my company too long can probably pick up on the twitchy desire to get back to my desk.
Don’t get me wrong, the adaptation stuff is fun. A blast, actually, but it’s a different set of building tools and an alternate set of muscles. A collaboration stretch is needed to bridge the gap between my brainpan and the team—and because most of the worlds for The Pillars of Dawn and The Life Erotic are still lodged in my noggin, it can feel like people (even people I like) crawling around in my mental space, dusting things up, and refiling my system that I had just the way I liked it so it will all still fit in my gray matter. It can be intrusive and exhausting some days. It’s unavoidable. The people in my skull pulling out the materials for world build are all very polite, courteous, and patient with me—but it feels like the kindest strangers re-organizing my mental underwear drawer and very kindly not looking at my ratty period panties.
It’s a very intimate process. More so as I’ve been solo and isolated for so many years. It can sometimes feel abrasive, vulnerable and itchy.
I need a lot of naps or quiet time to refresh from having other people in thoughts.
If I could give any piece of advice to my younger self, or to any other world builders out there—don’t keep the bulk of your world-building data in your brainpan. A head cold, or a round of sneezes sets off all kinds of re-org issues. Plus, when it comes time to collaborate, then you’re pulling brain data and importing it into computer systems for others to understand, and they don’t have your mental shorthand notes for reference.
Use an exterior, or alternate backup space for your build. There are a dozen great programs to help sort and store your world builds.
The wiki builds for The Pillars of Dawn and The Life Erotic are both designed in Mandalic Storyverse Structure.
What does that mean?
Let’s be honest, I just made it up. It’s not a real thing—UNLESS you believe, like I do, that story as medium, as a wave of creation energy never actually ends. It is limitless potential until given a new shape. Story is energy that persists, regenerates.
We’re taught that story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Tada! Complete. Now you may go about your day and live your best life.
But really, if you go about your day, and live your best life, you are in fact—continuing the story. A well-told story now lives in you as a reader, or viewer or participant. You cannot be what you were before.
This is why fearful people ban books.
Mandalic Storyverse is the creation of story universes, interlocking, supportive, interdependent filaments of ideas that inform patterns and build ever-expanding spaces in which to house star clusters and galaxies of stories all of which are expressed through a library of mediums. Stories within stories within stories—forever.
We’re conditioned to this with the MCU or DCU and other franchises that have “Universe” in the description.
The difference being that their CORE structure never solidified and their builds are so flexible and changeable that they slide all over the place. Audience timeline sickness, and story waffling makes for loss of trust and eventual sameness in the build. As audience, we are watching as those universes fold back in on themselves and go through re-boot after re-boot, despite the reality that audiences are already bored of it, and have lost faith in the core.
The CORE in a Mandalic Storyverse is the hard construct (the heart, bones, brain), the pieces that cannot and should not be broken. Often this is considered to be the timeline, but I disagree. The core is always the frame/soul of your build—the mandala forms around that core and the storyverse populates and shoots out from those primary points of soul matter. Without it, the storyverse will eventually hit a tipping point under its own weight and fold inward. A Mandalic Storyverse built around a heart will die when that core truth is compromised.
Mandalic Storyverse structure allows for perpetual expansion and growth with the framework established. GENERATIONAL STORYTELLING and BUILDING. Thus as the audience grows and evolves socially, spiritually, and the collective pool of knowledge, education, and global ideas SHIFT, the storyverse can shift and grow WITH the audience without needing to constantly be rebooted to catch up to new audience trends, needs, desires or pace of understanding— because it is built in advance to be able to grow and stretch to those needs without compromising the core.
A Mandalic Storyverse BREATHES. It learns. It imagines. It anticipates. It is a narrative form of intelligence that creates active bridges to new forms of creativity, energy, and the human adventure through our shared experience and evolving consciousness. It is not AI, because it has a soul, and it is fostered, nurtured and protected by human creatives for other human creatives. (We can argue about AI souls and singularity on another thread with some bourbon, yeah?)
And when a branch, or a galaxy of stories within the Mandalic Storyverse has bloomed, shone, and it is time for it to spread its seeds and winter—those seeds germinate new galaxies with the core heart, and carry the new tales forward. Just as in real life, right?
Mandalic Storyverse is the most closely related structure I know to life and how we live. In terms of a gendering, I often refer to this structure as “feminine” because of its natural mothering and birthing capacity to expand. It is the story that keeps generating, keeps nurturing, keeps sheltering, keeps homing and so on.
Whereas the standard three-act structure we’re most familiar with in the Western world is typically a one and done. A rinse repeat. It can begin to feel formulaic and linear, a driving force that loses its momentum at the infamous “dark night of the soul” mid-second act, only to rally and finish. (then light a cigarette, or take a nap)
We could go down a rabbit hole here of Joseph Campbell’s work and the hero’s journey, but that would be forty pages of rant. Love him. Love the work, but it’s missing 50% of the story.
That other 50% is found in a mandalic pattern, a generational build—not just generational “telling” but the build itself. I would argue even that those “hearts” of three act structures, of those single shot stories are seeds from a larger Mandalic Storyverse, and we have been taught only to see, hear, and believe in one seed at a time. *I’ll spare the longer version of this*
Anywhoo, that’s a very long way of saying, one of the greatest challenges of building in a Mandalic Storyverse Structure and then trying to adapt for television is converting that SCOPE, SCALE, CAPACITY, and POTENTIAL down into a single shot story so others can grasp it and convert it into usable material for an audience that’s conditioned to three-act, and is expecting a three-act. (Though I would argue, the streaming capacity to develop and house larger Storyverses and world-builds is feeding an audience with a new hunger for those bigger builds—people/ audiences want to live in these Storyverses and it’s showing in the data.)
My storyverse has been living and developing alone in my brain space for over twenty-years. Moving it to a more digestible format for audiences has been tricky. Mark Heidelberger has been a gift from the heavens for helping me focus on one point at a time rather than trying to download all my mental files at once. Dude has the freakin’ patience of a saint.
Note to self: Send Mark a fruit basket.
There’s really no wrong way to do a world build. Each one is specific to the work, to the idea or the story that will be housed or carried by the build. I like to think that the more diverse our world-building methods as artists, the more eclectic and magnificently grand our human experience will be.
So as I tuck in for some winter writing and world-building with mulled wine by the fire. I wish you all a happy holiday season, and all the adventures of your most courageous world-building plans.
Athena lives and writes in the Siuslaw Forest, Oregon.