If all of this seems like far too much work but something we still want to have, we might consider working with one or more partners. This would allow us to divide up the work and even focus on areas we excel at while leaving our weak areas for someone else to do. If all of us are authors, then all of us can write in the resulting setting. One caveat is that we’ll have to be very aware of what everyone else is creating, and they might want to do some things that we don’t want. One solution is to divide up continents, each of us taking certain kingdoms. One advantage here is that the gods or species can be the same across the world, but we can do different things on the smaller scale.
Tread lightly, however. More than one relationship has been destroyed by disputes over ownership, so if you embark on something like this, you should consult an attorney and draw up a legal document specifying your respective rights. This would include under what conditions someone can leave the partnership. For example, if you leave, you can no longer write books on that setting without getting approval from the remaining members in the partnership because they are still making changes and you must comply with those. This is true while you’re in the partnership anyway.
What follows is a thought experiment about how multiple people can participate in a World Building Coalition (WBC). If you and others decide to enter into one, this may lend ideas on how to go about defining roles and responsibilities.
What Is It?
A world building coalition (WBC) is a collection of individuals who’ve agreed to build a world together, sharing the labor and fruits of that labor. While some items, such as overall world feel, gods, and many life forms will be shared, other items (like kingdoms) will belong to world building owners (WBOs) who have ownership of them, such as say over whether proposed changes are accepted.
Why Do It
World building can take an enormous amount of time depending on how far someone is willing to go. By contrast, skimping on it is likely to produce mediocre results. To mitigate these problems, like-minded individuals can form a coalition, with agreed upon roles, responsibilities, and rights.
Who Does It
Authors are the primary ones likely to create and participate in a WBC. However, gamers, hobbyists, or others who have no intention of ever writing a story can also form a WBC either for entertainment, or to effectively license the use of their world to authors. This can not only free some authors from the need to do world building, but allow those not given to storytelling to do creative work that results in published stories. These WBOs may have written agreements with a given author to share in the profit of any published works, though crafting those agreements lies outside the scope of this book. Interested parties should consult qualified entertainment lawyers.
Members of the WBC should agree to a covenant that lays out their rights, roles, and responsibilities, and other things to agree upon, such as terminology (are you going to call elves a species or race?). This includes “severability,” meaning what happens when someone leaves the WBC and whether they retain their things or have them transferred to someone else. Or even whether they can, or if they can get them back.
There are questions to decide upon at the outset and stick to without alteration. One of these is genre. Is the world intended for fantasy, SF, steampunk, or something else? What kind of world this is should be cast in stone early on. The exception is when the WBC decides that a long history exists and what was a medieval-like fantasy setting two thousand years ago is a space-age SF one today. This allows creators to have variety and even decide that another member of the WBC can author stories in a given time period, provided that they meet the approval of the WBO of that part of the world.
Another decision is about technological level. Does the world have guns? Cars? Spaceships? How technologically advanced is the planet? Some areas can be more advanced than others, such as the Europeans being more advanced than Native Americans when Europeans discovered North America, but generally you’ll want some guidelines.