Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re probably familiar with Wikipedia, an encyclopedia of knowledge that anybody can edit. But what many of you may not know is that there are similar encyclopedias for fictional universes. Memory Alpha is a wiki about the Star Trek universe. Fringepedia is a wiki about the TV show Fringe. There’s also Bulbapedia about Pokémon. Ultronomicon is the wiki for Star Control 2. If you look, you can probably find a wiki for every somewhat popular fictional universe out there.
These wikis are basically encyclopedias for everything about the story/series in question: detailed summaries of the events of the stories, detailed bios of locations, characters, etc. Plus, they often contain a lot of meta content, like episode/book guides, bios of writers, etc. Wikis about games usually contain game hints, walkthroughs, and the like.
Just reading through these wikis has done wonders for my understanding of these universes, and my writing. Just browsing any one of these wikis will show you how the characters fit together, and can show you many details you may have missed.
Plus, the idea of an encyclopedia like this somehow sparks my love of world building. Seeing the fictional universe mapped out in a way like this was a huge inspiration for my own world building. A summary that detailed can tell you everything about a fictional universe, without even needing to read/watch the source material. I’ve sometimes spent a couple hours browsing a wiki for some book/show/game I never heard of for this reason.
The general point is that while reading the book, watching the show, or playing the game, you get an audience’s perspective. But reading a wiki gives you more of an author’s perspective of the universe, something that fascinated me from the first moment I opened a wiki.
I also came to believe that wiki software can be very helpful for the planning and organization of a story, especially a long and complex story with myriad details.
Soon after I read my first fictional wiki, I tried to duplicate it by making something similar for Swogprille, out of HTML, with help from FrontPage, with limited success. It was just too frustrating to keep editing. I eventually realized in order to try this, I’d need a better technology to do it with.
As I am also a computer geek, I eventually downloaded the MediaWiki software. MediaWiki is the software that Wikipedia was built off of, along with the wikis I mentioned above. I was then able to configure this software to keep private wikis for my Evaira and Swogprille series. As configuring MediaWiki can be very complicated for most computer users, if you are not a computer geek, and want to try organizing story elements in a wiki like this, you can try the free software WikiDPad.
I actively edit my private “Evairapedia” with all the plot details from each story. That way, I can keep track of what I’ve written. With hundreds of Swogprille stories (mostly in PowerPoint animation form), and a detailed mystery for Evaira, keeping a wiki can make it easier to remember some of the details, and in the event that I forgot some important detail from earlier that I need for my current installment (which is quite often), I know where to look it up later, rather than having to manually search each story for the information I need.
I also make it a point to only add information to the wiki after it has been actually included in a story, and thus made canon. That makes it a lot clearer what details can still be changed, and makes it easier for me to remember what’s been explained and what hasn’t. Due to spontaneity in writing, any detail may end up written in a different way than I originally envision it. If I really need to keep track of to-be-written content, I’d either mark it as such, or simply create a special page for it.
I do love long, complex stories, with many great details, and an interesting world. As somebody who enjoys writing such stories, I’ve found fictional universe wikis to be a great resource for inspiration, and a great tool for organizing my plots. Anyway, I have a few other stories to revise, and a papercraft model I need to finish, so that’s all I have to say right now. White Rakogis is now signing off.