Resource #1: Setting Up an Origami Universe
What’s up, everyone? Welcome to the first little “Resource” thing that I decided I wanted to write. I may be doing more of these, just about stuff that I’ve learned from my years on this site, and also some things that I’ve learned while at school – stay in it, guys! You really do learn a lot.
This one will be about Setting Up an Origami Universe, something that, with the rise of BTFolds stories, is something I feel is very much needed.
Here’s a quick definition of what an Origami Universe is, although I’m sure you guys know already:
An Origami Universe is a collection of stories set at the same school, focusing on characters of a specific franchise. Collections of stories are placed into “Folds,” and, usually, at the conclusion of each fold there is a team-up story, depending on the franchise.
Examples of Origami Universes include: The Marvel Origami Universe created by Noah, The DC Origami Universe created by me, and the Wizarding Folds Universe created by SF Guillermo.
In this resource, I’ll describe how the Folds ought to work, although it’s not set in stone, and then at the end I’ll be explaining what makes an Origami Universe successful with three specific points: 1.) Connectivity, 2.) Specificity, and 3.) Accessibility.
So, let’s begin!
The goal of the first fold is to set up how the other folds will follow. Think of you folding an origami Yoda. That first fold down from the top is the base, it’s the rock that makes Yoda what he is. That’s how the first fold of your origami universe should work too. The Wizarding Folds is setting up the big bad of the next couple of folds, the DCOU and MOU introduce the big players of their select origami Universes. A first fold should:
- Introduce the characters, the setting, and who’s attending
- Build up a conflict that leads to characters uniting
- Showcase the potential of that universe going forward.
The first fold builds up hype and interest in a reader. But it’s YOU who must plan it out. When I sent out the emails to writers for Fold One of the DCOU, I explained the basic plot of the story, what the characters should be like, and how it should end. Notice how the DCOU stories end on Alan recruiting a character, such as Alan recruiting Theresa, or JC in “Wonder Folder” and “Aquapleat.” The stories set up the next story.
Like most stories on here follow a Beginning, Middle, and End structure, so should your Folds.
In the beginning of “The Legend of Zelda-Gami,” by Origami Master, Linkin gets a puppet of Link, in the middle, Linkin faces students that have puppets of enemies from the game, and in the end, he defeats Dark Link-agami and saves the princess.
Fold One of the MOU introduces the members of the Origavengers, Fold Two raises the stakes of the characters as T.H.A.N.O.S. is a looming threat, Fold Three is an “End,” with T.H.A.N.O.S. defeating the Origavengers, and Fold Four will be that aftermath.
Your folds should be building up to a climactic ending, something that makes the readers excited to see the conclusion of, to see it all become worth it in the end. And that leads into…
Enjoying the Crossovers! Most stories need them! Now, there’s special exceptions to this, such as the Wizarding Folds and Riordan Origami Universe. Universes based on Book Properties are fairly easy to go through without an “OrigAvengers, assemble” scene. In a universe such as the Video Pleats Origami Universe, a crossover is almost necessary. It answers the question “what’s the point of having these students attending THIS school?” And the interesting thing is, if you know where to look, you’ll find crossovers to be your basis!
The Marvel Universe and the DC Universe got off really easy with, y’know, the Avengers and Justice League. Video Pleats could do crossovers like “Super Smash Bros” or “Playstation All Stars Battle Royale,” Heck, FORTNITE is getting so big that crossovers with anything could feasibly happen, haha.
The Anime Folds Universe could have different anime heroes unite for a cause in a “Shonen Jump” story, and the Origami Cartoon Universe could have a “Crossover Nexus” like what OK KO had with Ben 10, TTG, and Steven Universe. There’s so much potential, and if you’re stumped on that end of the fold crossover, you could shoot me an email and I could give suggestions.
You’ve been setting up the big crossover, you should have fun doing it, y’know?
After a big crossover happens, the Second Fold builds up yet another, this time bigger than the last with more characters and higher stakes. The Origavengers now have Black Pen-Ther and Black Widow. The DCOU will have more Justice Pleats people on the roster for the next crossover. These stories should also be more fun for the reader to read, since they know the characters now, they understand their motives, and they also know how this school works. This would be a good time to introduce:
Side Tales, One Shots, Magical Tales, Myths, are stories that don’t have to do with the main storyline, but allows readers to have fun in the universe you make without affecting the main canon of it. Assassin’s Crease, for example, is probably a One-Shot in the VPOU, as it’s not going to affect what’s going on in the Nintendo realm. These Canonical stories flesh out your world more by adding LIFE.
Be aware though that other writers have different ideas for characters, plots, and sometimes they’ll add a flu to your school that the editors can’t simply write out without removing full on chapters, so you have to just deal with it. Sigh, yeah. I’ve dealt with it.
Now, let’s get onto those three points I mentioned earlier. You want your universe to have connectivity. The best way to have this is by having it all happen in the same school or town! If one story involved a fire happening in the lunchroom, have a different story mention it. Keeping these consisting beats adds life, it adds familiarity. We recognize Kirby as the school where the earth heroes attend, because Fold One of the MOU set it up that way.
An issue I notice is in the naming structure of a universe. Let’s say that there’s a universe called the “Origami Cereals Universe.” First of all, why a universe around cereal characters? Second of all, what cereals? Is there a specific branding of cereals (General Mills? Store-brand? Kellog?)? This is where Specificity comes in. You want that name to be specific. It was one of the issues we had with names of Universes that made it too broad. I could’ve called the DCOU the “Warner Brothers Origami Universe,” and suddenly, things would’ve gotten more wider, right? And More confusing, I’m sure. The ROU is perfect in the specificity example because it’s based around the works of Rick Riordan, and also the Greek Mythologies of the past. So, there’s a clear specificity to it. The Wizarding Folds Universe is also perfect, since it’s based on the characters and world of Harry Potter.
The last point is Accessibility. Here at Superfolder Central, we want to promote that you can write an origami universe around anything, but I’ll be real, this comes at a price. Some people just aren’t going to know what you’re talking about. Don’t expect everyone reading your universe to have seen the show or read the books. Something to keep in the back of your mind should be “Am I writing something that people that have never read/watched/played ___ could enjoy and understand?”
One of the subgoals of your universe should also be to write something that will get the reader interested in the real thing. When I started the DCOU back in 2018 and tried recruiting writers, I had a lot of people decline because they simply didn’t know much about DC. This taught me a lesson that you need to write firstly about what you enjoy, and then secondly something that could get people interested in the real deal. Did you know I never saw Star Wars until I read the Origami Yoda series? Little OL100 picked up the book and read it, and then I wanted to see what it was all about, so I watched the movies, and I understood things more. Tom Angleberger wrote something accessible to children who never watched the films, and that’s what you should be aiming to do too. If you’re writing a story about Horton Hears a Crease, aim to write it for those that had never read the Seuss classic.
And that’s it! With that, I conclude my little seminar on making an Origami Universe. Remember that writing is a process, and we grow and we change and we IMPROVE. The only way to go with this medium is up. Also remember that this stuff is subjective, you can go against the grain, this stuff isn’t set in stone. If YOU have any tips, put them below in the comments!
Here’s the important notes:
- The first fold sets up the universe and establishes the main setting, character, tone, and theme.
- The other folds (be it two folds, three, four, or six!) follow a beginning, middle, and end of the story at that universe.
- Learn to write those fun crossovers as the treat to making a fold.
- Side Tales flesh out the world more
- Connectivity is made through being at the same school and other stories/characters referencing past events
- Specificity helps not only you as the planner but also the readers understand what the universe is about
- Accessibility is if people reading your OU could become interested in the universes the Origami Universe is based on.