Interconnected Narratives are Great (If You are Willing to Put in the Time)

The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is one of the most popular interconnected narratives today, and continues to grow.


The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is one of the most popular interconnected narratives today, and continues to grow.

Storytelling is nothing new. Ranging from tales meant to explain the mysteries of the world to the literary accomplishments of Shakespeare to modern movies, storytelling can take many forms and the practice has continued to evolve throughout history. As new mediums in which stories can be shared are developed, and new types of stories are created, society continues to push the limits of what ideas can be shared. One method of sharing stories that have become wildly popular recently is the interconnected narrative.

It can be nearly impossible to avoid them nowadays, from the astronomically successful MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe), Disney’s superhero franchise based on Marvel comics which has released 26 films to date, to the “Monsterverse”, Warner Bros. collection of monster films centering on classic beasts such as Godzilla and King Kong, to the Star Wars films and countless spinoffs. These projects and countless others show a trend of turning successful blockbusters and stories into major series.

This trend is not anything new: Expansive narratives such as Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and Dune have been around for many years, but they do seem to be extremely popular currently.

It is not a mystery why these interconnected narratives are common. When a book, movie, or any piece of storytelling media does well, it signals to the authors that there is an audience for that type of story and that this same audience is also probably invested in this specific narrative. This means that a sequel, or another story somehow tied to the original, would probably be successful as well. 

However, recently these stories have gone beyond just sequels. Creating separate stories that exist in the same world but involve different characters has become the norm. The larger narrative eventually brings all of these separate stories together, which is an immensely satisfying sensation. The feeling of having two different main characters, whom you have watched grow and learned to like, meet and interact is difficult to describe, but extremely enjoyable. 

The obvious flaw with this is the time investment. One reason these interconnected narratives can be so satisfying is because they build and develop characters before allowing them to meet. “Keeping up” takes a lot of time. It can be hard to catch up when there is so much that has been missed. The MCU, arguably one of the most popular interconnected narratives at the moment, has over fifty hours of content in its movies alone. That statistic does not account for the numerous spin-off TV shows. Many people do not want to spend their free time on what can feel like studying things they have missed just so they can enjoy the new stuff.

Personally, I enjoy the MCU a lot, but I do understand how it can be overwhelming for people who aren’t already familiar with it, even if they are interested in the story itself. Despite this, I’m extremely invested in the MCU, in a way that no other narrative or stories can really match. As I continue to engage in its ever-expanding story, the movies and shows start to feel less like self-contained stories, and more like a snippet of what’s going on in a different world, which is something unique to these types of stories.

Interconnected narratives are long, usually complicated, and time-consuming. But this is because, to create a world that seems to exist even when fans aren’t watching, they have to be. 

This is why, despite the challenges it presents, getting into some of these narratives can be extremely rewarding in the long run. When you’ve spent a lot of time with a bunch of characters, little can beat seeing them finally interact. Like many good things, interconnected narratives can take time before becoming great and might not be for everybody, but for those who are willing to spend the time needed to get invested, the reward will not disappoint.