Postclassical narratology (that is, narratology as it developed after its structuralistic beginning, over the past couple of decades or so) has devoted much attention to the way in which readers, in the words of David Herman, “use textual cues to build up representations of the worlds evoked by stories, or storyworlds.” (Herman 2009: 106) In this sense, storyworlds can be seen as “mental models”: a “worldmaking practice” according to which the reader maps and works to comprehend a narrative (Herman 2002: 5). In this sense, a storyworld is the cognitive result of the reading process during which the reader’s comprehension is at work. As aptly put by the science fiction writer Arkady Martin, “A storyworld is thus a co-created world between author and audience, bound by mutually held-in-common rules of causality and verisimilitude.” (Martine 2019)
These mutually held-in-common rules also dominate the construction of so-called possible worlds, creating what could be seen as belief-worlds shared by members of a group. A possible world is dominated by its own logic: it doesn’t need to adhere to the rules of the actual world (at least not beyond what makes it comprehensible for actual world-readers), but it has to make sense as a world. Common examples are drawn from fairytales or superhero comics: such stories suspend belief in the common sense of the word, but they are perfectly logical as long as the characters and their actions are understood and accepted within their own storyworlds and thus by the reader (Ryan 1992). Even if we, as human beings, are deeply rooted in the notion that there is one world in which we live and through which we think, we can clearly handle the idea of multiple worlds in the form of aesthetic constructions, if not necessarily in physical reality (Kukkonen 2010).