If you’re reading this, you’re very likely getting ready for NaNoWriMo! That’s fantastic, I adore NaNoWriMo, it’s a fantastic adventure with an amazing community.
This post is my guide to putting together a story bible. Story bibles are absolute godsends, especially when you’re writing a series.
What is a story bible?
A story bible is a document or notebook where you keep track of all the important details. Those details range from characters appearance, important dates and events, through to world-building bits that you need to keep straight. If there’s a chance that you’ll be mentioning it again later in the book or series, it goes in the bible.
How do you put one together?
You have two options, digital, or by hand.
If you go the digital route then Scrivener is absolutely wonderful. You can set aside folders and have smaller documents within those folders.
If you don’t have scrivener then you can use Word, create a series of documents and put them into a dedicated folder on your hard-drive. I’d recommend using very descriptivist titles, ‘Adam’s appearance.’ ‘London bars they visited’ etc.
If you choose to do it by hand (which I’ll admit is my preference), then you’ll want a dedicated notebook, or a nice big section in your bullet journal.
Personally, I think of my story bibles in a similar way to a bullet journal. Everything’s neatly organised and labelled for quick reference. Oh and lots of colour, I love colour!
Whichever option appeals to you, you’ll need to break your information down into manageable groups.
Personally, I segment the information into:
- Character appearances.
- Dates and events.
- Relationships and names.
Each of those sections gets a section in my notebook, complete with its own colour. I then mark that on my index at the front of the notebook. I’ll give each section a good 20 pages, to be sure there’s plenty of room.
Then each section gets broken down further, to make things quick and easily accessible. For example, my character appearances will have the character name at the top of a two page spread. Each main character gets two pages, each minor character gets one page. The page numbers of each character is noted on both the title page for that section, and on my main index. That way I can glance at either and quickly see that Adam is on pages 20 – 22.
I’ll start with the opening, basic, appearance. Height, eye-colour, general clothing style, the core parts that get mentioned early in the book.
Then each time something changes, I make a note below that. For example, Adam might get into a fight with a dragon and gain a scar on his left side. I’ll make a note describing what the scar looks like, its placement on Adam, how and when he got it.
That way, when I describe Adam shirtless four chapters later, I can make sure that everything is consistent.
Each section gets a similar treatment. They’re broken down into sub-sections, which are all labelled and placed into my index.
I update everything right after I’ve written it so I can be sure the details are all straight and correct. Say for example Berlin was hit by a dragon attack and Sian was caught up in it.
First, I’d go to the events section, and make a note of the relevant details there:
Date, time, exact location, people involved, what actually happened.
Then, I’d go to Sian’s pages in the character section and note:
Any change in her appearance, scars, lumps, bumps, haircut, change in clothing choice. Also if she had a change in personality, did she become twitchy at the word dragon?
Then, I’d go to the geography section and note:
The changes that happened to Berlin. What damage was done? How extensive was it? – So that if they visit a month later they don’t comment on a building’s architecture when it had been reduced to rubble.
Story bibles are absolutely wonderful for keeping everything straight, I’d be completely lost writing my series without them! They’re also great for people who take big breaks in the middle of writing a project, you can quickly pull out your story bible and refresh your memory of character names and such, instead of re-reading everything.
If you liked this post then head over to Amazon and check out my Urban Fantasy.