This post has been updated with more detail.
A story/series bible is an absolute godsend. In short, it’s where you keep all of your essential information so you don’t have consistency errors. This becomes more difficult and important the more books you write in one series or world. As I’m writing in a huge fantasy kitchen sink world (lovingly referred to as the Ink world), a story bible is an absolute must for me. There’s just too much information to keep it all straight in a notebook, so Scrivener came to my rescue!
I’ll note right here and now that I love colour. So there’s a good bit of colour in my series/world bible.
First things first. Make yourself a new Scrivener project, use the blank template. Once you have that, you need to figure out what headings you’re going to use. Personally, I’d start off with the basics.
- Character appearances.
- Dates and events.
- Relationships and names.
Make each of those things a folder.
Then add a new scene within said folder for your various characters, important geographical areas, dates, and so on.
As mine’s for an entire world, it looks a bit more… complicated.
That’s my complete binder for the Ink world. Each main header (magic, The Beings, The Characters, etc) is a folder. Then the rest are scenes within each folder.
I’ll keep adding to it as I explore the world, add more books and so on.
That’s a break down of the characters within Stolen Ink. I layered some of this as it made sense to me. You can see that I have Faru, Jake, and the Enforcers tucked under the Dacian heading. That’s because they’re intrinsically tied to Dacian within the story, rather than standing on their own like the rest of the characters do.
As you can see above, 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.
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. — I’ll quite often copy and paste the passage direct from the book I’m writing. It saves time and means I know exactly how I did it in the book.
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.
Don’t forget to include style notes!
What on Earth do I mean by style notes? I mean things like the fact that I capitalise Sidhe in the Ink Born. Kaitlyn’s pet in Hidden Alchemy is a Will’o’the Wisp, not a wil o the wisp, or another variant I could have used.
The way I put text messages into the Ink world books is like this:
All those little formatting and spelling choices you make should also go into your story/series bible. Believe me, it’s far easier than trying to look through 5 different books to make sure you get it right!
The upsides of Scrivener.
For me, one of the huge benefits to using Scrivener instead of a paper notebook is the internal links that I can set up. This means that I don’t have to dig through folders to flip between relevant information. I can just click on one of the links I made, eh voila, there it is!
The links are really easy to make, this is what they look like within the project:
Pardon the blurring, I don’t want any spoilers.
As I said, the links are really easy to make. Just highlight the name or words you want to act as your link.
Then click Edit at the top.
About 3/4 of the way down the list is Scrivener Link.
Click on that.
Choose ‘existing document’
Dig through your folders and such until you’ve found the one you want.
Click on that.
Click Ok at the bottom.
When you click on one of those links it will automatically open the linked scene in the same window, forming a split screen that looks like this:
So you can sit and compare the information between the two nice and easily!
Now for the bit you’re really here for, adding in all of that colour.
First thing you need to do is allow for labels in the binder.
Click on View at the top.
Then you’ll see Use Label Color In, hover over that.
Click on Binder.
Then to change the label colour (and thus make it pretty), right click on the scene or folder in question.
You’ll see Label about 1/3 of the way down the list.
Hover over that and pick a colour.
Please note that I added all of the colours in this screenshot, yours won’t look like that. It will have 4 or 5 standard colours.
To go crazy and add hundreds of colour options like I did, click on the Edit button which will be under the current colour options.
That will bring up this window:
Click the plus button.
Choose your colour.
Rinse and repeat until you have enough colours.
You’ll probably have noticed that I’ve used non-standard icons next to my folders too. Again, it’s really easy to set those up.
You’ll want to use PNGs to make your own icons.
The process of changing your icons is very similar to changing the label colour.
Right click on the scene or folder in question.
Click change icon.
Click manage icons.
Then the plus button at the bottom.
Add your image.
Rinse and repeat until satisfied.
There we have it my darlings! A quick and simple guide to making your very own story/world/series bible in Scrivener. You won’t regret it!