When crafting a series, it’s important to keep track of the details, especially as the story evolves over time.
In the world of television, one of the most useful assets to any team of writers is the Show Bible.
A Show Bible, which can also be called a Story Bible or Series Bible, acts as a reference guide containing information about the story, settings, characters, and other important details. These documents are frequently updated to reflect any new information added.
The purpose of a Series Bible is to not only keep track of the details established in the story, but also to prevent inconsistencies like a character mentioning his parents being named Robert and Linda only to introducing his parents John and Stacey in the next installment (unless it’s intentional), or one character stating she has a severe peanut allergy being seen chilling on the couch eating peanut butter straight from the jar with no consequences.
The concept of a Show Bible can also be applied to writing novels, especially those which are part of a series (although I do recommend creating a Story Bible for any writing undertaking).
My Series Bible is a single Microsoft Word document I add to with new projects while plotting new ideas and as I go. Each WIP gets its own section.
I consider my novels as standalone projects that make up a larger series for the following reasons as well as others:
- They occur in the same world
- Events occurring in one story can carry over to another
- Characters make appearances or are referenced in books apart from that in which they are the protagonist
With so many connected elements, ongoing projects, stories I have yet to start writing but have a plan for, and about a dozen more vague ideas, having a Series Bible allows me to keep track of it all.
My Series Bible is divided up by story, and each section is broken up further:
- Miscellaneous Notes
The timeline is the first thing in my Series Bible and encompasses all of my projects. Since a lot of my stories branch out from one another, with shared events and characters, it’s important to keep track of what is happening when in the grand scheme of things. Events occurring in my latest project, tentatively titled Forged in the Salle, lead to one of the major conflicts in Against His Vows. It wouldn’t make sense to have William hear of the mining company suddenly going under (and the investments made on his behalf going down with it) in February if were shut down in March of that year. Having a timeline allows me to keep track of these various events so they don’t get out of order and leave things feeling off or disjointed.
In this area goes the story’s plot (or whatever I have outlined), broken down chapter by chapter. Each chapter gets its own summary detailing what happens.
I tend to think of characters in three tiers.
Tier One | Protagonists
Tier Two | Secondary Characters
Tier Three | Extras and Everybody Else
In the case of Series Bibles, characters in Tiers One and Two get their own profile pages including details about their appearance, family, profession if applicable, personal history such as education or significant life events, and specific interests. When possible, I include a photo that resembles them, often taken from my Pinterest boards.
This section lists information about different places seen in the story, such as blueprints or models I have digitally created, notes about certain features within the room, and other significant landmarks.
For real locations such as White’s in London, I’ll include as much information as I am able to find about what it would have looked like in the Regency.
One of the fun and equally vexing parts of writing historical fiction is the research aspect. A lot of my stories center themselves around an area of interest like bookbinding and printing in Bound to the Heart or agriculture in Against His Vows. Each entry of the Series Bible gets its own section where I compile my research notes. I’ll also include the sources for future reference should I need to double-check something.
I’ll leave myself room in each section for various notes as I go. These might include things I want to add in while editing, thoughts I may have for future projects springing out of the current one, things to research further, or anything else that comes to mind regarding the story.
Creating a Series Bible can seem tedious, especially if you’re incorporating works that you have already written, but having one can make writing easier if you’re working on a series or a range of collected works.
Having all of your information in a single accessible place can be a time-saver and lessen the chance of inconsistencies, making for an easier writing experience.