I first heard the term “story bible” a few years ago, probably in one of my Writer’s Digest magazines. Now, I’m not quite sure how this term came to be as it really doesn’t match the dictionary’s definition of either a sacred scripture or preeminent publication of an industry, but there it is, more and more frequently promoted among creative writers. So what is a “story bible” and how can it help you write?
First the good news; a story bible can be anything you want it to be. Fragments of your story, character sketches, plots and outlines, even pictures of places or people to help inspire you in your work. I believe that these bibles came from Hollywood, where movies and television shows have to address details of a work over long periods of time.
A bible’s purpose is to help keep you organized in the details of your book or series of books, so that your reader’s satisfaction is not interrupted because you gave your protagonist red hair in chapter one and in chapter six it’s now brown. And your story is set in 1642.
Another good part of your story bible is that you can make it in whatever format works best for you. You can keep everything in a scrapbook, as your novel is your baby, or you can keep a word processing document on file in your computer. Whatever works best for you.
Now the bad news; a story bible can be anything you want it to be. There is no formal structure or key to let you know if you’re doing things right or wrong. You’re just doing. Dumping words, pictures, spreadsheets, and whatever comes to mind in a big box of thoughts. With no structure, you can defeat the main purpose of a bible — to organize your thoughts and work for easy retrieval of information when you want or need it.
I started a story bible with Sliced Vegetarian. Now sometimes I wonder if I spend more time organizing than writing. I have note cards with my plot on them, I have calendars and chapter lists, I have the electronic bible and files of papers too important to throw away, yet not important enough to reach for when I’m working.
So I’m going to take a break from writing Sliced Vegetarian. I have a good start, and am working on chapter 19. I’ll put all my notes together in one single source of information. One place where I can find the answers to my questions regarding Daisy and her friends. One source that tells me what street I put that Gigantos supermarket on (I know I made up the name, but what was it?).
I heard once that if you can find something within 10 minutes of first seeking it, then you are indeed an organized person. I guess this is what a story bible is about. I have to run now. Going to catch up on my bible work.