What Goes Into A Story Bible

Facts and nothing but the facts

A story bible has one purpose to record the facts you’ll need to be consistent. It is a reference book and nothing more.

There are as many ways as there are writers. Some methods are: Binders (virtual and hardcopy), using color codes, tabs, and table of contents. Either a grid or mind map with (color coded) links. It doesn’t matter how the information is collected or stored. What does matter is the data is organized in such a way you can find it when you want it.

Here’s a worksheet from Writer’s Digest for a series to get you started.

Bellow you will find four sections that are recommended for all story bibles: They include World Building, Characters, Objects, + Research.

World Building

The genre determines what will be included within your bible. globe-48104_1280Fantasy/SciFi have very different worlds from the contemporary and these elements should be noted at some point.

Here are some examples:

  • The world rules
  • Planets, continents, countries, cities, setting locations
  • Weather or Climate
  • Ruling governments, monarchy, or church
  • Rebels/outlaws/terrorist groups/most wanted
  • Treaties/trade information
  • Magic systems
  • Creature information
  • Religion, spiritualism
  • Legend and lore
  • Science and technology
  • Common transportation
  • Common communication
  • Clothing
  • Possible Fads

cheering-297419_1280Characters

There is more than just what they look like. To keep it simple a grid can track the cast of characters and is a quick referenceโ€”think multiplication table.

Grids can also track:

  • Relationships between characters (not all feelings are reciprocated)
  • Profession
  • Family
  • Skills and flaws
  • Pets
  • Belief System and culture

Some things are better noted as a summary:

  • Character’s bio
  • Memories/baggage/backstory that strongly influence your character
  • Deep reactions to a place, object, or person
  • Possible character arcs
  • Relationships (not captured in one word) between all characters that drives the story to the inevitable end

Objects

There are some objects that will be tracked within the work. It can be as simple purse-948414_1280as the main character’s necklace, a fantasy’s magical weapon, or a clue in a mystery. Whatever it might be needs a quick note.

In my case, it was a purse that suddenly disappeared. Not too good because all her clues were inside.

Research

Anything you’ve collected and need to cite to bring your story to life

Every story varies and because I’m basically lazy, I always take the easiest path. I only make notes as the story happens with a quick copy paste to my virtual binder. I’m sure there are some other methods that keep a person just as organized.

What do you think? Is there anything else I should add?

Gleaned from:

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22 responses to “What Goes Into A Story Bible

  1. Looks like quite a complete list of how to create a bible for your story. Job well-done!

  2. A worksheet–exactly what I needed. I tried to keep track of all those details, but there are so many. I failed and was forced to search the entire ms everytime to verify the facts.

  3. I found Scrivener has all these handy tools to keep track of these things but have only started using them as I revise the draft. I couldn’t keep track of my revisions in my head. Thanks for the well thought out post!

  4. Wish I had the drive to create a story bible. I just jot down all my notes in a doc file, somewhat randomly. Sometimes I cram it at the beginning or end of one of my chapters, which means I may not find it except by accident at some later date.

  5. Great post. I am putting a link to your teaching post in my For Writers link for learning the craft. Well done Anna.

    I like to use OneNote & Scrivener for creating Bibles. I did use Word but I end up with way too many documents to keep up with. I know, put them all in one folder and it might work except I forget what I name that folder, and think I have not done it yet and created another. @@

    Juneta @ Writer’s Gambit

  6. That’s a great list. I use a 5-subject notebook, just because I love notebooks. I also have a section for word repetition problems I run across so I can go through and change some of them.
    The part about the disappearing purse made me laugh. I had a problem with a character’s weapons. She lost her daggers and then later suddenly had them again. I had to go back through and do a bit of revising to straighten that out.

  7. I have story bibles, but I didn’t know that’s what they were called. Until now. Thanks for the info! ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. I keep dossiers for my characters. And have a glossary of terms, foods and fruits, etc for each of my fantasy nations. As well as a bible of each nation’s religious/government systems, clothing and even their currency.

  9. This is a great list Anna!

  10. Excellent tips. I usually don’t start writing notes until I’m doing the rewrites. Then I can organize things, and I definitely keep character profiles.

  11. This is very helpful. I write notes along the way, but I’d like to keep better track of details.

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