Yep, this post’s going to be on writing. Who knew a writer’s website would focus on writing? Weird, write right?

Today, I’m shedding a little light on something called a story bible. Sounds pretty self explanatory. That’s ‘cause it is. It’s a bible. For your story. Any story, really. Your epic twenty book fantasy series about Gunthar, Dredis of Konkelt, vanquishing Marir the Poisqrt with the Fwmse (yeah, just literally pressed my forehead to the keyboard for that one); or your picture book about a unicorn mouse hybrid who can vomit inner tubes (trademark).

Story bibles are all about keeping consistency. And about unsnarling your mind from the minute details of your fictional world and freeing you up to worry about whether your story’s any good or not. Does your character have the same hair/eye color from beginning to end? For my sci-fi series, do the two factions retain the same ship names (they didn’t, in case you were wondering. Cue story bible!). Do magic powers stay correct from chapter to chapter? Do places? Characters? Anything and everything you think you might forget, or not, goes into it.

Now how you actually create a story bible varies greatly from one person to the next. Just like writing a book, each author has a different process. My process, similar to how I plot a novel, is a little sparser on the details of the story. Sure, I have all the relevant information like important plot points, characters, places, blah blah blah. But I find if I plan something out too much and know exactly what’s going to come next, I get bored. No bueno.

But that’s not the case for other writers. Some have literal bibles on their stories, hundreds upon hundreds of pages long. Excessive? Maybe. But what would cause me to run away screaming obviously works for them.

The point is: create what works for you.

It’s also important to note that not everything that goes into your story bible goes into the story. This is called info dumping. Like a ‘story bible’, ‘info dumping’ has a painfully obvious meaning: literally dumping info on characters, backstory, whatever, right plop in the middle of your book. Want a guaranteed way to slow your book down and bore the crap out of readers? Say hello to info dumping, my friends!

So it’s always important to delineate what readers need to know about your world and what you can skip over. The killer has six fingers on his left hand? Great! You know that thanks to your story bible. Do your readers need to know it? Meh, maybe. If it matters. But if it doesn’t, skip it. Your character has a traumatic fear of Eucalyptus trees thanks a run-in with a Koala as a child? Very…creative? Knowing his backstory is good and all for you as the author, but dumping all that into your book probably wouldn’t work out well unless a Koala’s terrorizing his hometown and you need to explain why he’s suddenly frozen with fear. You as the author need to know how characters’ thoughts and actions are influenced by their past. The readers don’t necessarily need to.

Okay, so what are the basics you need in your ‘bible’? Again, this is going to vary greatly from author to author, but I think the bare bones are as follows:

Characters:
Names, eye color, motivations, shoe size, etc. Rick Riordian, the creator of the Percy Jackson series, uses this sheet to plan his characters. (https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/103266-rick-riordan-s-character-sheet)
As far as character sheets go, this one’s pretty short. I don’t really like doing too much planning on sheets. Feels too much like homework (shudder) and sucks the fun out of writing and being creative. But knowing the basics of your characters helps you to understand and connect with them more.

The World:
Okay, this is my Achilles’ heel and something I’m still working to improve on. I’m not saying lay out every single thing about your world, but enough to know it’s solid enough to set a story in. If you have a magic system, that goes ditto for you. There’s nothing worse than having a magic system with more holes in it than a golf course with a gopher problem.

And….
…add pretty much anything else you want to. There literally is no limit to what you can put into your story bible. For example, the story bible for the middle grade series I’m prepping to write is full of random things I’ve collected for it over the last six months. Other character names I might use, locations that might be important, an outline of the series, character and plot progression, quotes, whatever. It all might be used, or it all might not be. But it’s good to have regardless.

And that’s it. Pretty simple and yet vastly complicated. Now go write a book.

Sean

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4 thoughts on “Space Operas, Book Series, and Not Screwing Them Up: Story Bibles

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