Do you have a series bible? I wish I did.
There are various types of writing bibles. Some include everything from the plot line and motivation for the stories to character descriptions and proposed sequels. Writers who know they’re going to write a series may include the overall arc of their main characters from the first book to the last.
I wish I could say I was that organized. When I started writing the P.J. Benson Mysteries, I had no idea it was going to be a series. It wasn’t until after The Crows was published and readers started asking when the next P.J. Benson Mystery would be out that I even thought about writing a next one. And it wasn’t until I finished that book and was searching for a title, that a friend said, “Well, if this book is part of a series, it has to have the word ‘Crow’ in the title for continuity.”
Continuity. That’s the key and why a bible is necessary. If you are writing about the same characters and where they live, you must be consistent in how you describe these characters and their world. Oh, they can grow and change from one book to the next (if that’s what you want), but the basics have to stay the same. And if they don’t stay the same, you need to have a reason why your blond is now a brunette or why she hated guns in book one and is a sharpshooter in book four. (And no, P.J. is not a sharpshooter now.)
Because I have never created a bible for the P.J. Benson Mysteries, I am spending a lot of time going back to The Crows, As the Crow Flies, and Eat Crow and Die looking for information that I need in book four. Thank goodness Microsoft Word has the “search” option. By using “FIND” I can discover if I’ve ever mentioned what kind of car a secondary character drives, or what P.J.’s mother’s boyfriend’s last name is. Was Howard in Special Forces? I don’t remember. I think I might have mentioned something about that in The Crows. I’ll have to look it up.
Some people have wonderful memories and can pull that kind of information out of their heads in a second. I’m not one of those people. So, if you’re like me, and are planning or working on a story that might become a series, here are my suggestions. Go out and buy a loose leaf binder, some plastic sleeves that you can slide letter-size paper in and out of, and dividers that you can use to separate characters from settings from any other section you might need to refer back to.
Yes, you can do all of this on the computer, and for some writers, that’s definitely the best way to go. I, however, want a notebook. I spend too much time looking at a computer screen as it is. With a notebook, I would be able to review information while relaxing in my easy chair or at the library or by the pool. Each page, I hope, would have everything I would need about a character, a pet, town, house, weather…whatever. With a character, I want the character’s name, if there’s a reason for that name, when born, physical looks, any particular beliefs that character has, education, family, and on and on. The more information I put down, the more valuable that page will be for me.
Today I wished I had that Bible. I needed to know what kind of car Wade’s sister Ginny drove. It took me ten minutes of scanning through all three Crow books before I discovered I’ve never mentioned what kind of car Ginny drives. If I’d created a “bible” for this series, I could have simply turned to Ginny’s page and I would have had my answer.
So, be smarter than I am. Create a Bible for your series, either a loose-leaf binder or a file on your computer. (Or both.) Include and organize the information about the characters in your story and the world they live in so whenever you can’t remember a detail, you can look in one place to find what you need.
By the way, here’s a video on creating a series bible for a Novel and below that is an article on creating a character bible.