Bible or codex, call it what you want. You need somewhere to store all of the scribbles for your novel. I call mine an almanac.
It’s very easy to lose papers in a shuffle. You can have a great idea for a scene, quickly write it on a napkin, and then someone throws it away. Now, what was that great idea again? It’s gone forever.
Or you could have a sketch of your villain or a list of his descriptions, and when you are writing his scene, you forget what color eyes he had. Were they blue or grey? Wait, you wrote that down somewhere… but that paper is nowhere to be found. Now you have to read through the entire manuscript to see if you mentioned his eyes or just write it whichever way to edit it later.
This is where a book bible comes in. This is a place to store any information or details you have about your book. This could be a folder in your computer, on an app, or in a physical folder or binder. If you are artsy, you can design a pretty cover or include character sketches. If you are a minimalist, your bible might be pretty thin.
Do I Need A Book Bible?
Not necessarily. Many writers have written books without them. But for genres that include a lot of worldbuilding and characters, and for a series, you might want to consider it. J.K. Rowling spent years outlining the Harry Potter series before writing it. All of this planning shows in her work. A character who becomes important later on is mentioned in passing in the first book. There are so many Easter eggs readers love to find when rereading the series. If you want that sort of detail in your book, you might want to consider creating a bible.
If you feel lost in the details of your story, the reader will too.
How Do I Make a Book Bible?
You can’t go wrong however you do it. If you have a semi-organized collection of information about your book, congratulations, you’ve got yourself a book bible.
Some writers, like J.K. Rowling, create their collection while outlining, long before the writing process. Other writers make it as they write their first draft. As they invent new details, they jot it down under different categories like characters, setting, and events.
Some create theirs after the first draft when revisions begin. They make notes of inconsistencies to keep by their side as they edit. Does the policeman drive a blue car in one scene and black one in another? Is the city described to be constantly raining but every time the characters go outside it’s sunny? Is the superhero able to fly in one scene and never uses this power again? Write all of these details down into a bible as a reference point to simplify the editing process.
What Should I Include in My Book Bible?
Anything. Some bibles can be as big a novel, while some are a fraction of that size. Use whatever works for you. It might depend on the genre you are writing and the length of your book. Here are some ideas of things to include:
- Character profiles. These can include the characters’ appearances, motives, strengths, weaknesses, and backstories for future reference. (For a longer list of characteristics, check out this questionnaire on creative–writing–now.)
- Pictures of settings, characters, or moods. These can be hand-drawn, photos of celebrity lookalikes, or photographs of the world and scenery.
- Story outline, if you have one (and you should, but more about that in another post.)
- Timelines. Ensure the story makes sense chronologically. Is it summer for five months straight, but the characters live in Canada? Is every day Friday? Will it really take three days for five knights to travel from France to Bulgaria on horseback?
- All about the world. Consider their transportation, laws, government, customs, religions, state of living, and weather. (See more ideas from this questionnaire on the novel factory.)
- Ideas for specific scenes, or scenes you wrote out of order.
- Quotes the characters might say or motivational saying to get you writing.
- Research. This is pivotal for historical or science-based stories. What did people eat in ancient Egypt? How does a car explode? How long does it take for someone to bleed out? Make notes of all necessary information. (Your Google history might make you look like a serial killer. Recently, I was researching how fast a stab wound in the chest can kill. The answer? Not as fast as you think.)