Skip to content

Nano Prep: Propping Up Your Story Bible

Monday, October 14, 2013

NaNoHopefully you took the weekend to work on adding your character and setting information to your Story Bible. Because today, we’re adding . . .

This is where those writing contemporary fiction set in the real world have it so much easier than those writing historical or otherworldly settings—because not only do we not have to do as much research on what props are appropriate for the time/setting, we don’t have to do as much explaining of what they look like and how they’re used.

A lot of movie DVDs in their behind-the-scenes featurettes talk a lot about the props they use in the movies. And something the prop masters have to do is keep a catalog of all of the props for each scene, as well as those which are unique to each character. And, not only that, they have to make sure that in each take of each scene, props are where they were at that same marker in the previous take so that the editors can seamlessly cut takes together in post production.

As writers, we don’t have quite such an onerous job as these masters (there’s a reason they’re called masters!), because we aren’t necessarily “showing” every single prop in every single scene. But it is important to know where things are, whether or not you’re mentioning them every single time your character is in the same location.

Here are somethings to keep track of (some of these are more “as you write” than in the preparation stage, but it’s a good idea to create a section for this while doing the prep work):

What does each character carry on her/his person?
This can be items in pockets, purses, pouches, etc. What do your characters never leave home without? Think about Doctor Who’s sonic screwdriver. You don’t always see it, but you know it’s there. Just as Han Solo wears his hip/thigh holster for his blaster, and Harry Potter will have his glasses (and, most likely, his wand).

Location of important/key objects in the story.
Think about the Lord of the Rings movies. We don’t go for very long without knowing (or seeing) where the ring is. As the pivotal object in the narrative, it’s important that we know where it is at all times—and how it got from one place (or one person’s possession) to another. You need to determine and track the placement/location of any key objects in your story and make sure your readers know how they get from one spot to another (unless, of course, that’s the crux of your story!).

Furniture, Objet d’Art, Curios, and Knickknacks
Where is all the “stuff”? If the fake Tiffany lamp is on the marble end table beside the plush blue wingchair at the beginning of the scene, it shouldn’t be on the repurposed barrel end table beside the bamboo rocking chair at the end of the scene—unless you show one of the characters moving it. Use your Story Bible to keep track of home and office decor—and this goes for outdoors, too—important landmarks shouldn’t change location either.

Modes of Transportation
I’m including this on the Props post, because what is a vehicle other than big, moving props?

What are the main forms of transportation in your story world?

  • If you are writing something otherworldly: How are they constructed? What do they look like? How are they fueled?
  • If you are writing contemporary-set fiction: What kinds of automobiles do your characters have? Do they live somewhere with good public transportation and avail themselves of that? If they do have their own cars, are they well kept? What does the brand/model/year of the car your character has say about him/her?
  • If you are writing historical fiction: What modes of transportation were available? How fast could they travel? How were they propelled (horses, mules, oxen, steam, petrol, etc.)? Did they have “comforts,” such as padded seats, springs/shock absorption, heating/cooling, protection from the weather? How did they travel at night? And so on. Lots of research to do here—especially if you’re taking your characters off land and onto the water!


I’ve mentioned it before, but I’ll say it again . . .

Images, images, images!

I highly recommend Pinterest for this, whether you use a public board or a private board (I still find myself pinning “prop” images to my Ransome Trilogy board—specific things or images that evoke the idea of the items in a setting). It’s a fantastic way to catalog a ton of images (and categorize them if using public boards) while you’re researching. Then, as you really dig into planning and writing, you can visit all of your images in one place and pick and choose the ones you want to use without having to go search for them again—and without having to hog a bunch of space by saving them onto your own computer.

For Discussion: How do you keep track of your props?

One Comment
  1. stuart5wakefield permalink
    Sunday, October 20, 2013 4:59 am

    Props have never really occurred to me before so I’m looking forward to trying this one out. Thanks for the reminder! 🙂


Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: