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#FirstDraft60 Day 3 — Creating Your Story Bible

Thursday, September 3, 2015

#FirstDraft60 | KayeDacus.comI haven’t heard much from anyone, so hopefully you’re actively working away, completing each day’s assignment and ready and eager for the next. (And if you’ve fallen behind, or if you’ve started late, don’t worry, there will be time later this month to play catch up.)

Yesterday, you created your revisions notebook, style sheet, and research repository. In case you’ve never done this before, those are three major components of your Story Bible—the place where you keep all of the background information and notes you need in order to keep you on track when writing.

More than just those three components, though, you’re going to need to keep up with all the trivial—and not-so-trivial—details going on in your story. This is how you make sure that you’re always spelling unusual names/words the same way. How you keep track of what eye color you assigned to what character. How you know when and where things take place in your story (or your series).

How do you create a Story Bible? I’m so glad you asked!

Part 1: Pick Your Poison
First, you need to figure out how you’re going to keep all of this information. As Ramona mentioned in the comments yesterday, she keeps most of hers in an Excel worksheet—along with some physical storyboards for visual plotting.

Determine how you will keep/organize your Story Bible. You can do this the old-fashioned way, in hard copy in a three-ring binder or series of file folders in a drawer. Or you can employ one of hundreds of pieces of software and do it electronically.

I personally use OneNote to contain all of my information for my book—and it’s the program I use when I’m figuring out backstory or forward story (i.e., brainstorming), as well as keep all the info about my characters, setting, etc. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Assignment 1: Determine and share with the “class” (i.e., leave a comment) how you intend to keep up with all of the details/background info for your Story in Progress. Will you use a notebook? OneNote? Scrivener? Evernote? Or do you have some other method of keeping track of your story/series details? Tell us what it is—and share links if you use a specific website or software.

Part 2: Characters
One of the largest sections of your Story Bible is going to be dedicated to your characters.
#FirstDraft60 Create Your Story Bible - Characters |

Right now, as you can see, I have one section with a single page for each character. Once I really get into character development next week, though, my two mains, Stone and Alex, will probably be promoted to each have their own section with multiple pages, covering backstory, physical description, family info, and info on the secondary characters connected to them. But I’m not there yet, so I haven’t started separating stuff out to that extent just yet. Right now, I just needed a simple layout to jot down the basic information I know about each character.

Assignment 2: Create the Characters section of your Story Bible. Other than figuring out how you plan to organize it, don’t worry about filling it out. We’re going to work on that next week.

Part 3: Setting
If you’re writing a world-building genre, like fantasy, or science fiction, or historical, you’re going to have a relatively large section for your setting, too. But even when we’re writing contemporaries set in places we’re familiar with (like for me, with this story set in Nashville), we’re going to need a place to keep information about our settings. What do your characters’ homes or workplaces look like? Where are things located geographically? What’s the topography or weather like?

This is where I tend to split things up a bit. I’ll keep the research part of my setting information (text) in OneNote, but I’ll collect setting images in Pinterest. It’s so much easier, and it doesn’t take up space on my computer.
#FirstDraft60 Creating a Story Bible - Settings |

I’ve also done things like hand-draw a map of my fictional city of Bonneterre, Louisiana, and hung it on the wall for easy reference. (And then I took a digital picture of it and put it in my folder of images in my cloud drive so I could access it anytime I needed it.

My rough, hand-sketched map of Bonneterre

My rough, hand-sketched map of Bonneterre

Assignment 3: Determine how you will keep track of the details of your settings. What tool or combination of tools do you think you’ll use?

Part 4: Props and Costumes
Your characters have to get dressed. And they need to be able to pick things up and move them around occasionally. They need personal items that make us identify with them, even if they may not personally be in the room. (And these types of details are even more significant in mysteries—you never know what little piece of detritus on the floor will lead to the killer!) In SciFi, Fantasy, and Historical genres, costumes and the general look of things lying about will be important in drawing the reader into the storyworld.

Things to keep track of in this section, which will be filled out mostly as you write and discover these items:

  • What does each character carry on his/her person?
    What items would your character never leave home without? This is Doctor Who’s sonic screwdriver, Peter “Star Lord” Quill’s Walkman, or Phrynie Fisher’s golden revolver. Or think of it like this—what is something that if left behind would signal to others that your character had been there?
  • Location of important/key objects in the story.
    Even though we don’t always see it, we always know where the One Ring is throughout the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Keep track of where you’ve placed the most precious items in your story.
  • Furniture, Objet d’Art, Curios, and Knicknacks.
    It may seem trivial, but readers notice when the Tiffany lamp is on the table at the right-end of the sofa in one scene and on the end table next to the wing chair in another. Use your Story Bible to keep track of all the little things, too. (Though this may wait until you do your read-through of your first draft after it’s completed. But create a space for it now.)
  • Modes of transportation.
    How do your characters get from one place to another?
  • Costuming.
    If you’re writing a costume-specific piece (like a historical or fantasy where costuming can make quite a statement about characters on its own), you may want to include this in your character section. But whether it’s with character (a line or two about their personal style in their write-up) or pages of images for each character, you need to keep track of it. (Again, a combo of text/descriptions/research info in your Story Bible and images on Pinterest works well).
  • Any other “physical properties” you think you might need to keep track of.

Assignment 4: Determine how you will keep track of props and costumes. What tool or combination of tools do you think you’ll use?

I know this seems like a lot of work, but remember—you’re just laying the groundwork and getting your Story Bible set up. You’re not actually filling it up yet!

Can’t wait to hear from you to find out how you plan to keep your story organized.

  1. Thursday, September 3, 2015 11:10 am

    I did blog yesterday – and tagged you on FB, but didn’t leave the link here. I’m headed to class in a minute or I’d go find it.

    I have some tabs ordered and need to work on this stuff. I need to get character charts or SOMETHING to keep track of the things like eye color and such, but I don’t have anything right now. I’m not sure what I’m going to do yet. I think I’m going to add a second binder (see yesterday’s blog for the first one) for stuff like character charts and such. And maybe keep a small one with ALL the stuff for THIS BOOK at hand. Because I’m also creating a universe Bible. All of my novels/novellas to date take place in the same universe so there’s overlap and I need to be able to access all of it, but at the same time, keep what I’m using NOW handy.

    I’ve not DONE much (and the stuff I need won’t be here until tomorrow), but I am thinking about it.

    I had my Kindle read my Christmas novella to me this morning (British Boy Kindle). Will enter those few edits tonight and get it to my proofer this evening. Then I’ve got some non-fiction stuff to do (writing 3 Sunday school lessons – hey! They pay me!). Then back to working on this stuff and a read through of the first draft of my next novel that I want to have out by the end of October. Very doable. If I Do. It. Also, I do want to start writing a K or so a day on the novel after that. Hopefully, that’ll be more fun than work since the editing on the next one will be the work ;).

    So that’s my sort-of-participating-sort-of-shadowing plan for the moment… 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thursday, September 3, 2015 10:06 pm

    I did end up splitting my Character section into two subsections—one for Stone (and his various attached secondary and minor characters, and one for Alex and her secondary/minor characters. This allows me to create additional pages for each of the main characters without everything getting jumbled up together.

    And then I got distracted and ahead of myself by stopping to cast some of those secondary characters, and that took up more than my allotted writing time this afternoon/evening. But I took the time to go ahead and get started on my settings section, too.

    I don’t have the props and costumes parts yet. I’ll probably work on that tomorrow.


  3. Lisa Jarvis permalink
    Monday, September 7, 2015 4:55 pm

    Hey. I’m still behind you all but I should be current soon.

    I use WriteItNow Software (WIN) to organize my work. It is almost all of my Story Bible.
    I purchased it a couple of years ago. It was a cheap solution that has given me my $ worth – less than $30 at the time. It is designed to be written into too, but I found it a cumbersome tool for the writing so I use it for the organization and a detailed outline. I start with a rough outline and update it as I am working out the scenes.

    For the book, I have an Outline including a breakdown into scenes, characters, Events, Settings / locations, Notes / Style Sheet, ideas, References. I am only able to include one picture of each character so I also have pictures organized on my PC also. Notes on Props and costumes are in the appropriate character or setting area but also linked into the Notes section. I like that WIN allows me to import data or link to files on my PC or links to web sites. This is especially helpful for research. I tend to save key info to my PC in case the site changes but I always include a link in case the site remains available.

    WIN allows me to see or rearrange my story in a storyboard format (note cards) or a timeline. I can track conflict levels, events, which characters are in each scene. I can even note & track where props are used in the story. I can track relationships between all characters. It has personality traits that you can play with but I find I work better with the free style area in each character.

    I tend to wake up in the middle of the night a wave of inspiration so I also have a hard copy binder that I keep notes in, even if I retype them into WIN. When I print hard copies, I keep the latest in my physical bible.

    I also have a second “Story” saved in WIN. It isn’t my book though. It is all for the world I have created. My story is a YA Fantasy. I have been trying to flesh out all the dynamics of the Fae Realm that interacts with our world. Not all of the information makes it into my current story but I need to develop the world first for consistency. Especially if I write a trilogy or series utilizing the world. I bring over only the pertinent info for my current story. There is most likely an easier way but I didn’t figure it out yet.

    The BIG drawback with WIN is that this is stored on my PC. It is only accessible on my notebook. I need to research if this changes in newer versions.

    I never used OneNote but I have it on my PC. I may try it for just the revisions to see how I like the software. I also love the idea of using Pinterest to organize my additional photos. I use many visuals for my planning. It would be easier to have everything accessible on all my devices so I am trying to decide if it is worth investing the time now to move everything. This is a story in progress – in outlining and first few chapters phase, but I have already accumulated loads of info.
    Hmmmm. Decisions decisions.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Tuesday, September 8, 2015 2:33 am

    I’m organising my story bible in Scrivener and it’s working well for me. I prefer to not save any of my information in the cloud (I’d rather keep it under my control), so have several backups around the place.

    I only have the app of OneNote on my laptop and can only save to the cloud with that version (only paid version will allow saving locally). Shame because it looks like a useful organisational tool.

    Thanks so much for all you work Kaye. Your series is definitely helping me.


  5. Carol permalink
    Wednesday, September 9, 2015 10:33 am

    Right now I’m saying I will use a hybrid approach. One Note will be my main storage location. But I’m also very visual so will have a board in my work area. And there’s always Pinterest….


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