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#FirstDraft60 Day 3: The Story Bible—Characters, Setting, Props #amwriting #NaNoPrep #NaNoWriMo

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

#FirstDraft60 | KayeDacus.comWelcome to Day 3 of FirstDraft60 for 2016! If you’ve fallen behind, or if you’ve started late, don’t worry, there will be time 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. You have as many options as there are writers in the world—from actual old-school three-ring binders or whiteboards (though, since these aren’t permanent, I recommend taking photos with your phone for future reference) or butcher paper spread on a table/wall, to Scrivener/OneNote/EverNote or Excel/PowerPoint or any other combination of software available.

Determine how you will keep/organize your Story Bible.

As I mentioned/showed yesterday, I 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 three-ring binder? 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 areas of your Story Bible is going to be dedicated to your characters. (Click each image to see a larger view in a new tab/window.)

If you are using OneNote, you could add another section group just for Characters, but I’ve never found that necessary. As you can see, I have three sections for characters—both main (POV) characters have an individual section, as each will be getting multiple pages over the next few weeks. And then all of my secondary (and minor) characters are included in a section, since they each only get one page.

#FirstDraft60 Day 3: The Story Bible---Characters #FirstDraft60 Day 3: The Story Bible---Characters characters-secondary

And, as you can see, since I’ve been working on this story for a while, I already know a lot of background info on Jemma (which is name #4 for this character, and now I’m starting to doubt it again), and not quite as much on Quin. Mali, a secondary character, has been with Jemma since she was born, so I do know more about her than about any of the other secondary characters at this point—her background is integral to Jemma’s childhood development.


Assignment 2: Create the Characters section of your Story Bible. How do you plan to organize this? What information do you already have that you can start populating this section with? Other than figuring out how you plan to organize it and adding in what info you already know about your characters, don’t worry about how many pages you’ll need. 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. But even when we’re writing contemporaries set in places we’re familiar with (like for me when I was writing the Matchmakers series, 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?

#FirstDraft60 Day 3: The Story Bible---Setting #FirstDraft60 Day 3: The Story Bible---Setting

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.

In the past, 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 (which is why I don’t have a screen shot of this to share yet):

  • 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!

Here are the assignments if you want to copy/paste them into your comment for easy answering—and don’t forget to share links to images/screen shots once you have these set up!

Assignment 1: Determine how you intend to keep up with all of the details/background info for your Story in Progress. Will you use a three-ring binder? OneNote? Scrivener? Evernote? Or do you have some other method of keeping track of your story/series details?

Assignment 2: Create the Characters section of your Story Bible. How do you plan to organize this? What information do you already have that you can start populating this section with?

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?

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

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

13 Comments leave one →
  1. Carol permalink
    Tuesday, October 4, 2016 12:55 pm

    You’ll be so proud! I’m working on this during my lunch break at work. I’m using One Note for everything. I still have a couple more sections to set up. I had not separated my main characters from the secondary, but think that’s a good idea-organization wise. I’m struggling a little with the setting, but it will come.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Tuesday, October 4, 2016 4:54 pm

      I have a couple of additional projects we’re going to do with the characters later in the challenge—at least, projects that I’m going to do with mine since I need to get to know them better—and being able to set up separate pages for each of those works best for me, which is why I separated the two main characters.

      So proud of you for working at lunchtime! Was this in addition to working on the commuter train?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Tuesday, October 4, 2016 3:52 pm

    #1) I’m using Scrivener for everything. I have set up the basics that came up off the top of my head and will add any additional sub-folders as they crop up. I will be keeping a notebook with me in my purse so if needed I can scribble anything down and transfer it later and while I may do a search and save loads to a folder on my computer I will only put what I feel is the most relevant to my Scrivener that way I’m not sorting through everything there when I need it. lol

    #2) Here’s how I set up the Characters sections of my Story Bible so far:
    Characters
    -Hero
    -Character Inspiration
    -Character Wardrobe
    -Heroine
    -Character Inspiration
    -Antagonists
    -Secondary Characters

    #3) Here’s my Setting set up so far:
    Setting
    -Houses
    -Furniture
    -Drawing Rooms
    -Ballrooms
    -Bedrooms
    -Clubs
    -Parks

    #4) Here’s my Props & Costumes section so far (not sure about the costume part as I like the idea of doing character wardrobes but will likely keep a few general items that don’t make it into their personal wardrobes):
    Props & Costumes
    -Modes of Transportation
    -Curios, Knicknacks & Objets d’Art
    -Period Clothing

    My entire Story Bible “binder” in Scrivener looks like this:
    Draft (will rename when I have a working title)
    -Chapter One
    Revisions Notebook
    -Ch. 1
    Style Sheet
    -Unusual Names
    -Place Names
    -Establishment Names
    -Red Squiggle Words
    -Period Words & Phrases
    Research Repository (will add more sub-folders as needed)
    -Map of London 1818
    Characters
    -Hero
    -Character Inspiration
    -Character Wardrobe
    -Heroine
    -Character Inspiration
    -Antagonists
    -Secondary Characters
    Setting
    -Houses
    -Furniture
    -Drawing Rooms
    -Ballrooms
    -Bedrooms
    -Clubs
    -Parks
    Props & Costumes
    -Modes of Transportation
    -Curios, Knicknacks & Objets d’Art
    -Period Clothing
    Trash

    Now, to go off in search of some sustenance! lol

    Liked by 2 people

    • Tuesday, October 4, 2016 4:56 pm

      Woohoo! You’ve gotten A LOT of work done, Shirley! Have you tried setting up a story bible this way before, or is this your first time trying it this way?

      Like

      • Wednesday, October 5, 2016 9:11 am

        It’s my first time setting up a story bible at all…I used to be a major pantser but always ended up at “no idea where to go from here” points so I started plotting a bit but not in a very organized fashion. I remember not wanting to write at all afterward and since that attempt have tried being a bit of both – getting to know my characters and fleshing out my story idea but not getting to detailed with it so I don’t feel like I’ve already told it. However, it’s hard to know what to research specifically when I know so little and I’ve become such a planner for the rest of my life that going full on plotter like this will probably work out well for me. lol

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Wednesday, October 5, 2016 2:24 am

    I’m blogging my progress to keep myself accountable–and build up some content, as it’s a new website. It’s been really helpful to organize my thoughts, and I feel more invested in the story already.

    My OneNote screenshots are here:
    https://sarah-madelin.squarespace.com/blog/2016/10/5/firstdraft60-day-3

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wednesday, October 5, 2016 10:03 pm

      Even though a lot of what we do the first few days of this challenge may feel more like busy work, for those of us who already know something, whether a little or a lot, about our stories, it’s hard not to go ahead and fill in what we know. Which then starts generating new ideas—which is kinda the whole point! 😉

      Like

      • Sarah Madelin permalink
        Thursday, October 6, 2016 3:11 pm

        It doesn’t seem like busywork to me, more like building a good foundation! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Friday, October 14, 2016 7:54 am

    #1 details/style: MS Word file in Notebook style. One tab per section.
    #2 characters: Pinterest as well as a tabs in my word doc.
    #3 setting: Pinterest (what did we ever do without it?) and for details I need to keep closer to hand I copy/paste to my research doc and cut/paste pictures into the tabbed file.
    #4 props/costumes. Pinterest for wardrobe details. Surprisingly, it’s hard to find good pictures of convict clothing from 1821 in Australia. sigh.

    Great ideas for getting organized! Thanks!

    ALL of this (along with most of my hard drive) lives in Dropbox as well as my computer. Save and sound. 🙂 Plus it’s retrievable anywhere as long as I have my phone/access to the ‘net. 🙂

    Like

  5. Sunday, October 16, 2016 11:21 pm

    #1: Still using Scrivener for all my Story Bible and writing. I find it’s the best way to organize my writing.
    #2: I made files for each of my 3 primary characters and 1 file for all the secondary characters. I’ll use bits and pieces from other sources to make the form I need with all the pertinent information (which will include clothing and props).
    #3: I made several files for the city locations. I’ll add the necessary building plans when I decide which I will be using.
    #4: See #2 Answer.

    Like

  6. Tuesday, October 18, 2016 12:12 am

    1) I am using Scrivener for my Story Bible.
    2) Here is an example of my character template (which I may add to later):

    Character Name:
    Role in Story:
    Occupation:
    Physical Description:
    Wardrobe:
    Personality:
    Motivation:
    Key/Unique Personal Item:
    Background:
    Internal Conflicts:
    External Conflicts:

    3) Since I haven’t done a lot in developing my setting, this is a generic settings template.

    Name of Setting
    Role in Story:
    Related Characters:
    Season:
    Unique Features:
    Description:
    Sights:
    Sounds:
    Smells:

    4) I’ve set up a page for Props/Dwellings to track the different types of homes and pertinent locations of specific props.

    Like

Trackbacks

  1. #FirstDraft60 Day 9: Monday Motivation–Don’t Think. Just Write. #amwriting #nanoprep #nanowrimo | KayeDacus.com
  2. #FirstDraft60 Day 24: Getting Specific with Your Setting #amwriting #nanoprep #nanowrimo | KayeDacus.com

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