For years, I have been writing my stories in notebooks. My first novel was written in the
green journal you see here and it is the place where my story came to life.
Before writing one word on paper, I had an outline, from beginning to end in my head. I started writing the story down because I had created so many characters and I was creating more and more details about the story that I needed a place to put it. I had no idea this was called a book bible. Thanks, Jodie Cross!
My book bible began with the research for the martial art I created. I created a name and wrote down the principles and the disciplines I researched. Next, I wrote the names I created for my characters, described their relationships to others in the story, added their birthdates, their timelines, and some backstories. Finally, I wrote the outline I created in my head along with storylines for some of my characters and dialogue I did not want to forget.
While writing the story, I thought about body type, hair, eye color, and the race of my characters, but I could not see their faces. Recently, I found other authors who were using Pinterest for this reason. I went to Pinterest and created a board with picture representations of my characters' houses, places they visited, the characters themselves, and their clothes. This added to my visualization of the stories, which really helped me to see what my readers might visualize.
All my notes and pictures were not in one place. I don’t think there is a notebook or journal big enough for all the things I would need in my bible. For this reason, I developed an electronic version of a book bible. It has pages for everything I mentioned, I can add pages if I need to and there is a section on character development. Not only will all my notes and pictures be in one place, but now I can use my notebooks for something else…no, I will probably still write stories in them.
Being a plotter, I do not think I will ever write a story without using my book bible. Having my story, characters and pictures mapped out really gives me a chance to see where there might be holes, issues, or flaws that can be corrected before I start writing. While I am writing, the visualization of my characters, their clothes, and their homes, sometimes sparks other ideas or a change to a storyline. It is one of the greatest tools I have to write and create. Now, I just have to write and create.
As a full-on pantser, I would like to add that Book Bibles can be critical to the success of those of us who fly-by-the-seats of our pants!
Before I ever set out to write the 800+ page novel that was eventually split into The Hunted Maiden and The Seedling’s Song, I had created a huge reference document that described my epic fantasy world in varying degrees of detail. I had encyclopedia-like entries for the major islands, historical figures, and organizations that made up much of my world. The document included inspiration images, some rough timelines, and even descriptions of famous people who would later feature in the books.
There were times, of course, that I had to go back and modify some of that basic information as my story turned in some unexpected directions, but the purpose of that reference document was well-served. This store of critical information helped me to maintain consistency and to better envision how the unfolding plot of my novels fit within the larger context of the world I created.
It also allowed me to weave into the background, a living, breathing world around my characters, making it feel more real and lived in.
So, whether you are a plotter like CD, or a pantser like me — creating a reference document or Book Bible can be an invaluable aid in bringing your novel to life!