Fun With Your Story Bible

Something I’ve always tried to do, and have usually failed due to lack of time and the pile of different notebooks I write in, is to make a comprehensive Story Bible for each WIP. This is mostly important with fantasy novels, as the world building and variety of characters demands a precise continuity and grounded history. But it’s not just for fantasy. Even for my NaNo WIP and for my previous NASA memoir, it was important to have ONE place to keep all my character notes, timelines, theme analysis, etc.

However, Paradisa is the first story that I’m really excited to write the Story Bible for, because it delves into a lot of stuff that the book doesn’t. While that seems moot now, I’m using it as a launchpad for things I’ll introduce in books 2 and 3. I want the world to feel fully realized and rich, and in order to do that, I have to research extensively. All of that research goes into a composition book, ordered by category, for me to find later. I put stars next to stuff I think I’ll actually use, and everything else is just there if I need it. Paradisa’s premise is simply that all mythologies and pantheons are real, so my Story Bible includes lists of every signficant mythological figure. They DO exist in my world, but whether or not I bring them into the story is another thing.

The other day though, I had a really ambitious idea that I’m super excited about, even though I doubt I’ll ever have the time to complete it. Inspired by Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods, which is basically just a story bible that got published, as well as Bobby Pendragon’s field guide to the territories of Halla, I really want to make a vividly drawn/animated story bible for myself to use as a reference material. I’d write it, organize it, and perhaps sketch for it (or assemble pictures) and then use a vanity press like Lulu to send myself a hardcopy version. Then, anytime I wanted inspiration or wanted to assure myself of back story, I could consult my pretty field guide.

As you might know, I’m not much of an artist, but I’ve got a good hand with Photoshop. I’ve made digital inks based on photo references before, and I’m fair at photo manipulation, so I think I could achieve this. It’s just the TIME that it would take is something I don’t really have. I should spend that time writing and revising instead, so perhaps this will something I dabble in during my next beta round, or during the querying stage. Still, it’s something I want to do one day, preferably in 2015.

I also think it would help with the visual/scenery aspects of my story that I’m missing, a bit, by forcing me to imagine what the world looks like. I’m pretty bad about that, mostly because I’m trying to avoid falling on fantasy clichés for what my architecture looks like. I don’t want the Egyptian gods to live in pyramids, for example. That just doesn’t make sense with the world I’ve built, but what DO they live in? So, this is stuff I have to figure out eventually, especially when I have my characters stroll deeper through this portal world. Surprisingly, the hell world is actually easier to imagine than the heaven world, because religions are/were very good about describing what their hells look like :P

Does anyone else keep a sort of story bible? IMO, a centralized reference is important for fantasy, but I’m sure there are plenty of writers who can keep it all in their head, or scattered through binders of notes!

3 thoughts on “Fun With Your Story Bible

  1. I keep all the info in my Scrivener file, so I have images, maps, research, etc. all in the novel’s file. With the split screen option, it’s easy to write while referring to a map, for example. I admire those of you who write fantasy worlds. You must really have to document well to remain consistent. Of course, all writing requires that, but when it’s based on reality, we have our memories to draw from. Not that mine is very good anymore…

    • Scrivener may be a good way for me to exhaust this desire to make a visual storybook guide without having to invest hundreds of hours into making a literal book. I’m totally adding that program to my Christmas list now that you’ve reminded me about it!

      Yeah, the trick with fantasy worlds is that you have to do all this research and you have to know your world inside and out, but you have to show restraint in the actual book. Only put the tip of the iceburg into the story. It needs to “feel” big and broad and wonderful, but that doesn’t mean the reader needs to actually see everything. I do think this is true with many stories, not just fantasy, but it’s especially true when you’re worldbuilding. And as you said, with my memoir, I could rely on my memories more than I needed to sketch out the world from scratch.

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