A story bible is a resource that you create that contains all the information you need to write your novel. It should contain all your facts and figures, names, places, notes so that you can refer to them when writing the story.
With fantasy or science fiction, you need to keep track of all your ideas and rules you’ve made for your world. If you are creating a whole other world, there is a lot to consider and a lot to forget along the way.
Ideas for what to include:
- Facts – history, dates
- Maps – countries, cities
- Names of places/kings/gods
- Religion – origin stories, differing beliefs, rituals
- Cultural norms, society structures & hierarchies
I would recommend that you create the rough draft of your story bible while you build the world. Later when you’ve decided on things, create a neater, easy-to-reference version. If you’re already been world building and are feeling a bit overwhelmed it’s not too late. A story bible will make everything much easier.
First step, get a notebook or a folder on your computer. This is your story bible and nothing else. Don’t put story ideas or drafts in there. This is just for you to keep track of what you’ve built. It is purely practical.
I would recommend that if you’re creating a new world that you build as much of it as you can before you start thinking about characters and stories. That may be easier said than done if character is what you started to work on first. I started with the world because then my characters could grow out of it (hopefully) organically instead of fitting the world around my characters.
My Story Bible
I do envy the kinds of people who will just write everything without any kind of plan or system. I’ve tried that in the past and while it can be fun for a while, I soon start forgetting everything and eventually the story makes its way onto the Pile of Forgotten Novels.
I started out with a small notebook which quickly turned into a mess. I hate mess, it drives me mad and clogs my brain up. So I quickly decided that I needed a story bible, but as I’m naturally impatient, I couldn’t wait until the novel/plotting was finished. Some people write the first draft of the novel and then make their story bible. This is useful because you’ve already decided everything, but how do they finish the novel in the meantime? I have no idea but maybe it’ll work for you.
As I was scribbling all sorts of ideas down, I started to decide on what I liked and wrote it up a little neater in a nice notebook. It’s easier to refer to if it’s all neat and structured.
I have a strange stationery fetish that I hope other people understand. I found a notebook I like, well several, from Peter Pauper Press. You can find them on Amazon. They’re the kind of ones that have a textured front and sometimes gold edges so you can stroke the notebook and look a bit weird.
I picked this one for my story bible (neat version). I’m also into fountain pens now and like to pretend I can do cursive. I won’t show you my efforts on that.
Because I am naturally indecisive, I still keep a rough notes notepad should I come up with a new idea. I did not want to scar the pages of this poor notebook with all my rambling rough notes. So I just got a Pukka pad and I write anything that pops into my head in there. It’s a mess and it’s quickly filling up but it gives me space to work things out. I will write down several conflicting ideas and somehow seeing it written down usually helps me decide what I’m doing with a particular idea. Then when I’ve decided on something it goes in the neat book.
Now I can use that to refer to when writing my story. I have different sections, a contents page and an index. This is how I’ve organised mine:
The Physical World
The Natural World
- Natural resources
- Trade routes
The Fantastic World
- Time system
- The Gods
- Magic system
- World events
- Timelines for each empire/kingdom
- Social hierarchy
- Crime & punishment
- Family structure
- Art & architecture
- Death & Burial
This is just how I’ve done it and there’s obviously no set way. It should just be organised in a way that helps you to understand and order your ideas. It doesn’t have to work for anyone else as long as you understand it.
You should try and cover as many topics as possible. Have an answer for everything, even if it never makes it into the story itself. I still have a lot of room left in the book which tells me I’m not being detailed enough but I do like to have the space there for new thoughts and things I know I will have forgotten.