Do you really need a series bible?
If you write a series—and most authors do now—you need a series bible. And sadly, the best time to start creating one is while you’re writing the first book.
Naturally, I only realized this while I was writing my third series.
I immediately began keeping track—haphazardly—of the characters I was putting into my books. I did so in an excel spreadsheet, which is how a good number of authors keep their series bibles. It’s simple to use for the purpose and most people have the software, anyway.
I began with something basic—a column for first name, last name, and title (because I write historical romance with lots of Viscounts, Countesses, Dukes, etc). I then have a column for their description and any important information (heroine’s brother, hero’s childhood friend, etc).
It looks like this:
I have one tab or page for each book in the series.
The problem with this is what to do with recurring characters? I opted to copy their information on to every page where they appear.
I have to say I’ve gotten better at noting when I introduce new characters—even just a random name dropped in passing. If I’m writing in Microsoft Word, I quickly create a comment highlighting the name, if I’m in Scrivener, I keep the Notes column open and drop it in there. This way, I don’t have to interrupt my flow to switch over to another program and put in the information. I can simply go back and find my notes or comments later after I’m done writing—either for the day or the week, but I usually need the information again before I’m done writing the book, so I can’t wait that long.
More recently, with my dive into Personal Knowledge Management( PKM), I’ve begun using Capacities for keeping my list of characters. I simply create a “Person” where I put their last name (or first, if they don’t have a last name) into the heading. You can easily add your own properties (for their rank, for example) and there’s already a spot for their description. The key is in the tags. I tag the characters by the book they appear in and their status within the book: main character, secondary, tertiary, walk-on. I also have tags for hostess (my characters attend a lot of parties), servant, and random. This way, if I’m in the middle of writing a scene and quickly need the name of someone to dance with my heroine, I can pull up a list of names. If I throw in a tag for that book, I can even filter out names I’ve already used, or filter for them if I want the same people to show up at all the events in the book.
For someone who includes a lot of walk-on characters, this is a godsend! It’s so easy!
One other place that is specifically set up for series bibles in Plottr. There are tabs for characters and locations, which make it super easy to keep track of everyone and every place in your novel.
If you don’t have a lot of characters in your books. You may not think you need to keep a series bible, but if a character appears three books later having that bible will make it a breeze to remember that he had red hair and brown eyes, not brown hair and green eyes—and yes, your readers will remember even if you don’t.
The key to a good series bible is one where you can easily and quickly find names and places and their descriptions. You’ll be grateful to have the information (and don’t forget, you can also put it on your website for readers of your series so they know who’s who).