If you are a serious author, please don’t do what I did—your future self will thank you.

Keep a book bible! For every book you write you need a list of all of the characters mentioned.

You may not think that it’s so important. You know who your characters are. Why is keeping a list of them so important?

As someone who is working on their 40th book, I can tell you that you need a bible—one for each book, one for each series, and one for all of your books altogether. Honestly!

If you do this either as you are writing (which, I’ve tried and it does get both tedious and distracting when you’re trying to stay in the moment of the story) or after the book is done, it will be much easier. You can try breaking it up so that after you’ve written a chapter you make a list of who is in it, or after so many chapters.

Keep a bible especially important if you have either a large main cast of characters or if your characters meet (even incidentally) a lot of people.

I write Regency romance. That means I write lots of balls and parties. My heroes go to their club where they run into acquaintances. My heroines go for tea where there may be between 5, 10, or even more people present. Not all of them may be mentioned, but for everyone who is, I need a record of their name and who they are. And then, of course, there is the staff—footmen, maids, even the chimney sweep if he is mentioned by name. All of these names need to be noted down.

Why go to all this trouble?

Because there’s a very good chance you’re going to be reusing either these characters or their names and even if you don’t remember that you had a character named Nathan in the second book of the series you wrote three years ago, a reader will. While you wrote the book years ago, a new reader may have only read it last week. When they start your newest book and find another character with the same name, they may think it’s the same person. Therein lies confusion.

If you have a list of names you’ve used, where you used them (which book), and where this person was encountered and any description you may have written about them, your life will be so much easier! This is why I encourage you to not only make a list of the characters used in each individual book, but combine those lists into a series list and then a master list. You’ll easily catch duplicates.

I had created lists for a few books—not all—when I realized that I needed this. And now, as I am writing my 40th book I am finally compiling a list of all the names in all the books—that is nearly 1000 names!

This is a huge project! But I will share with you a secret, a cheat.

If you haven’t heard of Fictionary, check it out. It’s really comprehensive writing software. It’s only accessible online (at https://Fictionary.co) and is a plotter’s paradise. For each scene you write there are three pages on the side on which to make notes on character, setting, and general notes. The software will even analyze you story and show you the story structure for it.

But best of all—and here’s where it’s unbeatable for creating a character bible — when you import your book, it makes a list of all the characters. It’s not perfect, it will grab some names (like place names) and think they’re characters, or list a character a couple of times if they go by different names (Mr. Smith, John Smith, John), but that’s easy enough to clean up. Sadly, you can’t download a copy of those names, you will have to retype them into your spreadsheet or database of names, but at least you won’t have to go searching through your entire manuscript.

To organize all of these names, I highly recommend either using Excel or a database program (I’m currently using Notion as I can link each character which show up in multiple databases (when they are in multiple books). But however you choose, whatever is best for you, do it. Do it now. It’ll be a bit of a chore, but you will thank yourself later.