Character Bibles/Story Timelines
So I decided to combine two topics today, both of which I learned to do the hard way. When I first started writing, all I worked on was Voltron fan fiction, pretty much using only the original WEP characters and all of my stories were really short. As I started branching out, making the stories longer and adding original characters, I discovered I was having trouble keeping track of them. Sometimes it was just small things, like eye color or if I stated they hated a certain food item. Sometimes it was bigger things like introducing a new character on page three one way and bringing them back on page fifty looking totally different.
Another problem was knowing what day I was on or how many days have passed in a story. I’m not a plotter. I pretty much fly by the seat of my pants while writing (a pantser), so this became a big problem when all at once I needed to know how many days have gone by. Suddenly, I had to go back through my story from the beginning and figure out how many days have passed. Not a big deal if you’re only on page thirty, but a huge deal when you’ve reached page one-hundred and fifty. Let’s talk about things that interrupt the writing mojo!
All of these problems compounded when I started writing my own original novels with all of my own original characters. So, I learned to keep a character bible and a story timeline. For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, a character bible is a notebook/computer file, whichever is more comfortable for you to keep, about the characters in your story. In these files, you keep the information you introduce in your book, descriptions, birthdates, food likes/dislikes, personality traits, etc. Anything and everything you say, or your characters do in your stories, so if you have to reference it later you don’t have to go paging through your story trying to find it.
Story timelines are not an outline. It is much simpler than that. It’s just a document where you type in Day 1: and give a basic run down of what happened on that day. Repeat for each day that occurs in the story. I generally add page numbers as well so I can reference the timeline and go back to those pages in the story if I need to check on something.
Especially if you decide to write sequels, these little items will save you a world of heartache later. Like I said, I learned the hard way after totally screwing up a story to the point I abandoned it when I was around one-hundred and forty pages in. The thought of starting over and rewriting the entire thing wasn’t something I wanted to do or liked the story enough to do. Every story I’ve written since then consists of three files, the story, the timeline and the character bible.
Good luck to everyone and keep writing!
Until next time…