I’ve been working on series bibles for a couple of, well, series that I want to write. And I’ve come to realize two things about the process:
- a) The series bible is not for determining absolutely every gorram thing about your fictional world before you start writing.
- b) The series bible is for noting general direction and tone; things you want and do not want to do; and for making notes of and tracking details in the interest of continuity, to keep yourself from having to pore through a massive tome (or more than one) to discover those details when you could be writing.
For example, creating a history that goes back (and even forward) 10,000 years for each and every culture on your fictional world — and while we’re at it, creating all of those cultures in infinite detail — is not creating a series bible. It’s creating a mental breakdown. But a note of whose hair is what color and how to spell the frakking Tularian name for akklbrgr’s syndrome would be good things to jot down in the series bible.
Names, what those names mean, what certain important words mean and how to spell them (not every word of entire languages) — these would be good things to put in the series bible. Character name changes are jolting even if humorous, as are changes in skin and eye color, all of which are generally signs of sloppiness, if not psychosis — yours or your character’s, I leave it to you to diagnose. Unless you’ve created a race of chameleons and such things are par for the course in your story’s universe.
I can’t go any further with that example since I’m getting a migraine just thinking about it.
In short, a series bible is what you create to help you create. It’s what you write to help you write. As you write. Emphasis on the words “help” and “as you write”. When the series bible eats your writing, your mind and your life, you no longer need to create a series bible because you are no longer creating a series. You are, instead, creating a ravenous, creativity-sucking monster and you should kill it now before it gets any bigger and does any more damage and the neighbors begin to complain that their dogs and cats are going missing.
Your readers will thank you and you will thank you because you will actually have readers. Because you stopped working on the writing-before-the-writing and got down to the writing.
I say this as someone who has spent almost two years working on series bibles (though I didn’t call them by that name until recently) for two different ideas. And all I have to show for all of that work is a sense of being overwhelmed and of drowning in a deluge of detail and assorted desiderata of decidedly dubious and sordid derivation. Don’t let this happen to you!
Today’s stream of consciousness nattering on has been profoundly influenced by:
- Bruce Lipton, Music for a Shift in Consciousness.
- David Arkenstone, Ambient World.
- David Helpling and Jon Jenkins, The Crossing.
- David Young, Bliss.
- George Winston, Queen’s Jubilee.
- Various albums of exquisite ambience by Ishq.
- And ambient jazz from Jazzcomputer.org which offers 8 (count ’em, 8!) albums as MP3 downloads at the site.
Now go create something extremely excellent and cool. And share it with the world. The world needs extremely excellent and cool creators and their creations! Get to it! I’m going back to writing down the vision I had while waiting in line to get coffee at my favorite out-of-the-house writing hangout. Yes, I called it a vision. Ya wanna make sumpin of it? Yeah? Well, so do I.
Til next time. Happy creating, fiction fans, wherever you are.