Series Bible: What To Include And Why Writers Should Have One

Not content with writing just one book, some writers tackle a series.

I did this for the first manuscript I decided to write seriously (either bravely or stupidly, I still haven’t decided), and one thing I learned was that it pays to have a series bible.

A series bible is a document made up of all the notes, secrets, and information relating to your series. The same principles can be applied to standalone books, but where a series bible really shines is keeping everything straight amongst multiple books. This is the reason why all writers should have one.

What To Include In Your Series Bible

Characters

List everything you can about your characters. What they look like, who they’re related to, who they’re friends with. Note down their goals, dreams, where they go to school, if they have a job, what happened in their past. It doesn’t have to be paragraphs of detail, just enough to remind you where they’ve come from and where they’re going.

  • Names/Nicknames.
  • Age/Birthday (if you’re that detailed).
  • Physical description.
  • Goals/Dreams.
  • Family.
  • Backstory.
  • History.
  • School.
  • Job.
  • Connections (which characters know/come cross each other during the events of the book/s).

Setting/Location

Does your series take place in the same town with the same coffee shop visited regularly? Does every installment take place in a new world? Are your characters teenagers who go to the same high school? Are they adults who first met in high school? If it’s a location that will be visited or mentioned regularly, sort out the finer details and write it down so you can refer to it at a glance.

  • Town name.
  • Businesses.
  • School.
  • Hangouts.
  • Restaurants.
  • Character homes.

Clothing

Do you have a character who always dresses in long pants no matter the weather? Is your series set in a specific time frame and you need to know the clothing style to make it authentic? Don’t forget things like accessories too. It’s the details that matter.

  • MC always wears jeans.
  • Villain has a fondness for capes.
  • 90s set high school drama—cue Doc Martens, flannel shirts, and denim everything.

Technology

Is it advanced? Is it the Zombie apocalypse and there is no technology? Is your novel historical and phones haven’t been invented yet? Is it modern day and help is only a text message away? Do characters get around in flying cars Marty McFly-style, or are vehicles only for the rich elite? Once you know how your technology works, add it to the bible.

  • Phones.
  • Computers.
  • TV.
  • Cars.
  • Social media.

Time

How do you mark the passage of time? Do you refer to specific holidays so the reader knows it’s December when it’s mentioned your MC is Christmas shopping? Do you name actual months or refer to summer’s hot weather or the chill of a winter’s night?

Add a blank yearly calendar to your series bible and map out when events happen, making notes of what month/season it is. That way, if a character refers to spring, you can check your book timeline and make sure it’s the right month (adjusted for wherever your book is set as the seasons are in different months around the world).

  • Days/Weeks/Years.
  • Seasons.
  • Holidays.

Keeping track of how time moves in your series using notes or a calendar will also help to avoid continuity problems and placing events either too far apart or too close together to be believable.

World

Are we in a world similar to our own or is it mythological? If you’ve created your own world or one that has very different rules to ours, put it all here.

  • Structure.
  • Society.
  • Laws.

Rules

If your world has magical systems or superpowers, this is the place to write down the rules that govern those powers.

  • Never feed them after midnight.
  • There can only be one Highlander.
  • Each district must provide a Tribute.

Arcs

You could put these under characters or you can give it its own section, either way, list the arcs. How does your MC change from the first book to the last? What redemption or damnation does the villain go through? List it all here.

  • Hero to villain.
  • Winner to loser.
  • Ordinary to superhuman.
  • Against love to embracing it.

Summary

As you get deeper into the series, it’s a good idea to have a summary section that briefly lists what happened in each previous book. That way when you get to writing the last MS, you can refresh your memory about what has happened in the series so far.

  • Book one events.
  • Book two events.
  • Book three events.
  • Book four events (and so on).

Notes

For each book in my YA series, Blackbirch, I have a document of notes. These notes are snippets I’d typed on my phone or scrawled on paper in my terrible handwriting relating to each book.

It was plot ideas, dialogue, events that needed to happen. When writing each draft, I referred to these notes to make sure I included everything I wanted. Having them sorted into each book made it easier. I would even go through each note and mark it off so I knew I had included it. If you have similar notes and your writer-brain also works this way, make yourself a “notes” page in your series bible.

  • Dialogue.
  • Plot point.
  • Cliffhanger idea, etc.

Research

Another handy section to add to your bible is a section listing your research. Include links, pictures, and your sources so you can double check things when needed. Some of mine included.

  • Black birch trees.
  • Town sheriffs.
  • Crystals.
  • Spells.

And there you have a basic idea of what to include in your series bible. You can even go the extra mile and channel your inner Monica Geller by color coding your notes to each book.

  • General/Whole Series Notes = Purple
  • Book One Notes/Events = Red
  • Book Two = Blue
  • Book Three = Green
  • Book Four = Yellow

Keep the details of your color key at the start of your bible so you remember what color is assigned to each book. That way when you see a note about the MC being involved in robbery highlighted in blue, you know it needs to happen in book two.

Don’t forget to build your bible with each draft and keep it updated whenever you complete an MS. It will cut into your writing time, but it’ll also help you create a series with connections, details, believable characters, and worlds that feel real.

Also, keep in mind that just because you add details to your bible it doesn’t mean it has to go into the book. Sometimes just you knowing these details is enough to subconsciously influence how you’ll write a certain character or event.

My final tip is to keep your series bible where you can refer to it easily, whether that’s in a file you always have open or printed out in a binder (any excuse to buy stationery), and don’t forget to back it up!

— K.M. Allan

You can find me on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

47 thoughts on “Series Bible: What To Include And Why Writers Should Have One

  1. sarahacahill

    How is it you always seem to post exactly what I need, when I need it? I’m planning a series and this is some great information to help me plan properley.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Michael! I was at least two books in before I realised I should be doing this. I think it’ll be handy to do at the start of a series, so if I ever write another one, I’ll do that. Wow, five books! Great job 😊.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I can only hope and dream I am as organized as you someday. This is a great idea. Not only is it great it is necessary if the writer wants to stay on top of things. The last thing we want are a series of errors spotted throughout our books.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. So organised! Most of my plans for my next few books are all standalone, however I wrote a children’s book a few years ago that I’d love to turn into a series. If I ever do, I’m coming back to this, as it is perfect! Thank you, Kate x

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ruth Miranda

    My very addled and convoluted brain has created a system that is chaos in itself but seems to work for me. I have character sheets, world building sheets (that go from general overall world to specific countries to cities and even just forests or lakes) and snippets on a folder in another folder where my MS’s pertaining to the series are stored. Then, I have Pinterest boards for all the visual aid: be it character inspiration and aesthetics, the geography, the landscape, the particulars of certain places, the overall visual aesthetics for the entire series or just tiny details that I find inspiring. Then I have a notebook, where I scribble just about anything I come up wit regarding the series, and the fun of that is seeing how many times I’ve changed my mind about plot and what goes on in it! I seem to start with an idea, but then get a plot twist every five minutes… I even draw maps on those notebooks and keep changing them. Does this help me? I’m not sure, but whenever my inspiration is lagging, I turn to these aids – especially Pinterest – and seem to get a new life breathed into me.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. “Channel your inner Monica Geller” is my new favorite mood lol! Creating a series bible is such a great idea! I’ve been seeing a log of writers do this lately, and I’d love to get a peak into their series bible because the writing process is so fascinating. I do have a story bible, and if I ever decide to write a series, this post is the first place I’ll look for help. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I use Rebecca K Sampson’s story bible! It has a bunch of worksheets all in one place and they cover things like physical appearance, backstory, inner and external conflict, family trees — all that good stuff. It was really helpful for getting to know my characters better. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Wonderful advice, as usual. I created something similar to help me keep all the details straight without realizing until later how crucial the information would be. Who wants to waste valuable writing time looking up information written several chapters (or books) ago? I use both printed notes and some I keep at the bottom of the manuscript in MS Word and delete as I use them.

    I also keep any notes created for stand alone books, in case I ever decide to write another book or story in the same world. And all that information you DON’T use? It could come in handy if you decide to do more in future, or even provide a starting point for a different book altogether. No use wasting good ideas or creative energy!

    Liked by 1 person

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