Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Character Bibles

by Donna K. Weaver

What is a character bible? Not a piece of holy writ, that's for sure. However, a character bible might save you--at least time and embarrassment.

For example, if your character has brown eyes in chapter one, you don't want a reader to inform you--perhaps in a review--about him having blue eyes in chapter 20. Jo Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, has had remarks like that made.

So, a character bible can include things like physical attributes, and many people spend a lot of time deciding what those are. The Internet is full of articles and blog posts with ideas for what to include. Like these:

One I'm especially fond of using is What Really Drives Your Characters? by Carolyn Kaufman, Psy.D. (an Assistant Professor at Columbus State Community College and author of The Writer’s Guide to Psychology)

I find, when I use Dr. Kaufman's page, not only do I discover things about my characters, but that the things I discover help me plot the story. I've gone so far as to create a Word document that I fill out on my major characters. I have included it in my Scrivener template so when I begin a new book, it's built right in.

I love Dr. Kaufman's webpage because of the questions she poses. Sample (you'll need to check the link above for the rest of her great questions):

1. Primary Goal
    a. Obstacles to that Goal
    b. What s/he'll give up or sacrifice to achieve that Goal 
            What has your character promised herself she'd never do? And how can you push her past that promise by dangling the Goal in front of her?)

I'm a sucker for ethical questions, so I find this intriguing. Could there come a point in your story where one of your characters finds him/herself go too far because it's soooo close to that Goal?

It's wonderful that you, as the author, get to choose what kinds of things you want in your character bible.

Do you have one? If so, what do you like to include ?


Melanie Macek said...

I have a spiral notebook for each book I write where all my character information lives. A lot of the time, I don't know what my character's motivation is for anything until about halfway through the story. I write those down and reference them during edits.

I've had to make an extensive notebook this time because not only am I worried about the characters, I'm worried about portraying the time and place as accurately as possible. I had to upgrade the 70pg spiral to a 3-ring notebook. I've found that I haven't written as many character notes as I should have and am doing that now so I can fix the inconsistencies I know I'll find later.

Donna K. Weaver said...

I imagine that's especially important with an historical novel.

Canda said...

We keep one on each main character with similar things. The part that may be different is that we have a section where we consider where our character's good qualities might be bad qualities under different circumstances.