Creating a Story Bible by Suzanne Johnson

First, a quick announcement: my CRASH INTO YOU blog tour has started! So if you're interested in following along here are my first two posts:

Why I Went Traditional and 7 Reasons Why You Should (or Shouldn't) at Anne R. Allen's Blog

Why Do All the Romance Heroes Have Six-Packs? at Kat Latham's blog



It's guest Monday and today author Suzanne Johnson is something that *I* need to listen to. Even though I don't write a supernatural world, my series takes place around and at a place called The Ranch, which is a BDSM retreat with its own intricate rules and procedures. I find as I'm writing book 3, I keep forgetting what standards I set up in book one. Plus, all my characters are connected in some way so I need to keep track of that. And don't even get me started on minor characters' names. *headdesk* Hopefully this post can help me get things straight. : )

Take it away, Suzanne...




Creatinga Story Bible
by Suzanne Johnson
Filethis post under “Lessons Learned the Hard Way.”

When Istarted writing my first novel in the winter of 2008 and spring of 2009, I wasjust amusing myself, really. It was an exercise to try and rid myself ofpost-traumatic stress left over from Hurricane Katrina and severe homesicknessfor New Orleans, which I’d recently moved away from after almost fifteen years.

To condensea long, boring story, after a journalism career during which I pronouncedseveral times that I had no ability or interest in writing fiction, I got thebug. Never say never. In July came the agent, and in the fall came the firstcontract. By that time, I’d finished with the second book, which also sold.

So, hereI am at book three, and I’m almost three years older, if not wiser. And I findmyself thinking: Wait, did (heroine) DJ use spellcast rubies or emeralds in thefirst book when she did the transport charm? What was that wizard’s name shemet briefly at the morgue? What were the words she used when she summoned theundead Marie Laveau from the Beyond? Did she have to put blood on her summoningcircle, or just place candles around it? What color were the candles?

Lookingup all that stuff, I realized, was going to take for-evah. So I did something I should have done three years ago:started creating a Story Bible. Or, more accurately, hired a former studentintern to read Royal Street and River Road and make a Story Bible forme. 

Ifyou’re not writing a paranormal, a few of these areas won’t apply, but here arethe things I asked my intern to make note of. A lot of them will apply to anynovel.

--Each character, along with aphysical description, physical quirks, specific words used in description(i.e., “eyes the color of dark chocolate”), likes/dislikes, family members,hometowns, type of species (wizard, shapeshifter, etc.), cars they drive, nicknames,and in which book/scene they first appear.

--Specific places mentioned:restaurant names, what they eat, places they have meetings, location of homesand offices. Physical layout/décor descriptions of places (i.e., layout of DJ’shouse, layout of Napoleon House restaurant/bar, layout of Green Gator bar).

--Species traits. Quirks/abilities of species: wizards,varmpires, elves, fae, water species (merpeople, nymphs, naiads),shapeshifters, were-critters besides loup-garou, loup-garou, historical undeadand difference between them and zombies, ghouls and ghosts.

--Worldbuilding. Magical hierarchy and skills/duties.

--Magic. Charms and potions DJ uses, and what she does/whatingredients she uses. Book and MSS page number where used.

Once my new StoryBible for the Sentinels of New Orleans series is complete, I’ll go in andinsert photos of places, diagrams of house layouts and places—even charactersif I’ve based them physically on an actor or actress.

So now,as I write Elysian Fields, to avoidstopping and looking up stuff from previous books, I’m plugging in the wordALBATROSS for every hole. That way, I don’t get slowed down in my first draft.Then, on second draft, I’ll do a search for ALBATROSS and fill in the holesusing my handy-dandy Story Bible (Sarah—finish that thing!).

“It was a good sign. I’d metALBATROSS during a harebrained foray to the temporary morgue that had been setup after Katrina.”

“Seven p.m. had barely come andgone, yet the line of people waiting to get into L’Amour Sauvage alreadystretched down ALBATROSS Street…”

If I haddone the Story Bible from the outset, this would not be necessary. Doh.

Are youwriting a series or shared-universe books? Story Bible. Really. Just do it. Andif you do it, or a version of it, what’s your method? 


Suzanne Johnson is an author of urban fantasy “with romantic elements.” Her first book, Royal Street, a magic-based fantasy set in New Orleans at the time of Hurricane Katrina, will be released by Tor Books on April 10, 2012. Two more in the series will be released in Fall 2012 and Spring 2013. Find Suzanne online at her Preternatura blog, or read about her books at her website.

*Look for more from Suzanne here every 3rd Monday of the month!






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