Creating a Story Bible Using Scrivener

When I started my manuscript, it was a spur of the moment decision based on last year’s NaNoWriMo start and idea I had rolling around in my head only days before. I took no time for planning or research and now, as I begin my developmental edit, I’m suffering as a result.

So I’ve made the decision to veer off from my 85k90 timeline for research and to create a story bible to get and keep me on track.

Initially, I thought of using a wiki platform for my Story Bible and wasted a perfectly good writing day researching my options. Too much work, and for what?

It was only after scouring every other possible solution that I realized I already had what I needed. Scrivener.

*NOTE: Instructions and template are for Scrivener 3 on a Mac *

Why use Scrivener?

Using Scrivener, I am able to link existing files or create new ones on the fly.  I can link text documents I created as well as anything I’ve put in the research folder. Not only can I link to files, I can also embed images, tables (although these are terribly finicky so beware), audio and video files into my text files to create a robust story bible filled with information on my world and the people and places in it.

Indexing Files

I had a bit of trouble figuring out how to organize my files in the binder to make things as easy to find as I could. I’ve decided on an alphabetical structure (like an index) but I could also use a nesting folder structure based on subject (eg: characters, locations, cities, history, etc.). Here’s my structure.

*UPDATE* I’ve added an index along the top of my entry template as well as a HOME link so that I can Hide the Binder and use it as a single pane app. In my current project’s Story Bible, I also have added other important links as well as a table at the bottom of each page for links to research media. To add an entry rather than a blank page, right-click on the relevant section of the binder and choose Add -> New From Template -> Entry

 

 

To add content, I started creating file names in the appropriate folders. I then created a link list on the folder itself of every file that could be included. I did this by clicking on the folder to populate the editor and then dragging each item onto it and using styles to format the result as a list.

On the homepage, I can add a synopsis of the story and link to the most useful items, add images with links to other content, include research items, anything I’d like to use as a jumping off page for exploring content.

Useful Topics

Besides the obvious character and setting/location information, there are myriad ways to enliven your writing with detail. Here’s a sampling of topics  I’ve chosen to investigate:

  • Decor
  • Transportation
  • Fashion
  • Food/Drink
  • Slang
  • Music
  • Politics
  • History
  • Hairstyles
  • Religion
  • Climate

In Scrivener, you can nest files as well as folders. You can also convert files to folders and folders to files using the cog icon > Convert to Folder at the bottom of the Binder. Whether you use a file or folder to convey the structure of your Story Bible is up to you. Do whatever makes sense for you.

Once you have your broad topics stubbed in, you can further break them down into subtopics such as Climate > Winter. Be as general or as thorough as you need to be to give yourself a solid grounding in your fictional world.

Creating Internal Links

To create internal links in Scrivener, select a target and right click to find Link to Document or find it under Edit in the top menu. If your target has the same name as the file you’re looking for, you will find it easily in suggested documents. Otherwise, you’ll have to drill into the folders to find it.

You also have an option to create a new linked document by selecting New Link… A pop up window appears for you to put in the relevant details.

Right click on selected word (or look under Edit) to find Link to Document > Create New Link
Right click on selected word (or look under Edit) to find Link to Document > Create New Link

Template Sheets

What I have here is very bare bones. If you want to add any specialty template sheets, do so before filling anything out and then save as your own version this template by choosing File > Save as Template and renaming it.

Want to use my template? Here you go… Indexical Story Wiki.scrivtemplate

How To Install the Template

This template and the following illustrations are for Mac users. If you have a  Windows machine, Scrivener is available for you as well but you’ll need to find instructions elsewhere.

Templates are stored in the Application Support folder in the Library folder of your Mac. I had a hard time finding this folder. It turns out, if you buy an app from the App Store rather the company site, this Application Folder is tucked away in another section of the Library. These instructions offered on the Scrivener Forum cleared it up for me.

Did you buy either Scrivener 2 or Scrivener 3 from the Mac App Store by any chance? If so, because of the way the Mac App Store’s sandboxing partitions things, Scrivener 3 will not be able to see Scrivener 2’s project templates. However, if you bought both from our own store, Scrivener 2’s project templates should still show up.

If you bought Scrivener 2 from our store, the templates will be at this location:

~/Library/Application Support/Scrivener/ProjectTemplates

If you purchased it from the Mac App Store, they will be here:

~/Library/Containers/com.literatureandlatte.scrivener2/Data/Library/Application Support/Project Templates

(You can access the ~/Library folder by holding down Option/Alt when opening the “Go” menu in the Finder – this makes the “Library” item visible, which is normally hidden.)

You can then copy the templates to a different location temporarily, and then use the “Options” button in the project templates chooser in Scrivener 3 to access the “Import Templates…” option, and choose the files you placed in the temporary location to import them.

All the best,
Keith

Thanks Keith!

Once it’s placed in the folder, it will show up in the Chooser under Miscellaneous.

Conclusion

You might think that filling out your Story Bible is busywork, maybe even a form of procrastination. I thought that as well but, as I work through it, I’m finding out lots of information, getting it down and linking it in ways I hadn’t thought of before.

Once it’s finished (and even while I’m working on it!), I’ll be able to search for relevant info, use it to check my manuscript for inconsistencies bring the details of my characters’ daily lives to life for both me the reader.

If you’re like me and you dove right into your story without first getting an in depth view your world, take some time to create your own Story Bible. Your narrative will be richer for it.

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Author: Anne Walk

Secret writer turned not so secret writer.

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