A while back I told a friend of mine that I was working on the third book in my Last P.I. series (it’s called Where All the Ladders Start and it will be available incredibly soon now). He asked me, “How do you keep track of all that’s going on in that world? The characters’s names, what they look like, and so forth. Do you maintain a story bible or something like that?”
“Er, um, no,” I stammered. “But it sure sounds like a good idea.”
This isn’t Game of Thrones, but there really does get to be a lot to keep track of after a while. Walter’s friend Mickey, who drives Bobby Gallagher’s van — did I give him a last name at one point? If I did, I sure have no memory of what it is. How much detail have I provided for the Salvage Market? What’s the layout of Walter’s house in Louisburg Square? And what exactly have I said (and not said) about the war that landed everyone into this messy world in which the novels are set?
Luckily, Microsoft Word’s search capabilities are powerful enough that I can home in quickly on the relevant passages in the earlier books. But I continue to worry that some sharp-eyed reader with a better memory than mine will point out some inconsistency, the way they notice goofs in continuity and historical accuracy in films, goofs that are then listed in excruciating detail on IMDB. (“The cup is by his left forearm in one scene, and then it shifts two inches closer to his wrist in the next!”)
So clearly I should create such a bible. But really, I rather be writing. So I guess I’ll just take my chances.
Years ago, when I wrote short stories, I used a box of index cards. Now I use Excel. I have separate sheets in a workbook for characters names, character connections, plot points, timeline, scene details, etc. It would take a lot of work to do it it you wanted to just sit down and map it all out, but I just build it as I go so it’s relatively painless. A lot of folks are using Scrivener now. I’ve played with it and it really is a good tool, but to me it just formalizes what I already do in Excel. Different strokes for different folks, I suppose. But, I have to agree with you. It’s more fun to just write.