Guest Post: Joanne Guidoccio

Welcome back Joanne Guidoccio, talking about something that series authors can appreciate. The series bible.

In Praise of Series Bibles

I never intended to write a series.

Fifteen years ago, I couldn’t imagine anything beyond a novella, possibly a novel, about the following What-If scenario that had invaded my daily thoughts:

What if a teacher-turned-lottery winner returns to her hometown, only to find herself the primary suspect in the murders of four blondes? Can she prove her innocence and solve this case before it’s too late?

I even had a title—A Season for Killing Blondes—for what I thought would be my one and only foray into the world of publishing.

All that changed once the book was accepted and published by The Wild Rose Press. My editor, writer friends, and readers asked about the next book in the series. 

Their questions and observations about the protagonist (Gilda Greco), love interest (Carlo Fantin), and several of the minor characters challenged me to come up with more What-If scenarios. I also needed a title for my series.

After toying with several possibilities, I settled on the Gilda Greco Mystery Series. I intended to keep Gilda as the protagonist and vary the secondary characters in subsequent books.

I assumed it would be easy to write the second book. I had a title—Too Many Women in the Room—and a rough scenario about a Greek restaurant, a charismatic chef, two murders, and eight women who didn’t always get along.

A linear pantser, I can start writing with even a “micro germ” of an idea. But partway through Chapter 3, I found myself at a standstill. I couldn’t recall the eye colors of two characters from A Season for Killing Blondes, an essential fact that would later identify the murderer. I had also forgotten several details about the ReCareering office, the yoga instructor’s early family life, and the victim’s past peccadilloes. I had to reread most of A Season for Killing Blondes, searching for the answers to these questions.

When I shared my frustrations about interrupting the creative flow of ideas, I discovered that many of my writer friends had series bibles. 

What is a series bible?

A compilation of all the background information—character sketches, settings, plots, subplots, important dates, maps—that can be organized into a collection of handwritten notes, a three-ring binder, or electronic files.

I was impressed and a bit overwhelmed by some of the series bibles that other authors were using.

One writer friend has a bank of 50 questions that she answers for each of the main characters and some secondary characters she plans to include in future books. She covers everything from physical and personality traits to phobias to family backgrounds to hobbies to political and religious beliefs. 

Another writer, who is artistically inclined, uses Corel Draw software to create a comprehensive map of the fictional town for her series.

In my research, I also discovered that some writers use series bibles to keep track of acknowledgments, contact information, and marketing efforts for each book. 

I used a combination of formats in my series. I collected bits and pieces of handwritten character sketches and copied and pasted information about the city of Sudbury and the ReCareering office into Word documents. I then printed and inserted these documents into a three-ring binder.

Before writing A Different Kind of Reunion (Book 3), I updated the information and added details about the new characters and a new setting (Parry Sound). Feeling confident, I signed up for NaNoWriMo 2016 and completed the first draft of the novel within thirty days. 

Any other thoughts about series bibles?


A member of Crime Writers of Canada, Sisters in Crime, and Romance Writers of America, Joanne Guidoccio writes cozy mysteries, paranormal romance, and inspirational literature from her home base of Guelph, Ontario.



18 thoughts on “Guest Post: Joanne Guidoccio”

  1. Welcome back, Joanne, good to see you. I keep a series bible on Scrivener and move it from book to book. Searchability is such blessing! Now, if I could just get better about keeping it up as I write. It always seems I need the one detail I didn’t bother to record.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Brilliant! I sort of keep a character bible. My electronic files look pretty much like my desk: scraps of tidbits strangely named. But I have started assembling a three-ring binder for my next series with a section on characters, a separate section on timelines with dates of birth and a section for research. Also in my character section, I have a master list of when the characters appears in different stories as I ‘ve written some short stories leading up to getting the book series started. But searchability would be nice. I have to check into this Scrivener thing.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I keep a series bible, but mine is not nearly as thorough as what you’ve described–I’d better update it, so thanks for the suggestions! Mine mostly has brief character sketches, but I also add photos of people I find in magazines who remind me in some way of my characters. That way, I can visualize them better. Thanks for visiting!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Welcome back, Joanne! I, like Kait, keep my series bible in Scrivener. But I recently realized I was forgetting to keep track of an important aspect – a character’s age! They can’t stay “mid-30s” forever. Fortunately, it wasn’t hard to update that fact.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Welcome back, Joanne!

    My thought about a series bible: I desperately need one!! Right now I rely on handwritten notes stuffed in drawers–plus frequent re-reads –to maintain continuity. This can make putting my finger on a certain detail I wish to research very tricky. Sounds like I also need Scrivener!

    Thanks for the great post and the good reminders. Wishing you continued success with all your books!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Like you, Joanne, I learned about series bibles after I’d written my first book—actually after I’d written one or two books in three different series! My latest method to keep up is starting my next writing session with rereading what I wrote during the last session, which I’ve been doing forever, and then filling in my timeline chart, and adding new characters in my character chart with their descriptions and other info (including the type of car they drive, age, etc.), I also have a chart for different places, like restaurants, parks, etc. Readers do pay attention. In my first Paula, PI, series, she drove a red Mustang. In the second book I changed it to white. A reviewer actually complained about that. If I talked to her, I’d just say Paula bought a new car. 😊

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Jan, It sounds like you’ve got an excellent process in place. Regarding the red/white Mustangs…Some readers are avid “car” people and like to imagine themselves in the protagonist’s driver’s seat. I imagine your reader had a fantasy about driving a red Mustang. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. When writing with my husband, when I’ve neglected to add something to a series bible, I’ve used the search function in Word to go back through the previous books. BTW, I just finished A Season for Killing Blondes. Loved the Italian characters!

    Liked by 2 people

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