Creating a character bible

I’m writing the seventh Jamie Brodie Mystery now. Along the way I’ve collected quite a cast of characters – so many that I’ve started to lose track of them. Not the main characters, of course, but the ones who don’t appear that often. For instance – Neil Anderson’s husband, paralegal Mark Sivak. Have I described him at all? (No.) Jamie’s old boyfriend, paramedic Eric. Had I given him a last name? (No.) Jamie’s Uncle Dennis. How many kids did he have? (I haven’t found that line yet.) Carolina Arambula, who works at the library. What was her job? (Cataloging. I nearly assigned her to interlibrary loan in the latest book.) And so on.

I’d been keeping an Excel spreadsheet, one for each book, with names, occupations, and a few identifying characteristics. That’s useful in terms of keeping track of who’s been in each book. But I needed something with more detail, that I could sort by category, and that I could add to over time as some of these characters re-appear. And I wanted it to be portable, and not necessarily electronic. Something that I could search and rearrange pages in easily.

So I decided to get a small notebook with looseleaf pages, like one of the small Daytimer notebooks. I already had a couple of packs of looseleaf pages for one of those books, so I spent some time yesterday writing names on the pages.

I’m up to 160 people, and I’m not through the fifth book yet.

I had no idea.

Blog illustration 001 There are 21 Brodies, counting aunts, uncles, cousins, Abby, and Jennifer Graham.

There are 7 ex-boyfriends, including the evil Luke.

There are 21 Fergusons, including cousins and ancestors (subjects of the eighth book).

There are 27 cops, from Kevin, Tim, Jon and the rest of the LAPD, to cops and federal agents in New Mexico, to detectives in Oxford, to UCLA cops, to several members of the Palo Alto PD.

Holy moly.

Once I get this set up, I think I might be able to duplicate it in Evernote. I can put people in several different folders there, I believe, and use it more like a database.

My advice, if you’re thinking of writing a sequel or series? Start your character bible NOW. Don’t wait until the seventh book. 😀

Oh, yeah. Eric’s last name? Padilla.




Filed under Books, Writing

4 responses to “Creating a character bible


    Hi Meg, excellent advice. I also wanted to saa I have really enjoyed the first two Jamie Brodie mysteries. As a gay librarian in an academic library (but not asthmatic!) I really enjoy reading about things I can truly identify with…apart from the murders!!


    I’m looking forward to the rest of the series 🙂

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