Thursday, March 08, 2007

The VIP Folder

In honor of Visions of Heat's release, let's take a peak Behind the Scenes.

The VIP Folder, a.k.a. the Series Bible, refers to the folder I have full of stuff about the Psy/Changeling series. I need this because my world has certain rules that have to be followed, as well as a large cast of characters I need to get right. I didn't realize this when I wrote Slave to Sensation, but when I began Visions of Heat, it became obvious. I kept having to flick through StS to check things.

At the simplest level, the bible involves keeping physical descriptions of the characters. I need to know who has what color hair and eyes, their height and any defining characteristics - for example, Lucas's facial markings. (Not that I would ever forget those!)

This stops me making goofs or helps me pick them up when I do. For example in Slave to Sensation, Rina's hair color changed from blonde to brunette, a mistake I picked up during one of the final edits.

However that's not all I have. I have tree diagrams that show the links between characters, both in terms of blood or in terms of Pack/the PsyNet. And, because timing is important in my world, I also have a timeline with people's birthdates and other major events. Events change characters and I need to remember each event, each shift, each point of growth.

All this sounds very organized and technical, and to some extent, it is. I need the information easily accessible and simple. But I don't write the book constantly referring to it. I tend to write my drafts fairly loosely in terms of internal consistency, checking only major factors that might affect the plot. It's during the later edits that I go through and make sure the tiny details are right.

The bible is by no means complete, it's a work in progress - for example, when I write Hawke's story, I'm going to have to go through every book before his and note the passages where he's mentioned, because he's such a strong presence throughout the series - but it's very, very useful. I would recommend doing the extra work to any author writing a series. It will save you time a thousand times over. You might still make mistakes (we're only human after all) but a comprehensive bible helps lower the chances of that happening.

Any questions?


Lis said...

Sounds very helpful! How do you organize it?

Jennifer K. said...

Yeah, how do I get a copy? It'll be almost as much use as detailed hints/summaries of what's going to happen next and who it's going to happen to.

You know I'm nosy.

clare said...

Come in handy for bringing out a companion book ;)

Barbara V said...

You are good, very organize

Maura said...

That's a great idea, Nalini! I may have to implement something similar for my world.

Neyjour said...

I've started to do this as well for the stories I'm writing. Each one deals with new/different characters, but the stories are all set in the same universe.

I've been keeping detailed notes on the different races, planets, places, history, alliances, etc. And also compiling a dictionary of sorts for all of this, as well as any special objects and devices that I've made up.

It really helps to have a reference so you keep can keep it all straight. I've been using a free program called QuickPlot, which is not too bad, but it is a bit basic. If you know of any good ones I should look at (either free or paid) please let me know! :)

Nalini Singh said...

Lis, it's currently organized by the races, then broken down into Packs for the changelings. Each major character, or each character I think might become major, has a page of his or her own. Plus there are sections for research/maps of my alternate world etc.

Jennifer k. Ya know, I think I need to invest in a really big safe with a giant lock *grin*

Clare - that would be cool! But a ways to go yet :)

Barbara - it sounds more impressive than it is, really! I still sometimes need to go back to the books but it is very useful.

Maura - so worth it!!

Neyjour - I prefer paper for this. It's quicker for me to flick back and forth, so no ideas on the programs. But try Paperback Writer's blog - those lists of ten that she does on Mondays? I'm sure I saw one with what you're looking for. The link is on my sidebar.

Lis said...

Wow, sounds very thorough! I'm not sure I could ever be that organized :)

Neyjour said...

Thanks Nalini! :) I found the entry you were talking about...some really good stuff there! Although, I didn't see the kind of program I've been looking for. So I went Googling and stumbled onto a program called WriteItNow, which was exactly what I've been wanting and at an affordable price! I absolutely love it! I know you said you keep everything on paper, but you might want to check it out. They have a free demo that lets you see all the just can't save anything until you purchase the Unlock Code. Here's the link: