Sunday, March 25, 2012

Keeping it Organized--Stealing a Tool from Screenwriters

Like many people, I have a lot on my plate. Like many fellow writers, I hold down a full time job and write full time. Over the last year that balancing act between these two was upset by a parent's health.  My once disciplined writing schedule had been destroyed by a third full time job--family caregiver. The constant interruptions and tremendous squeeze upon my writing time was leading to disaster and I needed to do something. I had to improve my writing tools to help me with the constant lose of story line and plot, for my stories were becoming more of a mess than a ball of yarn played with by a litter of kittens. One of the tools I have been using to get and keep my writing projects on track is a tool used by screenwriters.  

Have you ever watched your favorite television series and wondered how the storylines could remain so tightly written and the characters so constant with so many writers writing the series? That thought came to me. The answer is that they use a tool called a "screenwriter's bible."  It is used to keep the stable of writers and freelance writers working together. The screenwriter's Bible is a small book that contains the universe of the story--the characters, settings, and all of the other elements. A version of the screenwriter's bible, called the show bible, is used to pitch the series to a network for syndication.  

These screenwriter's bibles can often be scrupulously maintained with everything that is established "on air" and (especially for science fiction shows) go into detail about the limits and advancements of the technology being used, the language (like in cop shows with cop and street slang), and the philosophy of the show along with what the creator is trying to show, and sometimes an episode by episode plot of the season. As you can imagine, no two screen bibles are the same. 

I read several screenwriters bibles and used two from favorite shows of mine (Battlestar Galactica (remake) and The Wire) to adapt this tool to my needs as a novelist. Now I have a single tool that will have my pitch to agents and editors, the universe of my story, description of my settings and characters, the plot lines, and the philosophy behind the story or series to keep it focused.
If you are interested in reading some screenwriter's bibles, or if you think they may be of help as a template and tool f you, please check these links out:

Thank you for reading and please visit and You can also follow me on twitter @Owlkenpowriter and the Writer’s Lens @TheWritersLens. Fiction is the world where the philosopher is the most free in our society to explore the human condition as he chooses.

Links are updated!


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