What is a Series Bible?

an open book with flipping pages

A series bible refers to a screenwriting document used in television to provide a comprehensive overview of a TV show’s concept, characters, setting, plot, and other relevant information. Often a bible is created as a means of pitching the show to producers, executives, and other network/studio leaders. It can also serve as a reference guide for fellow writers to ensure consistency and continuity in the storytelling of the series. This makes a series bible crucial to the development of any television series.

Typically, the series bible begins with a summary of the proposed show’s premise, including a logline that succinctly describes the overall concept. This is followed by a detailed overview of the characters, including their backgrounds, personalities, and any important relationships with other characters in the series. Moreover, it can provide detailed analysis of the series’ setting (time period, location, context) if it has a direct bearing on the storytelling. Remember, that this document should focus on the core elements of what makes your show unique and how you plan to tell this story. Don’t let the document become overstuffed with information that isn’t necessary to the telling of the narrative. 

Another aspect of the series bible is that it can establish the tone and style of your proposed series. How will this series unfold? Is it episodic or serialized? What makes the visually storytelling of the series unique? What are the overarching themes of the season? Depending on the series’ genre, the series bible can also be used to define the rules of the world. This is particularly important for series with science fiction or fantasy elements. You will want to be sure the “science” or “magic” of the world stays consistent throughout. Writers should be able to refer to this document for guidance when trying to determine what works and what doesn’t.

Related: What is Plot in Screenwriting?

One of the most important pieces of the series bible is providing a roadmap for the series in terms of plot and character. This can be done by breaking down your series and understanding how each progressing episode will deal with the central theme/goal/question of the season. Summaries to this effect can be included in your series bible outlining your season arc. Another important function of a series bible is to provide a roadmap for the series' story arcs. 

Remember, this document will not only be for your own use. This means it must be able to be picked up and read by other writers, producers, and television executives. It has to clearly define your series and showcase why this story deserves to be told. In many ways, this blueprint of a document should be considered just as much of a business document as it is a creative document. Just like a construction company cannot build a house without a solid blueprint, a studio will not greenlight a series without a compelling bible. Make sure the document you craft is compelling, engaging, and accurately reflects your vision for the series. 

Overall, a television series bible is a crucial stage in the screenwriting process. It provides a comprehensive overview of the series' concept, characters, setting, plot, and themes, and serves as a reference guide for writers, producers, and network executives. If you want to work as a television writer, it is imperative you understand the importance of constructing a quality series bible. If you’re looking for more information on constructing a basic series bible check out Your Screenplay Guy’s official series bible template and guide available for download. 

More: Four-Act Television Structure Template and Guide

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