What Exactly is a TV Series Bible?
The term ‘series bible’ gets thrown about often enough, but what exactly does it mean? Well, the word isn’t well-defined, and that’s why it can sometimes be confusing. Just as ‘outline’, ‘treatment’, and ‘synopsis’ can mean different things to different people, ‘series bible’ and ‘show bible’ are just the same. So, if you’re ever asked to produce one, always clarify exactly what’s required, just in case their idea of what a bible is, is something different from yours.
For emerging writers, a series bible is primarily a pitching document designed to help you sell your great idea for a TV series. Obviously, if you’re writing a feature script, a short film, or a stand-alone one-hour drama, you’re not going to need one. This is purely for writers looking to pitch a TV serial, animated series, or web series. Basically, anything where there’s more than one episode involved.
Why You Need a Series Bible
Producers and execs probably aren’t going to invest in your idea just by reading the pilot or one-page pitch alone. They want to know that your idea has ‘legs’, which means that they want to make sure your story is big enough to span a full series and beyond, and that’s what the bible’s for.
Sometimes you may have a great pilot but it’s unclear where the story is headed next, or you’ve ended on a great hook and the reader wants to know more. With a bible, you can write a synopsis for the next episode, as well as outline all of the future episodes to come.
Even if you’re not ready to pitch, even if you’re still in the middle of working out the pilot, knowing where the rest of your story is heading can help you write a better first episode. You don’t have to leave the bible writing until the last minute. It’ll help you understand the dynamics of this new world you’re creating, help you understand character motivations, and help you see the bigger picture, not just episode one.