• Joseph Morganti

What's a Show Bible and How to Write One

Writing and selling a script is one of the most daunting tasks a writer can dive into. Though writing is a challenge in and of itself, managing to sell and see a script come to fruition is an even more challenging experience. That difficulty is amplified to another degree when discussing television shows.


We all have our favorite shows, ranging from the addicting casual nature of Seinfield to a more profound experience like Game of Thrones. In case you didn’t know, most shows, including Seinfield and Game of Thrones, were crafted with a show bible. So, if you’re an aspiring television screenwriter, below will discuss what a show bible is and how to write one.

Photo credit: Dribble


What’s a Show Bible?


Think of a show bible as a more in-depth outline of a series. Rather than focus on the main points like a beat show, the bible discusses various points tied to your story. It covers key points such as the title, author, logline, structure, style, setting, characters, story breakdown, episode summaries, and much more.


How a Show Bible is Used


There a three main uses of a show bible. The first involves the idea of pitching and attempting to sell a series. Though you won’t have time to go over your entire show bible during a pitch, it’s helpful information to have if the studio, executive, or agent wants to hear more.


The second use of a show Bible is crafting your show. People work better with an outline, and one that covers every aspect of a show is incredibly beneficial. It can help you know where the show is going and what adjustments you need to make along the way.


The last point of a show bible has to do with new writers. Most shows get different writers along the way. If you happen to get a writing gig or someone else does on your show, a show bible can help them understand the show more in-depth.


Are There Movie Bibles?


Generally speaking, films don’t have bibles since they’re not as much of a necessity. Sometimes, a writer will accompany their script with a film bible in case they want to show who they’re pitching too how prepared they are. Usually, an outline, treatment, and character sketches would suffice enough for a film script.


Do You Write a Show Bible Before or After You Finish the Script?


There are no rules when discussing the idea of a show bible. Though a general outline is expected with show bibles, the process varies. You can write the bible before giving a direction and outline of your script, whereas writing it afterward can help you know where the show is going.


How to Write a Show Bible


1. Title and Author


Like any other outline, a show bible should begin with a cover page with the show’s title and your name (any other writers). The cover page design format is entirely up to you. Some writers choose an exciting cover to set themselves apart.


2. Logline


If you didn’t know, a logline is a summary or description of your script. Keep it at the top of the logline and introductory page. Besides the logline, include an introduction to your script. This should focus on why you chose to write this story and, more specifically, what inspired you.


3. Structure and Style


The structure and style section refers to how your story will be told. Does it follow a linear story structure? Is every episode singular, or does the audience need to follow along? How long will a typical episode run? You can answer vital questions with the structure, while the style should discuss your story’s overall tone.


4. General Themes


A theme refers to the deepened layer of a show’s message. What is your show really about? Come up with the key themes you’d like to cover throughout the show. Having this in mind will significantly help your writing, staying true to what the show means instead of straying from the path.


5. The Setting and World


No matter how abstract it might be, every script has a setting and world that accompanies it. What about your story? What time is set-in, and what is the world like? Going over these vital parts will paint the picture in your head and the people interested in the script.


6. Characters


Characters can make or break a script. Have a general list of every primary and side character, discussing their physical appearance and personality. Think of it as a general description of someone.


7. Story Breakdown (First Season Especially)


The story breakdown should focus on what the first season is telling story-wise. Have an episode-by-episode summary, discussing what episode means to the overall story. Keep in mind any linking you need if you have continuing plot points.


8. Future


The last and most critical portion of the show bible is in the future section. Why would someone consider your script if there isn’t more to be made? Unless it’s strictly a mini-series, the future section can help you and other plans ahead if you get another season.