If you’re an aspiring screenwriter with an interest in television, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of a TV series bible, but if you’ve never actually pitched a show, there’s a chance you’re not 100% clear about what that is. A series bible can be an essential tool in pitching a television show. It’s used as an additional way to explain the tone, look and themes of your pilot. It’s as important as your log line (if you’re not 100% clear about loglines, check out 3 Essential Steps to Writing a Killer Logline).
So, what exactly is a series bible? The best way I can describe it is as an in-depth extension of your pitch. A series bible can explain and clarify a number of elements in your project, and there isn’t just one way to craft it. However, most bibles include details about the tone of the show, character descriptions, the show format, ideas for future episodes and season arcs as well as the visual elements that bring your story to life. Your physical (or digital) bible should reflect the tone of your show: if it’s comedy, it should be humorous; if it’s a drama, create some suspense. This is where the flexibility on the structure comes into play and where you demonstrate how your show is different from the hundreds of others that are being pitched.
I’ve compiled some examples for you of a few series bibles of popular television shows. You’ll notice each one varies from the others in some way. Some are more visual and some (older ones) are strictly word docs. However, each has found a way to reflect the tone of the show – and what makes it uniquely compelling. Take a look, study them, and learn from series bibles that helped turn the pitch into a reality:
While each series bible is unique, each one finds a way to connect with the reader and express the creator’s original vision. If you write your series bible before you write the pilot, it can help guide you by keeping in mind the tone of the show, the character and series arcs, the target audience, and other essential and unique elements of your show. The more you have figured out, the stronger and more confident your pitch will be, and the extra work ahead of time will be well worth it in the long run.
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Director of WGA's Showrunner Training Program, creator & Director of the CBS Diversity Writers Mentoring Program, international speaker and a leading expert on entertainment career strategies, Carole Kirschner teaches creative professionals how to navigate the often mystifying landscape of show business. Her book, Hollywood Game Plan: How to Land a Job in Film, TV and Digital Entertainment is a primer on how to break in and move up in the entertainment industry. Through her popular workshops, Carole teaches writers, producers, directors and executives the real world strategies that will help them not just succeed, but thrive.