The Rag & Bones Series Bible

This is going to be the first in a series of posts detailing a project that I’m working on, which, as the title suggests is creating a Rag & Bones Series Bible.

Up until now, I’ve had a series of documents created in Evernote containing information about the series, but that’s about it. It isn’t easy to use, because you have to keep swapping between documents, and you can’t sort the information.

A paper copy would be no better.

So, I’m going to create a database using LibreOffice. You can download the software here. LibreOffice is a free, open source office suite. The database function is called Base. (LibreOffice is very similar to OpenOffice. In fact, they come from the same original source, so much of this information will be interchangeable if you use OpenOffice instead.)

Now, creating a database may seem like a rather complicated task, and I’m not denying that it will take time, but I have created databases in Microsoft Access in my previous working life – proper relational dabatases, not just lists of information. That’s what I intend to do here.

I know it won’t be easy learning a new dabatase programme, but I taught myself to use Microsoft Access (many years ago) and although I haven’t used it for about four or five years, I can still remember the theory. Now, I’m not a datbase guru by any means, but I can find my way around, and I do understand the concepts.

I have already started playing around with the application. It is more basic than Microsoft Access, but that’s only to be expected as it’s a free program, but the theory of how you set it up is the same.

If you’re interested in trying a project like this yourself, why not follow my progress and I’ll try to give you tips along the way. We’ll start today with planning.

Planning is the most important phase of creating a database. If you get something wrong at this stage, then it will cause you problems later. I know that very well from when I had to start adapting a database that had been created by someone else. So, I’m not going to rush this stage. However, because I know something of what I’m doing, I’m use LibreOffice to help me do my planning.

Below is what I have so far.

Defining Your Tables

What you’re looking at here is the beginning of the table structure.

Information in databases is contained within different tables that have different relationships with each other. This is not, by any stretch of the imagination, the final version. It is a work in progress. But I find it easier to see something like this in a visual form, rather than just lists on bits of paper.

If you’ve never created a database before, you might wonder why the information I want to capture is not in one simple table. It’s a reasonable question, but as I said earlier, I want a relational database.

In very simple, but hopefully not technical, terms, that is:

  • I sort the information into different types. You can see I have character info in one table, book info in another, etc.
  • I create relationships between those tables. For example, I want to detail all the different scenes in each book.

For the database to work, I need to be able to create more than one scene for each book, so the relationship between the book table and the scenes table is a one-to-many relationship. This is why you cannot have all the information in one table. I’ll break that down a little further.

If you only had the information in one table, you’d have to enter all the book information every time you entered a scene. If you have it in two different tables, you only put the book information in once.

So, before you start, you need to list out all the information you want, split it down and work out the relationships between the data.

Let’s take another couple of tables as an example. The scene table is only a general description of the scene. For a more detailed description, I intend to break down the information into facts and events in the timeline table. That table has to have a relationship with the scenes table (one scene to many facts), but also with the character table (one character to many facts).

You can see how this can get complicated. I think that’s enough for now.

Next time I’ll try to show you how to create your tables and define the relationships. I’m not sure how soon that’ll be – it may be a couple of weeks before I’ve finished defining my tables completely.

Hopefully, see you then.

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