The Continuity Conundrum

Continuity = Continuousness = Coherency

One of the more difficult things when writing a novel—especially the first time out—is ensuring that everything is consistent and correct.

There’s nothing more funny (and really kinda embarrassing) than having a female protagonist with raven-black eyes in the opening and then sparrow-brown a few chapters later.  Contacts?  Iris transplant?  Methinks not.  We-ell, maybe, if you’re writing sci-fi / fantasy.

It’s fine to write off the cuff.  Not so fine not to do a final edit or two, or three.  Editing helps find flaws and mistakes.  But you know that.  So kudos to you.

And yes (been there!), it’s tough recalling what happened to Susie Creamcheese on page 18, or what she wore.  It may not be even matter.  But if good ol’ Susie spoke with an Arkansan accent, replete with local expressions, and lost it later on, your integrity as a writer could come into question.  Errors happen, sure.  Small ones are usually forgivable.  Glaring ones, not so much.

So, what areas should you be consistent with?

  • characters’ appearances & traits
  • characters’ names (I confess I, too, have mixed them up and/or changed them halfway through, slap on hand to me)
  • facts
  • locations, settings & places
  • seasons & time/timing
  • plot & action, and
  • things (if Susie’s riding a bike in Chapter 5 due to a fear of driving, why is she steering a convertible down the I-90 in Chapter 19?).

If you’re not going to do an outline before you start, that’s fine (some do, some don’t, including yours truly).  What you should do, as advice from one fellow writer to another: keep a scene breakdown and a character rundownNeither need be lengthy.

As I write the Triple Threat Investigation Agency series, I tend to have quite the extensive character rundown.  I’m always adding/updating.  Having both really does help with continuity (trust me on that).  Here’s how you might want to approach them.

Scene breakdown:

  • list chapters and each scene within
  • record major events (Susie and Lee went sailing; Lee fell off the sailboat; a strange surfer rescued Lee)
  • note day, time, and weather
  • have a “to do (later)” box so you remember something needs fixing/adding.

Character rundown:

  • list names, ages, characteristics, traits, likes and dislikes
  • note people and events important in a character’s life that play a part in the plot
  • do up a family history (this doesn’t have to be long, but anything that influences or shapes your characters’ lives should be documented).

Yes, both take extra time, but it’s a worthwhile endeavor.

Remember:

Continuity = Continuousness = Coherency

= Credibility.

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