Consistency and Continuity

Consistency and continuity are integral for the success of any series. It doesn’t matter if it is a book series or movie series or even a TV series. Disney faced the wrath of Star Wars fans when it purchased the series and suddenly announced that the Expanded Universe would no longer be canon. But why? Why are readers — or viewers — so tied to characters and universes being consistent from one work to another?

The answer to that is simple. When you begin a series, you are building a world. You are creating characters your readers identify with. They may love the characters or hate them. If you’re lucky, it will be a bit of both. After all, the real world is filled with flawed characters, good and bad, and so should your fictional world.

But the reader or viewer also learns the rules of the world you have created. So, if you break those rules, you had better have laid the ground work for it. Otherwise, you will have broken faith with your audience. Why? Because you’ve told them certain things will happen in certain situations because of the rules of the world. Those rules are to be followed unless you give a reasonable explanation for the change.

Consistency also means making sure you carry over the same basic information from one installment to another. Yes, your characters should grow but some things don’t change, at least not without explanation. Eye color, age, sex, name, just to identify a few. If your leading character is from a big family, make sure you keep the number of siblings — and their sexes — consistent throughout. Don’t change it unless there is a birth or death or one of the siblings has done something to get them thrown out of the family. If that’s the case, you’d better make sure you tell your audience what happened and when.

For example, say your main character is one of four brothers but five siblings. That means he has three brothers and a sister, not four brothers and a sister. If your characters haven’t gotten married yet, don’t refer to them as husband and wife unless they have established a common law marriage — unless, of course, they are referring to themselves that way. In narrative, you will have your audience wondering if they missed something. If a character is a lawyer in one book, don’t make him a doctor in the next without explanation.

And yes, I have seen all this and more in different books over the last few months.

The reason I’ve been thinking about this is simple. I’m having to make sure I hit all the consistency notes on Dagger of Elanna. The initial very rough draft was written before I published Sword of Arelion (Sword of the Gods Book 1). What that means is that as I go over this final version before sending it off to my editor, I have to make sure it gels with the first book. One of you caught one consistency error  when reading the snippets I’ve posted — I had changed Cait’s rank without meaning to — and I really appreciate it. It is tedious but necessary, as I realized yet again yesterday when I caught another error. It wasn’t major and it is possible no one would have noticed. But I don’t want to put out something that isn’t my best work.

The edits continue. The book will be out next month on schedule. In the meantime, I’m checking and cross-checking to make sure I don’t stumble when I should run.

So, quick question. What were the worst — or funniest — consistency errors you’ve seen in a movie, tv show or book?

I guess it’s now time for me to do a bit of promo.

Witchfire Burning (Eerie Side of the Tracks Book 1) is now available for purchase.

Long before the Others made their existence known to the world, Mossy Creek was their haven. Being from the wrong side of the tracks meant you weren’t what the rest of the world considered “normal”.

Normal was all Quinn O’Donnell wanted from life. Growing up on the “wrong side of the tracks”, she had been the only normal in the family. The moment she was old enough, she left and began life as far from her Texas hometown as possible. Now she has a job she enjoys and a daughter she loves more than life itself. Their life is normal, REALLY normal, until her daughter starts calling forth fire and wind.

Quinn knows they must go back so her mother can help five-year-old Ali learn how to control her new talents. But in Mossy Creek nothing is ever simple. Quinn’s mother has gone missing. Secrets from Quinn’s past start coming back to haunt her.

And the family home is more than a little sentient.

Can Quinn keep everyone — particularly Ali — safe? And will she ever get back her illusion of normalcy?

Witchfire Burning is the start of a new series. However, it takes place in the same town as Slay Bells Ring and some of the same characters are present in both. Both have a little bit of mystery and a little bit of romance. Witchfire adds in an urban fantasy note as well. While it wasn’t a book I had planned when I sat down at the beginning of they year to figure out my publication schedule, it’s one that decided it needed to be written and I had a blast doing it. I hope you guys all enjoy reading about Quinn and company as much as I enjoyed writing about them. Also, for those who prefer print versions, it should be available in approximately two weeks. I’ll make an announcement when that version is ready.

7 Comments

  1. What were the worst — or funniest — consistency errors you’ve seen in a movie, tv show or book?

    In no particular order – the most egregious (imo)
    Star Trek: Spock. Just watch “The Cage”, Spock is smiling. From “Where No Man”, we learn that he has a human in his family. In “Journey to Babel” we find out that it is his Mother. He went from “part” human to “half Vulcan”
    Babylon 5: Minbar gains a caste. (B5 is a series known for being consistent, so this sticks out.)
    Dragonriders of Pern: Dragonflight – dragon changes colors. Character’s name changes between Dragonflight and Dragonquest. (T’ton/T’ron) White Dragon – two years are missing from Ruth’s age. (truth be told, I have a list of inconsistences from this series. Anne told good stories, but man she really could have used a story bible)

    Nocturnal Origins – One of the characters’ cat form goes from a lion to a cheetah. ((It may have been fixed this since I read it in 14, but it did stick in my mind.))

  2. In defense of Star Trek, both “The Cage” and “Where No Man” were pilot episodes for Star Trek.

    Thus the character Spock hadn’t been completely defined in the pilot episodes.

    Off Topic comment, Roddenberry at first had Spock as half-Martian not half-Vulcan.

    In S. M. Stirling’s “Lords Of Creation” series (both Mars & Venus are livable thanks to Alien Space Bats), there’s mention of a Television Series by Roddenberry with a half-human half-Martian crewman. 😉

    1. I know. It just so funny when you’re watching Menagerie to see Spoke smiling and getting all hyper when the women vanish off the transporter pad.

      Heh, lets face it, they probably hadn’t decided who the human in the family was unit D. C. Fontana turned in the draft for Journey to Babel. _laugh_ Amok Time “hints” but does not say any thing more than that he is part Human.

      1. Seem to remember that was one of the Vulcan names they had on the list? Along with Spirk, Spork, Smirk…

        I seem to remember somebody writing that screenwriters were among the Mob’s best customers during Prohibition.

        1. There is a list of “suggested” names for the character (and/or other Vulcans) in Inside Star Trek. The first purported “behind the scenes” book I ever read. Still have my copy somewhere.

  3. Some of the things from TV and derivative works that irked me.

    1. Starting in the second season of Korra, the established background for how bending came to be from TLA was radically changed in such a way that it made it unwatchable to me.
    2. the new BSG was written without any sort of planning as to an ending, so you had multiple references in the mini-series and first season that made Caprica and the others blatantly colonies of modern Earth (including a ship named for a WWI battle), then they pretty much jumped the shark with the last season and made them into a bunch of technophobes in Earth’s prehistory that bred themselves out of existence (so that the little half-breed was the maternal ancestor of all humanity).
    3. The current crew in charge of the Robotech animated series made retcons to the early timeline to try to focibly match it up with the series it was derived from, that would have ended in multiple Total Cast Kills at different timeline points, then made a sequel movie that fundamentally changed the ending while voiding the last two episodes of the series – that were vital to how the series ended. Then, in the RPG for the sequel, waffled back and forth for months over how a mech functioned (was it transformable or limited to one form?), among other things, delaying the RPG for those months as they had to go back and change it back and forth after every approval, then within weeks of the RPG being published with the mech being static in form, the comic book staff that worked directly for the company (and was part of the RPG’s approval process) wrote and had published a comic where the mech changed forms. They asked me and several other fans for help with timelines, continuity, translations of source material that their material was licensed from (like transformers, the series was derivative of a mish-mash of unrelated Japanese items that they wrote their own timeline for), then either ignored our input, or stole it without properly crediting the research. In my case, they asked for timeline input, and I pointed out several items that were hilariously wrong (for example, a plane taking off early one month, and the flight landing a month later – with 3 people crammed into a 2-seater plane!), and the changed items that were the worst offenders (the ones that would END the series RIGHT THERE from everyone dying, if done their way instead of how the series originally aired 15-20 years earlier), were the ONLY NON-NEGOTIATIBLE changes.

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