Have you ever read a story where the main character has one hair color when the book starts and then somewhere in the middle of the book suddenly it’s a whole other color (not shade, but true color). Or what about the character who is so afraid of flying he’s never taken a vacation, yet on page 45 he is jumping out a plane skydiving. (OK, this is a bit of an extreme example, but you can see where I’m going here.)
These are issues of continuity and they can make or break a story for readers. Continuity is such an important component of storytelling that Hollywood even has people whose jobs it is to watch for each and every little detail to make sure it is consistent throughout a scene and film.
Continuity issues can present themselves in varying ways from minor to major – from your hero or heroine’s eye color changing midway through the book to plot points like where your character lives or
At this point, you are probably saying to yourself, ‘but didn’t Faygie write in the previous “B is for Believability” post that a character must evolve and change in the story,' so why can’t my character who is afraid of flying suddenly be skydiving in the middle of my book. After all, that sounds so cool and hero-like!
Here’s the thing, there’s a difference between a character who grows, changes and evolves throughout the course of your book or series and mistakes because it was “convenient” for the story or someone simply didn’t bother checking. The first one is organic story growth, that’s what you want from your characters. The latter, intentionally or not, can be seen as unprofessional and off-putting to your readers.
None of us want that to happen.
Admittedly, mistakes do happen, but in a number of cases these errors can be fixed with a sharp eye and careful re-reading of your manuscript. Ideally, a copy editor will catch these mistakes and fix them.
But as a writer it’s up to you check and recheck your work. If it helps, create a cheat sheet or a bio for your characters. This will be especially useful if you are planning a series around your characters. (You don’t want to have a hero in book one who always wears a white cowboy hat suddenly don a blue baseball cap with no explanation.)
I know that there are some writers, who, when doing their revisions, will use highlighters to mark out character references, descriptions, etc., to ensure there are no mistakes.
See what works best for you. Good luck.
YOUR HOMEWORK: Grab a piece of paper and start making notes based on the first descriptions of your characters. Compare your early impressions to how your characters appear later in the story. Do they mesh or do you need to fix your later impressions?
Writer, Editor and Author of the Achdus Club novels for girls.