Writing a novel takes time-it’s not accomplished overnight. For many of us, it may take several months and this can lead to problems in the storyline. To put it simply – we forget the little stuff. The lack of continuity can ruin a good story simply because the inconsistent details become a distraction too big to ignore.
Ex: The heroine was walking to her car – however, when she arrives – it has become a truck. It’s a little thing but it takes the reader out of the moment.
While each of us has a different writing process, there are things we can do to minimize the lack of continuity in our stories.
1. Besides outlining or storyboarding, consider a timeline. Timelines are a great way to “see” the story as it unfolds. Although, there are timeline creators available for download, I prefer to make my own. I tend to get pretty detailed – time/dates, character introductions & events (major and minor). For quick reference, I add things like daily schedules on the side.
2. Know the setting. Whether your setting is fictional or not, you must familiarize yourself with the layout of the town, spaceship, etc. Take the time to draw a map – labeling streets, buildings, corridors, etc.
3. Know the characters. Create a character biography sheet detailing everything: physical description, birthday, likes/dislikes, hobbies, family/friends, quirks, and important events that have impacted the character’s life.
4. Know your objects. If your character has an iPhone at the beginning of the story, he needs to be an iPhone in chapter 5.
5. Keep track of time: Make sure that the weather matches the time of year.
6. Read & Revise. A story is fluid – taking shape as it progresses. There will be times when ideas & characters appear and BAM! the story takes an unforeseen turn. Don’t just insert the idea/character and move on. Look at your timeline, outline, storyboard, lists, etc. – then fix the problem.
By taking the time to create reference lists, we can minimize the occurrence of story inconsistencies.