Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Details, Details, Details!

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( Can you find the 16 differences between these images?)

My husband and I sometimes like to watch movies that include story note pop-ups. We enjoy that there are some interesting and little known facts to be learned that enrich our watching experience. Last night during an action adventure movie, a subtitle appeared that announced the current location of the characters. They'd traveled to a new city in a few hours.

The story note pop-up shared that the characters would have had to drive for 16 hours straight at 120 miles an hour to arrive there within the plot timeline. Oops.  "My wonderful editor would never let me get away with that," I told my hubby.

Continuity in fiction can be a challenge. Plot blunders are best noticed in the revision, not after publication. (Duh) A cat named Mitzy in Chapter One must not be referred to as Muffin in Chapter 32. Here are four ways to keep on top of those pesky details.

1. Keep a detailed list of the physical features, birthdays, etc. of each character. Most of us do this anyway as we flesh out our characters. The list helps with continuity as well. Have you accidentally changed your heroine's eye color later in the manuscript? Is her name spelled the same way throughout?

2. List details about your settings in the order in which they appear in your novel.  Have you made the same blunder as we discovered in our movie? How long would it actually take to get from one place to the other? Does the weather match the season portrayed in the story?

3. List the events that occur on a timeline. I like to use a calendar and jot down in the squares the things that happen on specific days and times.

4. Devote one read-through exclusively for fact checking.  Medical issues? Sure, you've done your research, but it couldn't hurt to run the details by a  healthcare professional.Things change rapidly in some professions. My medical contact did a read-through for me and highlighted places saying "We don't do it that way anymore."

Lists such as these really help in the revision process. Blunders may not be as easy for readers to catch as in the children's picture above, but I have stumbled many times as I've been reading a novel because something wasn't right. Any other ideas on how to keep things straight?

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  1. I've caught timeline errors in books I've read, and that's the first thing I've thought: Why didn't the editor catch that? Not the author. I don't know why I never wonder why the author didn't catch it.

    Good post, and great reminder to us authors!

    1. Thanks, Linda. I think we are too close to our stories sometimes to catch the little foxes that hide. Glad you stopped by:)

  2. I do this with movies, too. I think it's the natural editor and researcher in us that needs to get the detail right! What a great reminder for us. Thanks.

    1. Hi Cherie. Do you ever watch Riff Trax? It used to be Mystery Science Theater, where these guys (actually one guy and two robots) comment all the way through a 50s science fiction movie. So incredibly funny. Talk about blunders!