Last month I talked about “rabbit holes” that, no matter how interesting, can be a big distraction to writers. This month it is timeline continuity. With everyone staying home, and all the memes on social media, I thought this might be appropriate.
Have you ever been reading a story or watching a movie and thought, “Wait a second – how did they get there? Weren’t they just someplace else?” or “Didn’t the sun just rise? Why is it dark out already?” When I am working with my teen writers, I tell them these are things that pull your reader out of the story. Because we want our readers to be fully submerged in our tales, most authors try to avoid these issues as much as possible.
That said, there are times while we are writing that we suddenly realize something isn’t quite right. In my current work, I was getting close to the big reveal and I suddenly realized that one character was getting there about a week or two before the other. That doesn’t work! Needless to say, all writing stopped and out came the calendar. (I think I have a calendar for almost every story I have written. In fact, I started putting book titles at the top of the sheet so I know which goes with which.) Luckily, it was not as difficult a fix as I thought it might be. A quick reread, a couple “months” turned into “weeks,” and I was back to work.
Though we do try to avoid this, I’m sure it happens more often than we might even realize. In fact, the best among us make mistakes. Even our dear Jane reveals the dangers of using dates when you write.
Many JAFF writers use 1811 as the start for Pride and Prejudice because the Netherfield ball was held on Tuesday, November 26. When I was writing 12 Months of Darcy, I reread Pride and Prejudice with a fresh calendar to make notes (something no normal reader would do). Everything was rolling right along when suddenly … Wait – What? Mr. Gardiner’s letter was dated Monday, August 2? But in 1812, August 2 was on a Sunday. Of course, this in no way pulls the reader from the story. Honestly, we don’t care. But for us mere mortals, it is nice to know that even our muse missed an edit here or there.
So, what continuity issues drive you crazy when you are reading or watching TV/movies?