Monday, November 14, 2011

Continuity

How important is continuity to a novel? I'm not talking big stuff, but smaller things. I've recently finished a novel where there were a number of small continuity errors. One minor character was found drowned in a canal. Later on it states that he was shot through the forehead. My guess is that if you shot in the forehead, you'd be dead before you hit the water, especially when you were shot and then transported to the canal. In another place, a person goes to sleep in the back of a car but wakes up in the front seat. Even the most restless of sleepers would find it difficult make that transfer. There were also temporal issues, where there wasn't enough time between related events. Do these kind of issues ruin a read for you, or do you just brush over and ignore them?

7 comments:

Sarah said...

You did well to spot them. I'm useless at finding errors like that unless they're blindingly obvious. I guess the back to front seat error is a simple one. The drowned/shot in the head mistake sounds like bad editing.

Margot Kinberg said...

Rob - Interesting question! I find continuity matters a lot to me. And interestingly, I've found it matters more as I've started to write myself...

Dorte H said...

I think we all make those errors in the first drafts, thinking we will sort it out later. And of course we forget all about it - which is why we need editors and beta readers before our books reach people who have actually PAID to read them ;)

pattinase (abbott) said...

This drives me crazy in a movie. In a novel, it would be even worse.

John Gaynard said...

"...a person goes to sleep in the back of a car but wakes up in the front seat. Even the most restless of sleepers would find it difficult make that transfer."

This blog post is worthy of Flann O'Brien! No higher compliment can I pay than that! Personally, I think continuity is very important, although there is a tendency to forget, when reading page 448 of a novel, the detail of what was written on page 156.

Sharon Wildwind said...

Glitches like this drive me crazy, and I'm as guilty as the next writer. In one book I had a character buy some rural land. I'd meant for her to buy 60 acres, but it ended up in print as 6 acres. In subsequent books, I acted as if she had more than 6 acres to play around with, and no one has, so far, called me on the error.

Rob Kitchin said...

I quite often spot one or two minor continuity errors in a book. In The Somme Stations I reviewed last week there were two characters that were conflated in a couple of places. It was kind of a bump that required re-reading but I didn't find it too disconcerting. In the latest novel, however, they riled me. I think it was amplified by the story in general. I'm sure I have them in my own stories, along with typos, etc.