Earlier this month, while lying on the couch recovering from a clutter clearing accident (darn New Year’s resolutions), I watched a Christmas movie that I had recorded in late November. It was a TV mini-series set in the old west. I was transported to a simpler time where skies were blue and free of smog; horses ruled the road and people looked well-groomed and impeccably dressed despite harsh conditions.
In one scene, an old codger named Nicholas, played by actor Ernest Borgnine, drove a buckboard wagon to transport a badly injured sheriff home. The story question at that moment was: would Nicholas be able to get the sheriff home in time to be with his family for Christmas? It was a nail biter so you can imagine I was completely engrossed.
Yet, I became distracted when I noticed a dust cloud with a glint of silver rolling down a dirt road in the background. What the… I bolted upright from my prone position and grabbed for the remote, knocking over a bottle of ibuprofen in the process. Stop. Rewind. Play. Land sakes! That shiny object was a 21st century truck (or SUV) rocketing down the hill heading straight for the pioneers. Well, that took me out of the story.
I pondered how this vehicle kicking up a dust cloud could pass by completely unnoticed. Since the scene featured an actor with the star power of Ernest Borgnine, I imagine the movie crew would have been very careful. Plus, they are usually watchful for intrusions on the set and if they miss something, professional editors catch it in post-production. One explanation is that the editors noticed and decided it would be too much money to digitally erase the truck. Or, maybe it slipped by unnoticed because everyone was SO focused on the characters’ actions and dialogue in the foreground that they didn’t pay attention to the background.
I wondered…am I concentrating solely on my characters’ actions to the exclusion of the background details, too? Did the murder in my story take place on the third floor of a two story house? Was the body buried in a flat prairie one day and in a mountainous terrain the next? Did the middle-aged murderer really grow 6” taller by the end of the book? Yikes.
I think continuity mistakes are inevitable in a first draft since a story evolves as it is written even if one uses a detailed outline. After completion, every major and minor change requires the writer to check for consistency throughout the book. The only way I know to do this is to keep track of tedious details, be vigilant during editing and get critiques.
How do you catch discrepancies that suddenly materialize and threaten to barrel through your story?
WWK Blogger Paula Gail Benson has two short stories running in Kings River Life Magazine this weekend, "Pelican Spring" and "The Mama Factor." Both are Mother's Day short stories. You can read them by going to: http://kingsriverlife.com/category/kings-river-reviewers/terrific-tales/
Linda Rodriguez is a finalist in two categories for the International Latino Book Awards (given out at BEA the end of May)--one for Every Last Secret and one for editing Woven Voices: 3 Generations of Puertorriquena Poets Look at Their American Lives (with Gloria Vando, Anika Paris, and Anita Velez-Mitchell). Congratulations, Linda!
The second SinC Guppy anthology, Fish Nets, has been released by Wildside Press. WWK authors, Gloria Alden, Warren Bull, Kara Cerise and E. B. Davis have short stories in this volume, which can be bought at Wildside Press, the usual retailers and will be available at the Malice Domestic Conference. Look for "the story behind the stories" on May 1 here!
Upcoming Salad Bowl Saturdays include authors Sasscer Hill on 5/18 and Carolyn Mulford on 5/25. If you are interested in being a guest blogger, send a message to Jim Jackson at email@example.com.