Tag Archives: plot

3 ways to avoid inconsistency

Think… Monsters Inc. Remember that line, when Mike and Sully leave the apartment and Mike says to Sully, “You’ve been jealous of my looks since the fourth grade.” Remember that? Good.

Now, think… Monsters University. And how jealous Sully was of his good looks in the… Fourth grade? Wait.

The entire premise of Monsters University makes that line in Monsters Inc completely impossible. Not to mention they act like they’ve never met the Abominable Snowman when they get banished in Monsters Inc, but the end of Monsters University flips that on it’s head as well.

You can’t blame Monsters Inc too much. I mean, how long was it between the first movie and the second? Time between storytelling is a perfect excuse for inconsistency. Just take a look at X-men. Which one? Oh, take your pick. You can pretty much sit down and watch any two x-men movies and there will probably be something that contradicts something else.  My favorite is “X-men Origins: Wolverine” versus “The Wolverine.” We find out in Origins that Logan had bone-claws, got them fused with adamantium, and then shortly thereafter lost all memory of his life before. But the opening sequence in the Wolverine shows Logan hanging in a well using his bone claws to hold him up. When this scene is mentioned later in the show, Logan seems to remember the occurrence.


photo credit: mememaker.net

Inconsistencies pop up in almost any series, and even in standalone stories. What we say at “once upon a time” might conflict with what we say at “happily ever after.” We’re never going to be able to make that perfect (That’s a recurring theme throughout my blog) but here are some pieces of advice you can try to minimize them.

Style Sheets

I learned about Style Sheets in an editing class I took a few months ago. Basically it’s one piece of paper, or excel document, or whatever works best for your mind, where you write down anything that you might forget. Did you spell your main character’s name Marc or Mark? Write that down. Did your supporting character tell his friend he has a severe peanut allergy? Write it down, because you don’t want him eating a PB&J halfway through the book. (Unless you intend to do a hospital scene shortly thereafter.)

Style sheets are going to help you out in keeping things straight for the novel you’re working on, but if you end up writing a series, make sure to keep your style sheets from book one and two, etc. They will be invaluable. It means you won’t have to go back and read through the first few books while you’re trying to write the next one. That being said, it leads me into my next tip.

Read what you wrote

I know this one seems a bit obvious. But it’s a little more than that. I suppose I should say “read what you wrote, and read it fast.” Don’t skim, because you might skim over the inconsistencies. But before you hit “publish” on that novel, read through the whole book, not with an eye to edit or “fix” it, but with an eye to catch any inconsistencies. It’s incredible how taking a whole afternoon and crashing through your novel, (kind of like one of your addicted readers might do) can help you realize you said one thing in chapter 2 and something else in chapter 28.

And last but not least,

Know your weaknesses

This one I might just be preaching to myself, but I know my weaknesses when it comes to inconsistencies. I might write something on page 87 that says the drive would take seventeen hours to get out to the test site. Perfect. But on page 92, after they’ve done their tests, gotten some lunch, shot the breeze, or whatever, they get in the car to head home and show up just before dinner.

I know I’m awful at timeline stuff. Some people could just put timeline stuff in their style sheet and have no problem. That doesn’t work for me. I invested in a timeline program just last year, and absolutely love it. I can keep track of when things happen, and can even put in notes of how long google says it takes to get from point A to point B. It gives my story a lot more realistic feel to it, when I can say “it took us a day and a half to get to L.A.” rather than just saying, “Sometime later we arrived in L.A.”

So what techniques do you use to keep track of and avoid your inconsistencies? Let me know in the comments below.

Have fun, and enjoy the writing.


Why don’t we close the book?

My husband and I have this habit of going to thrift stores or pawn shops and picking up movies. They’re often ones we’ve never seen and never heard anything about. We’re of the mindset that you can go rent a movie for two bucks, watch it once, and if you like or dislike it you’re out two bucks and you never get to (or have to) see it again. But if you buy the thing for two bucks, and you like it, then you own it. If you dislike it, there are a lot of options for getting rid of it. The trash can is one of those many options.

We’ve found a few movies that have needed that option.

The other night we sat down to watch one of these movies we picked up in such a manner, and before the thing even started I said, “So how long do we give it before we quit watching?” He said, “Twenty minutes.”

Agreed. So we’d watch for twenty minutes and if it seemed like it was going to be awful, then we would just turn the thing off.

Well. Twenty minutes later and I looked at him and said, “What do you think?”

He said, “I don’t know. What do you think?”

I said, “It’s kind of weird. But I’m curious what’s going on. Give it another few minutes?”


So another few minutes passed and the movie just got weirder. And yet…we were curious what was going on. It got weirder. And weirder. AND WEIRDER. By the time we were twenty minutes from the end we were both so freaked out and weirded out and almost disgusted that we wanted nothing more than to turn the darn movie off. But we didn’t.

Oh, why didn’t we?

The story ended with a strange and pointless twist that basically nullified everything that had happened in the movie. It was almost as bad as the ending that says, “And then I woke up and realized this was all just a dream.” (But not in that “Inception” kind of way.)

And I looked at my husband and said, “Why didn’t we turn that off at twenty minutes?”

This movie wasn’t the only one this has happened to us with. Obviously, since we asked how long we wanted to give it. Usually when we keep asking each other if we should turn it off and we keep thinking we should and never do, it’s more often than not a dissatisfying ending. So why do we not turn it off at twenty minutes?

I think the reason is because we’re such story addicts. We start watching something and we see the hook, and we see the problems, and we want it explained. We want to understand why it is that these things are happening to these people. I often have a similar problem with novels, but I’m more likely to set it down and leave it down with a novel. A movie keeps things moving right in front of you with no down time, which makes it a much harder decision to actually stop.

So how many times have you kept watching, even when you hate the movie? How many times have you gotten to the end of a novel and wanted to throw the thing across the room? Was it worth it? Do you somehow feel a little more completed because, even if it was an awful movie or book, at least now you understand what happened at the end? Is there a reason why you finished? Let me know in the comments section below.

Have fun and enjoy the writing.