Consistency is remembering to account for the fact that your heroine is still trudging around in snow when you mentioned back in chapter such-n-such that it is, in fact, snowing. (Though I grew up in a snowy state, it’s easy to forget details like this when you’ve spent the past 16 years of your life in a snow-less desert.)
Consistency is fixing that reference to your characters being able to make out the expressions on each other’s faces when only 500 words earlier you said the light switch wasn’t working in the room.
Consistency is making sure you spell a name the same way twice, thrice, four times…seven times…a hundred times–even after halfway through the story you’ve decided to change it.
Consistency is continuously imposing your decision to have characters with special abilities display certain physical effects (emit a certain odor, a change in eye color, whatevs)…every time there’s a new scene in which they use their powers.
Consistency is a devil, and the devil is in the details, as they say.
But Don’t Overdo It
One of the challenges I’m facing with my story revolves around the constant rendering of my characters’ defining traits and gradual changes…without sounding like a broken record.
Good characterization is tough. I read a lot of reviews on other author’s works and characterization is one of those things that the author is either lauded for (“I loved such-n-such’s character! He’s so real!”) or criticized for (“How many times does he need to say ‘bloody’?”). Too much of one thing and people are all over it; too little and your characters run the risk of being cardboard. It’s partly an issue of balance that has to be sorted out while editing; there’s no way you can keep track of the frequency of little characterizations when you have to focus on first getting the entire story down on the page. (I can’t, anyway.)
A lot of the fixes I’ve been making lately on the first half of my edits (remember the scary stack of notes I was talking about before?) are mostly consistency checks. It’s like I have to do one sweep for fixing plot issues, another for consistency with smaller details and then eventually another round for line edits. This whole project has been a big experiment in discovering my own writing process and learning what does and doesn’t work. (One thing that doesn’t work is trying to do line edits on your first sweep; don’t even waste your time with stylistic changes until everything else is solid.)
So yeah. Though it took me longer than it should have, I’m just about done with integrating the suggested changes noted in The Stack. Now I can focus on editing the remaining 100K words of the novel without said Stack piling higher and glaring at me.
In any case, I’ve really got to get back to a regular rhythm of editing ’cause I still got a lot of work ahead of me. And folks, this is the year to finish Element 7 and start querying agents–well, after hitting up my beta readers. Though I’m sure I’ve got plenty left to learn, I’m feeling confident enough in my writing now to know that it’s nearing time to start putting myself out there. It’s only been five years in the making, but hey, no one learns to write a novel overnight.
What are your thoughts on consistency and characterization?
Also, how goes those writing projects?