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A land forged from the fires of strife, blood of heroes, and touch of the gods.
Where deeds of great valor, vile evils, and blazing passions intertwine
to shape the course of elven and human history within.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Making it Real - Part 3

OK, now we come to a critical issue in storylines, and one that only careful editing can resolve; continuity.  How does your story flow?  Is it linear in timeline, or does it jump around with flashbacks?  Do you tell you story in present tense, past tense, first person, third person, or narative?  Regardless of how and why, you MUST keep the events in the story consistent with themselves and with each other. 
Readers can pick up on continuity errors; if you have two people in two different places doing something at the same time, then bring them together later, you have to be sure you've (1) allowed plenty of time for the event itself and (2) allowed time for travel between whatever points they are at.  Here's a good example; the TV show "24"; my gosh, how in the world (literally) do people cram all that stuff into 24 hours so far apart in distance?  I think there was an episode a couple of years ago where Jack was in the USA one scene and in China the next.  I've been to China; it takes nearly a full day to get there, so in this case, the continuity goes down the drain. 
Events themselves take time; conversations take time; movement in the story takes time.  All of these things must be balanced, adjusted, scheduled and rescheduled, to make the story flow without glaring jumps in continuity.  Give your characters ample time to do their thing and move on; you can't have them saving the world in the morning then going to lunch at noon; I think it takes a bit longer than that.
My stories take place in quasi-medieval times, where normal people walk or ride to wherever they're going.  Sure, magic exists, and has its own way to get people from place to place quickly, but its seldom used other than in the most dire of circumstances.  So things take longer than if you jump in your car and drive downtown, and I have to take that into consideration. 
Keep in mind during your writing, that continuity is a chain of events, and if any link is broken, it affects every other link thereafter.  Don't hesitate to re-read scenes you've written but don't quite remember how they went, if something in those scenes is important to what you're writing now.  Stay in touch with your timeline; write down an ongoing outline as you work up your scenes if you want to.  That will help keep you on track.  And remember, no matter how careful you are, during the editing, continuity errors in your story will crop up.  I guess you could say finding them is only a matter of time.

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