Author Topic: [Guide] Internal Plot Consistency  (Read 562 times)

bardsandsages

[Guide] Internal Plot Consistency
« on: September 18, 2018, 06:23:02 AM »
In an effort to help build the forum and get some discussions moving, I'm going to post some topics with links to some of my blog articles that can trigger a conversation.

As an editor, working through internal consistency issues is a major part of my job. Sometimes these issues are caused by writers painting themselves into a corner and not knowing how to get out. Sometimes they are caused by authors forgetting what they wrote previously. Sometimes it falls back to BUT IT IS FANTASY WHY ARE YOU SO MEAN?

Internal consistency is vital to the suspension of belief readers need to enjoy a story.

https://bardsandsages.com/juliedawson/2016/03/29/batman-v-superman-and-the-quest-for-internal-plot-consistency/

related:
https://bardsandsages.com/juliedawson/2014/10/20/movie-review-dracula-untold/
« Last Edit: September 20, 2018, 03:58:42 PM by TimothyEllis »
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WasAnn

Re: Internal Plot Consistency
« Reply #1 on: September 18, 2018, 07:06:00 AM »
It happens a lot in both tradpub and indie fiction. Sometimes, when reading a trad book, I can almost see the editor saying, "No, it needs a higher stake, more emotion..blah, blah." Often, this ruins a book to make it more marketable. In some of the indie books I see it in, what I see is a lack of ideas at book five or six or nineteen. It's clearly an issue of doing their best to keep pumping out books in a performing series.


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idontknowyet

Re: Internal Plot Consistency
« Reply #2 on: September 20, 2018, 02:48:53 AM »
It happens a lot in both tradpub and indie fiction. Sometimes, when reading a trad book, I can almost see the editor saying, "No, it needs a higher stake, more emotion..blah, blah." Often, this ruins a book to make it more marketable. In some of the indie books I see it in, what I see is a lack of ideas at book five or six or nineteen. It's clearly an issue of doing their best to keep pumping out books in a performing series.


It is the worse when you can see that a writer had no idea what was happening in book 10 when they wrote book 1 2 or even 3. When you find success with a series  please pleas please only continue to write a story that you know where its going. I don't mean that the characters cant change your mind, but if you're just adding stories to make money and have already tied up all the plot lines move on to something else.

 

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Re: Internal Plot Consistency
« Reply #3 on: September 20, 2018, 06:16:44 AM »
It happens a lot in both tradpub and indie fiction. Sometimes, when reading a trad book, I can almost see the editor saying, "No, it needs a higher stake, more emotion..blah, blah." Often, this ruins a book to make it more marketable. In some of the indie books I see it in, what I see is a lack of ideas at book five or six or nineteen. It's clearly an issue of doing their best to keep pumping out books in a performing series.


It is the worse when you can see that a writer had no idea what was happening in book 10 when they wrote book 1 2 or even 3. When you find success with a series  please pleas please only continue to write a story that you know where its going. I don't mean that the characters cant change your mind, but if you're just adding stories to make money and have already tied up all the plot lines move on to something else.

I'm writing a serialized story right now and one reason it's taking so long...I include hints of what's going to happen later on.  This means I have to plan most of the major storylines now.

Like clues in a mystery, I prefer seeing something in book 1, reading a bit more in book 3 and then having it become an important part of the story in book 4. 

If there's nothing about a major storyline or new/important characters until book 4, it can seem like an afterthought.  Maybe it works, but I prefer a few clues in the beginning.
   
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elleoco

Re: Internal Plot Consistency
« Reply #4 on: September 20, 2018, 08:06:14 AM »
It is the worse when you can see that a writer had no idea what was happening in book 10 when they wrote book 1 2 or even 3.

Yes! I'm seeing a lot of this lately, maybe because of the popularity of series. Readers like me pick up on it because when we find something we like, we read as much of a series as is available in a binge. It depends on how egregious the inconsistencies are, but at some point I figure if the author doesn't care enough about their stories to make an effort, then I don't care at all.

Not having written a long series, I have to ask - is it that hard to keep track of what you wrote earlier? Do some just figure oops, wish I hadn't made it that way, I'll just ignore it now that it's inconvenient to this new idea - readers will never notice.

CTSinclair

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Re: Internal Plot Consistency
« Reply #5 on: September 20, 2018, 11:40:47 PM »

It is the worse when you can see that a writer had no idea what was happening in book 10 when they wrote book 1 2 or even 3. When you find success with a series  please pleas please only continue to write a story that you know where its going. I don't mean that the characters cant change your mind, but if you're just adding stories to make money and have already tied up all the plot lines move on to something else.

This is really true, and I think it sorta ties into what I am currently doing with my 1 major Fantasy series; world-building!

I think you can keep a series going, even with new characters or plot lines, if you have a grounded established world to build off of. It at least certainly helps keep you from having inconsistencies in your writing.
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Cathleen

Re: [Guide] Internal Plot Consistency
« Reply #6 on: September 21, 2018, 03:30:32 AM »
Nice post, Julie.

I've always thought that fantasy needs more internal consistency, not less. If you're going to make the leap that purple unicorns are our world's overlords, it's like you've used up the quota of disbelief. That's all you get. I've also heard it described as "you get one big lie," although to be fair, I've sometimes seen two work out. Not three.

Anyway, I'd like to see a distinction between plot holes and world-building holes because they're really two different things. For instance, I've always had problems with Harry Potter, but it's always been with the world-building. For instance, she's got abused kids going to Hogwarts, and it's pretty clear that all Hogwarts will do is provide them with a haven for ten months of the year. They've got to go home in the summer. And yet, there's never a case of muggle parents forcing their kids to fix the stock market or similar so they can get a leg up. Seriously? That would totally be an ongoing problem.

However, this has nothing to do with the actual plot. I always thought the books were well-plotted.

I've often wondered why we don't distinguish between the two. :)
 

oganalp

Re: [Guide] Internal Plot Consistency
« Reply #7 on: September 21, 2018, 07:16:19 AM »
The continuity and consistency is a big problem for "successful" series. This is not only limited to books but to TV series, books, games, even music albums. You can see that the original intention was to have a single story, and when demand arose, it became a manufacturing process rather than a creative one. It can be seen as a writer error, or (and) as a clash of consumerism vs creativity.

A good organization system and record keeping are essential in this case.

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PaulineMRoss

Re: Internal Plot Consistency
« Reply #8 on: September 21, 2018, 08:14:34 AM »
It is the worse when you can see that a writer had no idea what was happening in book 10 when they wrote book 1 2 or even 3.

Oops - you found me out! This is exactly me. I started my epic fantasy series by just sitting down and writing words. I had no clue where book 1 was going, never mind book 10. I just sort of made stuff up as I went along, and tossed stuff out that (sometimes) became useful three books down the line, and I never did get book 10 written lol.

People, don't do this. Trust me, it's not a good idea.

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cecilia_writer

Re: [Guide] Internal Plot Consistency
« Reply #9 on: September 22, 2018, 10:50:54 PM »
I have a long-running series of mysteries (just published the 16th) and I never know where I'm going with the current one, let alone any future novels. However, after about the 5th I realised I was losing track of character names and sometimes of what they had done in previous novels. I started an Excel file for the characters at that point and it also lists things they've done - not so much the really big things, which I tend to remember (no, I can't use him again, he was the victim in book 6) but the silly little side things (he spoke to the Tibetans in their own language in book 2).
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She-la-te-da

Re: [Guide] Internal Plot Consistency
« Reply #10 on: September 23, 2018, 08:37:12 PM »
Series. Bible.
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