How Is Your Continuity?

Check your manuscript - have your characters changed their names or the plot while you were not looking?

We once stayed for a week in a secluded Scottish cove where I was glad to discover there was no reception for mobile phones, nor was there a landline in the cottage. At the very top of the cliff, if you held your phone high in the air, you could be lucky and get reception. A peaceful place for a holiday and proof for writers that there are still settings where mobile phones cannot be used; where characters can escape without being traced or where persons in peril cannot call for help.

The plots of crime fiction, spy thrillers and romances changed forever when mobile phones became ubiquitous. No running along dark lonely roads or knocking on strange doors to fetch help, a quick call on your mobile and an air ambulance or armed response unit could be with you in minutes. No wonder authors enjoy putting their heroes and villains in spots where there is no mobile reception.

But you can’t always trust your characters. Reading through the third draft of one of my novels I realised several of my leading characters, in several scenes, had casually used their mobile phones when they knew perfectly well there was no mobile phone reception at Holly Tree Farm. Some minor plot changes were needed for the fourth draft.

Proof reading and editing the manuscript of a novel is not just about lost commas, the wrong ‘their’, ‘there’ and ‘they’re’ and ‘from’ turning to ‘form’ when you’re not looking. Whether you work on the computer or from a paper manuscript, continuity is just as important as on a film set. Robertson or Robinson, Thomas or Thompson, Sean or Shaun? Minor characters have no regard for accuracy and frequently change their first and last names from chapter to chapter. So it’s on to the fifth draft, maybe the sixth…

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Janet loves writing novels, short stories and blogging. Her favourite theme is how ordinary people cope when strange things happen to them.

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