Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Just The Facts

It's happened to all of us.  You're engrossed in an awesome story and falling in love with the lead character; for all intents and purposes here, we'll call him Mitch.  (hey, don't judge me--I have to get a plug in for my books when I can!)  You learn early on that Mitch has beautiful, piercing blue eyes, the kind that grab you, hypnotize you, and pull you in for the kill.  You can almost see them yourself, and are feeling it, too.  A few chapters in, the author mesmerizes your senses even more with a scene where our sweet hero is engaged in a loving moment with his wife, and she descibes the way Mike's hazel eyes sparkle when he smiles.

Hey, wait a minute.  Did you say "hazel"?  Weren't they blue a few chapters ago?  And who the heck is Mike??

As the reader, you stop and wonder what in the world happened.  Did poor Mitch have an eye transplant the author neglected to mention, and his donor's eyes were hazel?  Did he decide to get colored contact lenses?   Did he enter the Witness Protection Program and change his name?  Did you read it wrong the first time?  You double-check.  Nope, you were right.  They were blue, and he was Mitch.  The author goofed up.

Inconsistencies in writing are actually more common than we authors would like to think, and they are something that can easily be avoided.  We sometimes get so caught up in telling the story that we neglect to pay attention to the details.  Perhaps you wouldn't do anything so drastic as what I cited in my example, but similar mistakes can definitely happen.  It can be something as simple as the way a character spells his name, what kind of car he drives, or his favorite color.  Series writers like myself have to be even more careful about using the same details in each installment.  How do you avoid inconsistencies?  The best way is to make notes of the details you feel are most important so you have something to refer to if the muse gets jumbled.  Also, should you decide at any point during your writing to change one of the details--a character's name, for example--be sure to comb through all parts of your manuscript to make sure it is changed throughout.  Ask your editor to be on the lookout for inconsistencies as well--don't let them get into print! (I accidentally had this happen--I had the wrong character refer to his wife, Cindy--and he isn't married!)

Paying attention to detail is crucial to avoiding inconsistencies that can cause your writing to appear unprofessional and unpolished.  Do you have other tips you can share?  Let me know in the comments.  Happy writing!


  1. Good article. Uh, yeah, it happened like that in my last novel I just finished. I decided the father's name is Mark, son's name is Samuel. About 40% into the book and I decide father's name should be Noah and the son's name should be Daniel. A quick Find/Replace and all is well. Unfortunately, it works for the word processor but not the actual word processor (me!) Going into edits and reading when suddenly the name flip/flops. Talk about getting some major editing headaches. Also, I hate when I read about 'eyes of the lightest blue, like the sky on a bright sunny day' and the next paragraph says "his dark, sinister eyes brooded" ... Is this the same guy? Huh? Oh, I loved the one story I read about this Nordic guy with the blonde hair, blue eyes and dark skin. Obviously somebody O-D'd on Coppertone. lol.

  2. I totally understand, Bob! It's just so easy to overlook the little things sometimes, especially since we as writers are so engrossed in telling the story and moving things forward. Believe it or not, it actually took me two reads through the PRINTED version of my book to find my error--and now that I know it's there, it bugs the daylights out of me! Fortunately, no one else has ever pointed it out (but I'm sure they will now! LOL) Thanks for sharing your story with everyone!

  3. I love your blog.I found you through Linkedin. I'm just getting ready to publish my first book on Kindle. I was embarrassed when I found, while doing one of my many edits, that some of my characters forgot their names had changed. :)

    Worse than that, though, was the time I wrote about an incident with my son. I think it was an assignment for the writing course I was taking. I had described him with blue eyes. When he read it, he couldn't believe his mother had forgotten that his eyes are green. Neither could I, but I learned a long time ago that it's easier to laugh at myself than for someone else to get a charge out of laughing at me.

    1. Hi Rhonda,

      Thank you so much for your comment! Don't feel too badly about forgetting the color of your son's eyes. I've done similar things myself--I believe we are sometimes so caught up in the big picture that we lose sight of the details. Exactly the point of this post! I'm so glad you are enjoying my blog, and I welcome your future comments. Wishing you the best in your writing, and congratulations on your ebook!!