Continuity: Let's Talk About Time
Continuity Errors can be manifested in a variety of ways. One way is with your story’s timeline. When weaving your plot, keeping track of how much time has past and what moment in time you are currently in is important. For example: your character is planning a wedding and has 12 months to do so. The story documents her journey and ends with her getting married and starting her life with her new husband. However, while at the beginning of the story, you establish the wedding date (12 months away), the end of the book is 18 months later, with no mention of the change. This presents a problem for your readers as their parameters for the story don’t add up.
To avoid this problem here are some ways to help you keep track of time:
1. Decide in the beginning how long your plot is going to take to unfold. This length can be whatever you desire, and should be kept through the entirety of the writing process.
2. Create a timeline. This can be a simple list of events or an actual timeline This can help you reference events later in the story and maintain accuracy, especially when working with a more complex storyline.
3. If your allotted plot time changes, and you have referenced it in your writing (as in my example above), make that change a major part of the timeline. As in the above example, maybe that deadline change is a major (or even minor) conflict for your protagonist. This is a lot simpler than trying to fix every reference you have made thus far to the deadline.
4. If you have a part of your story that is a detailed glimpse into the passage of time (for instance, a small, 2-day trip to a nearby town in your plot), make sure you keep track of the time. You don’t want your character to say on the second day that they have one day left.
5. When weaving a story using actual historic events, make sure your events line up with the actual time it happened. If your story is about a character in the mid eighties you don’t want to reference President H.W. Bush, because while it would be close, it’s inaccurate and your readers will likely notice the inconsistency.
Time can be a great tool for your writing and can help drive your plot. Happy writing!!!