When my picturebook, The Journey of Oliver K. Woodman was first published, I lied to my mother-in-law. When she saw this image of Tameka writing a letter to her Uncle Ray, my MIL noticed that Tameka was left-handed. I told her that I asked the illustrator, Joe Cepeda especially to make her left handed like my MIL.
Fast forward to the second book featuring Tameka in search of a wooden woman. Again, Tameka writes a letter, but this time, Cepeda drew her right handed. Because of my lie, I realized immediately that we had a continuity error, and Joe redrew a small portion of the image to make her left-handed again.
Movies Have Continuity Errors
The Internet Movie Database regularly reports on the errors in movies (look for the “Goofs” link). For instance, for the Hunger Games, the IMDB reports 29 continuity errors. Here are the first three:
- When Katniss is turning around to show her fire dress, you can see her hair (bun) comes apart. But in the next scene her hair is nicely tucked in.
- When Peeta throws the metal ball at the spears, the career tributes (Cato, Marvel and Clove) are laughing at Peeta before he throws the ball. After Peeta has thrown it, Clove has gone and Glimmer is in her place.
- When the 12 chariots are parading to the final stopping spot, the fans are throwing flowers and all kinds of things on the road that they ride in on. When they show the overhead view and the last chariots pull up there is not one item on the roadway.
None of those is earth-shattering; none of those changes the plot; and most wouldn’t be caught by a casual movie-goer. Obsessive people find these things.
For Avengers: Age of Ultron, the IMDB reports five continuity errors – so far. Here are the first two.
- Tony’s watch said that it was 12.10 when he axed the logs outside. Then the watch changes into 11.20 when he talked with Fury inside the barn.
- After all the Avengers have tried to lift Thor’s hammer, Thor picks it up up with a drink in his hand. In the next shot the drink is on the table.
You would think that after all the efforts from hundreds of people, that a movie would be a bit of perfection. How can these errors slip in? It’s the complexity, I think. When there are so many moving parts, it’s difficult to make sure that everything is in sync with every other part.
Prevent Continuity Errors in Your Novel
One revision I’m doing right now in my novel is for continuity.
Read Your Whole Novel in a Short Amount of Time. Writing a whole novel can take a long period of time, and in that extended time period, you may forget a detail here or there. Were Alice’s eyes blue or green? Is her middle name Elle or Ellen? Reading rapidly for continuity can help refresh your memory.
Create a Character Bible, a Plot Bible, and Story Bible. Some writers like to create a “bible” of sorts. To do this, take a page (or a file, or a Scrivener document) and write the character’s name at the top of the page. Under it, write down the details about that character. Name, age, description, background details, etc. Any time you start to write about the character (or when you go back to check continuity) refer to that page/file. If you write it down, it acts as the “word of God” about the character.
Repeat, as you like for the plot or other story aspects.
Beta Readers Finally, you can find beta readers or critique partners who are sticklers for details like this. Turn them loose and let them go to town.
Whatever you decide, it’s a good idea to do a last read-through for continuity before you send it out to editors. But if you DO miss some small items, you’re in good company with Hunger Games and Avengers: Age of Ultron.