I wouldn’t consider myself an “expert” editor, but seeing as I’ve spent the last two months of my life editing Imminent Danger, I’d say I’m at least qualified to give out a few amateur tips.
Today’s topic revolves around keeping track of the little things. I’m not talking about punctuation, or spelling, or capitalization. I’m talking about remembering what your character is actually doing. As in, where are they in a particular scene? Are they standing? Are they sitting? If they were sitting and then stood up, are they still standing the next time we hop back to them? Are they holding anything? Do they not have it when they say their next line of dialogue? Where did it go?
My biggest faux-pas with this type of thing came not in Imminent Danger, but in a Harry Potter fanfiction I wrote years ago called Harry Potter and the Dream Come True. In the story, I had Harry get magical laser eye surgery so that he wouldn’t need his glasses. I promptly forgot about that, and in the next chapter he was wearing glasses. From that point on, in some chapters he wore them, and in some chapters he didn’t. My readers were furious. They demanded I change it. I had every intention of doing so, but then I went to university and forgot all about Harry and his mysterious disappearing and reappearing glasses. Heck, it’s Hogwarts. There are weirder things there than magic glasses, am I right?
I’m probably not. That’s okay, though. Moving on!
So I’ve compiled a handy list of little things in your book/novella/screenplay/poem that you might want to keep track of in order to prevent inconsistencies and what I call “Reader Rage”. Thus, I present to you:
Keep Track of the Little Things! (a checklist)
~ Position (e.g., sitting, standing, kneeling, crouching, sprawled unconscious on the floor)
~ Attire (e.g., glasses, hat, sandals, muumuu)
~ Appearance (e.g., eye colour, hair colour, height, weight, horrendous disfigurements)
~ Current Mood (e.g., happy, depressed, furious, lustful)
~ Possessions (e.g., weapon, precious heirloom, beverage, cell phone, super-weapon of ultimate destruction)
Okay, I ran out of ideas. But you get the point! You want to avoid an Ascanius situation at all costs. And for those of you who didn’t study Classical Studies extensively and haven’t read Virgil’s Aeneid (so, no one, right?), Ascanius is a kid who varies in age from a toddler to a teenager throughout the story based on what the situation demands from him. One moment he’s leading troops into battle, the next he’s being bounced on Dido’s lap. I’m simplifying things, obviously, but that’s his age problem in a nutshell.
There aren’t enough pictures in this post, so here are various representations of Ascanius in art. Note how he varies from (winged?) baby to teenager to child:
Minor logical consistencies are indeed minor, but they’re still hella annoying if you notice them while reading. So fix them before that happens!
Random link of the day (ultimate troll edition):
Note before clicking: “Ken M” is a person who goes around and posts “troll” comments for his or her own amusement. Other commenters don’t understand he is “trolling”, and react poorly.