Sunday, November 27, 2011

Getting the Right Consistency

You're all thinking this is another post about how Food Network rules my life, right? Wrong. That's not the kind of consistency I'm talking about.

Every time I have a long enough break from school, I drive to visit my family over 500 miles away. That's a lot of driving, and it's given me a chance to develop very specific road-trip pet peeves. Two of the biggies are related to consistency, but at opposite ends of the spectrum.

The first annoyance is the driver who can't seem to maintain speed on the highway. Not everyone has cruise control, and not everyone who has it wants to use it. That's fine. But when they vary as much as 15 or 20 mph due to nothing other than their own distraction, I get annoyed. Especially since they always seem to go fast when I could pass them, and drag their wagons when I'm stuck behind them indefinitely.

The other problematic drivers are consistent when they shouldn't be. They go one speed—say, 65 mph in a 70 zone. The highway cuts through a small town, so the speed reduces significantly, maybe down to 45 mph. They keep going 65. Too slow when they should go fast, too fast when they should go slow.

Okay, time for a writing parallel—why not?

Driver #1 is like a writer not maintaining consistency within the plot or characters. Yes, characters grow and change, but not out of the blue, and not just because it's convenient for you. Don't make your readers slam on the brakes for no reason.

Driver #2 is like a writer plowing through the ms with the same level of tension throughout. There should be peaks and valleys. Sometimes the reader needs a relative breather. Don't blast through the scenic village at the same speed you cruise through the desert.

Now I'm off to check my ms for both varieties of consistency.

Any tips, tricks, or thoughts related to consistency ... in writing, life, or anywhere else?


Masako Moonshade said...

My first thought is of the Young Author book I wrote when I was in the third grade-- it was a school program that was fantastic, though I never associated it with ACTUAL writing.

Almost every sentence I wrote began with "Suddenly" and ended with an exclamation point. It didn't matter what was going on, it was happening SUDDENLY!

I've stopped doing that since, but I've forgotten that more subtle versions of SUDDENLY! still exist. I'll check my MS too. Thanks for the heads up!

Masako Moonshade said...

Oh, and I wanted to tell you that you've got a blogging award yonder: