Monday, June 15, 2009


I have to admit, I'm a fan of incontinuity. Or is it incontinence? Eh, better stick with incontinuity.

I know that sounds like an odd statement. But I love finding errors in films and television shows. My favorite continuity issue in a film is the coffeepot that gets picked up twice in White Christmas, while the sisters are in their dressing room at the nightclub in Florida.

My favorite incontinuity in television is from Monk (of course) in the episode "Mr Monk Buys a House." Traylor Howard is sitting on the steps, and as the camera angles change, sometimes her legs are crossed, and sometimes they're not--in rapid succession. We joked that she must have some kind of odd superpower.

But continuity issues are mistakes, and they show up in books too. For example, the book I'm reading now, The Alpine Scandal, by Mary Daheim. So far, I'm enjoying it. However, there is a continuity issue. The protagonist, Emma Lord, walks into a fast food place, orders takeout lunch, and is about to leave with her bag when she encounters the sheriff. So they sit down at a table and eat together. When she's done, oddly enough, the restaurant has transformed to a full-service establishment, and a waitress named Bunny presents her with a bill.

Here's the thing: even if the restaurant has both full-service and a take-out counter (rare, but they might exist), then poor Emma has been double-billed, assuming she paid for the bag she was ready to leave with.

Now, this type of problem is rare in books. But I've seen it happen. Characters can change hair color or some other attribute. I've read one book where a son suddenly turned into a daughter (or was it the other way around.) I caught one in my work in progress when one of my characters went from being a health nut to a junk-food junkie. Oops.

Now continuity issues in film are caused when two separate scenes are spliced together. Continuity issues in books may be caused when the writer doesn't have a good handle on the details, or changes were made (maybe not even by the author), but were not carried through the entire work.

A system of organization, such as a character wall or notebook, and even descriptions, maps or drawings of main locations, might come in handy. And more on this as I develop a system to keep track of my WIP as I edit.

What about you? Seen any good continuity problems lately?


  1. I think that just about describes my whole life! Splicing might be an improvement! (I think I'm having difficulty using the exclamation point properly)

  2. Shelley, then you might have exclamation point incontinence. Of course, in the middle of my root canal I realized the word should actually be "discontinuity," and not "incontinuity."

    Oh, well. *sigh*