Common Points of Inconsistency and How to Fix Them
1. Taking Michael OOC without meaning to: As an author, it is hard to not inject your own POV or personality into Michael. Still, don't. Ditto for your boyfriend or your ex. If you are trying to stay within character and/or haven't set the reader up for an OOC moment, going with how you would respond in that situation isn't valid. People respond in all sorts of idiosyncratic manners, but each is usually consistent with that person's personality. Thus, defending a choice as it being something that you would do, is not a legitimate defense. I know that sounds weird, but people projecting their own responses onto Michael's character appears to be the most common mistake. Just because you would respond in one way, doesn't mean he would....even if you RP as Michael.
The Fix: Know when it is you and when it is Michael. Do your research: How did he respond in similar circumstances? If at a total loss, make a list of possible responses and try to figure out which is most consistent with his character.
2. Character Personalities/Traits: Essentially this is a continuation of point one, but applied to other characters. It is not uncommon to read about a shy and demure OG who is suddenly dressed in a highly-sexual manner without any precursor. Or to have a virgin have sex for the first time and immediately be experienced. Better yet - to wake up without any soreness. This also extends to supporting characters. If the character has been portrayed as easy, vindictive, and trying to steal MJ from the OG, it doesn't make sense for her to suddenly be caring, uninterested in MJ, and want to be the OG's best friend.
The Fix: Map out your characters' personalities before you throw them into the story. Make sure that if actions contradict with the personalities you've described, that there is a lead up that justifies that change.
3. Context: Know your context. If your setting is in NYC, then you probably won't have people speeding at 70mph down city streets. If you are set in SF or Seattle, you probably won't call the transit system a "subway". If you start out with the characters in college, it shouldn't magically become a grad school. If your character is on probation or parole, they shouldn't be traveling all over. If your character is a psychologist or a PO, don't involve them in a friendship or sexual relationship with his/her client. If your character is a native Southerner or Californian, don't have them use the Queen's English. Know their commonly used slang.
The Fix: Let's all say it together - RESEARCH.
I know Brandy is laughing right now, but seriously, . And by look it up, I mean don't just go with whatever pops up. I know that that makes things simpler, but know that you can't trust whatever comes up. Take for instance, Wikipedia pages for celebrities. Trust that their people go in and edit that stuff. Ditto for some companies. Some questions to ask yourself when doing research:
- Is there an official source that I can look to? (e.g. Medscape, a state/govt/transit official page, apa.org, a school's website)
- Does more than one source agree with this?
- Is this relevant to the area/population I'm addressing?
- Do I know somebody who might know the answer?
- Does this site have scholarly and relevant references, if it isn't an official site?
Know that this shouldn't take more than a few minutes.
You get more efficient with practice.
4. Characters: I'm talking about the actual supporting characters. Overloading readers with a constant flow of new characters or ones who appear at convenient times, it not realistic. How often do you know of long lost siblings reappearing that you've never heard of? How often does a person randomly have 5-6 new friends appear without changing a job, locale, or doing a dating site?
The Fix: Plan them ahead of time. Develop the ones you use.
5. Storyline: Picture this: Chapter 1. Michael is alone and lonely. Chapter 3. Michael is in love with the OG. Chapter 5. Michael is a player. Chapter 7. Michael wants to forever be with the OG
You are probably chuckling right now .....but not from shock. We've probably all seen this happen in a FF, at least half of us have gone , and several have closed the story never to return.
The Fix: I want to be upfront when I say that, doing that does NOT make you a bad author. You can be a great author and make that faux pas. If you've done that, just recognize it as a mistake that you made that you'd like to improve upon in the future. Nothing more, nothing less. I won't go into the steps to avoid this here, as I've touched upon them in previous segments.
6. Updates: Yes, this could be number one, but I wanted to make it the last thing people see. Update when you say you will. If you have regular readers and/or reviewers, know that you have something most people strive for. Don't throw that away. If you don't update for random long spans of time, know that you are making readers (and especially reviewers) wonder why they bothered.
The Fix: Plan beforehand and make character bios to help you later on when you are struggling (see previous segments). Ask readers to share what they think/would like to see happen, when stuck. Use your resources. It's better to post something than nothing. Readers are more likely to forgive (and appreciate) a filler chapter than a couple months without an update. Also, regardless of how fast you write, try staggering the actual updates at a regular interval. That could be every other day, every few days, every week, or every two weeks. Know that two weeks or longer is....a long time for a reader to wait. Think of your favorite book. Do you wait two weeks between chapters?