Monday Mumbling – Continuity Issues

This is one of my pet peeves. Continuity in general, but mostly when it comes to clothes. I’m no fashionista, but it really stands out for me. I was reading something last week where it popped out at me four times (in one novella) and it just irks me. It makes me think the author never rereads what they wrote. I can understand taking a break and coming back to a story (although I NEVER used to do that, now I do it all the time), but that’s why I go back and read through the last 10-15 pages so I remember where I was and get back in the heads-space.

But anyway, my examples:

  1. Guy A unbuttons and unzips Guy B’s pants and starts to pull them down, they then get sidetracked and Guy B gives Guy A a blow job, after which, Guy A UNBUTTONS AND UNZIPS GUY B’S PANTS! I even went back and reread the scene to see if I had missed Guy B doing up his pants again (why would he?) but no, no mention of it.
  2. Guy A, in a frenzy of lust, literally rips the t-shirt and jeans off Guy B, stating he’ll buy him more clothes. Like rips the shirt in half, not just metaphorically ripping it off. After sex they decided to go and get tattoos and piercings and … Guy B puts on his jeans and t-shirt and off they go. WTF? And no, he had only been to the house twice so did not have spare clothes there. How can you just ignore that?
  3. At the tattoo parlour, Guy A undoes (because everyone gets horny after a piercing) Guy B’s SLACKS. For one, that’s not a word I enjoy for men’s pants, I prefer trousers, but anyway, it clearly said he had jeans on, and no one would refer to jeans as slacks.
  4. This was not clothes, but he wrapped his leather belt around the guys wrists and tied him to the headboard. When it’s over he unfastens the cuffs. Um. Is it a fairy belt that transformed into cuffs? Who missed that?

How annoyed was I by these incidents? Very. I had to rant to my daughter about it. Her answer was maybe he was a magician. Hmm. Maybe, but the author said he was a plumber. A magic plumber?

Anyway, maybe this is just me. Maybe others don’t even notice these little slips. I remember one book where great pains were taken to mention the guy went commando to be sexy, it was commented on when they got undressed, the next morning… he pulls on his underwear. Umm. Where did you have underwear hiding? In your jeans pocket?

So does it annoy anyone else, or am I just being a fuss-bucket? Is there continuity issues that make you crazy? Found at the bus station, later referred to as found at the train station? (read that one too) Any other examples of things that made you suspect you must have skimmed over something that would explain the incongruity? Here’s your chance to rant. :-)

Can you see the problem?

20 thoughts on “Monday Mumbling – Continuity Issues

  1. Chris says:

    Those drive me crazy! Here’s one that I noted in my review of the book: “…As did a glaring continuity error in which one character puts on his glasses… and then picks up and puts on his glasses a paragraph later. How many simultaneous pairs of glasses can one person wear?!”

    • Tam says:

      LOL That gives me am amusing image. Just makes me wonder what kind of proofing is done. But then I see people giving the book 5 stars so obviously some people don’t really care and I’m being picky.

      • Chris says:

        I believe my example is from a Samhain title, which REALLY surprised me. But I don’t think you’re being picky – you have a reasonable expectation of quality and consistency so that you’re not pulled out of the story.

  2. therealtbaggins says:

    I don’t think you’re picky. You’re just what every author hopes for –a truly attentive reader. After draft 1, 2, 3, edit, re-draft4, draft 5, galley and publish, we have no idea who undid whose trousers. Sometimes we’re halfway into another book when the question arises.

    I don’t know where traditionally published authors are coming from. But speaking for me, if you find an error and email me, I will fix it in the next edition. I’m NOT saying you should have to. I’m only saying most self-publishers will appreciate corrections and act on them. :)

    • Tam says:

      With some publishers their e-mail boxes would explode if everyone wrote to point out the errors. LOL I guess I figure if I noticed it, then someone at some point should have noticed it. But then when I look at the reviews everyone gives it 5 stars and raves about how amazing it is, with no mention of the same things that made me give it 2 stars so I have to wonder if it’s me.

      I can overlook a lot for a great story, and maybe that’s it. If I love the story enough I’m more forgiving. If it was on it’s way to being an okay three stars, the errors will annoy me more and drag it down.

  3. sherry1969S says:

    One thing that drives me crazy is when they mix up their names. I’ve noticed a lot of error in ebooks lately and it does take some of the joy out of reading.

    • Tam says:

      Yes, it shocks you for a moment because you start thinking “Who is Jack and what happened to Justin” and then boom, a paragraph later Justin is back. Happened to me on the weekend.

  4. K. Z. Snow says:

    An author’s failure to catch these errors — hell, most errors — is usually the result of MRB syndrome (multiple-readings blindness). That’s why we rely on editors and proofreaders to have our backs. Unfortunately, they too often don’t.

    I’d have every one of my titles reissued if I could, just to get rid of stupid little mistakes that should’ve been caught but weren’t. I can usually overlook them in other people’s work (if the writing is generally good), but they drive me nuts in my own.

    • Tam says:

      There is a certain terror in knowing that once your work is published the error will jump out at you. But I can handle a missed letter or a to that should be too, but when someone’s clothes are off and then taken off a second time, that just seems sloppy to me. I agree it’s hard for authors, because we see what our brain intended to put, not what our fingers did, but others shouldn’t have that problem as much. JMHO. I suppose I’ll wait for my first big screw up and will have to eat my words. LOL

  5. Jordan Castillo Price says:

    I’ve made errors of that type as well. I think in my case it was that I was focusing so hard on some other element that I didn’t notice I mentioned the same event twice. And on every proofread, I’d still be so focused on the other element, I’d miss it. Finally when I went into second edition and got a new proofer, she spotted it.

    It also seems to me proofers who focus on little niggly things like whether you should have an Oxford comma somewhere can often overfocus on unimportant things like the optional comma and miss the fact that you called the character by the wrong name. (My proofer doesn’t do this but I’ve worked with them in the past.)

    When I used to make errors in graphic design, it was always a matter of overfocus on a different element. Like worrying if something looks centered but not realizing the date you put on the event is the wrong date.

    I love your graphic of the guy with the red/black shirt!

    • Tam says:

      Yes, I can see your point about the focus. As someone who can’t use a comma to save her life, I am very unlikely to go ‘OMG, that author didn’t have a comma before the subordinate clause. gasp” But I am liable to notice that Rick turned into Roger for a few pages or ended up kissing himself. While grammar is important, I think most readers read quickly and focus on the big picture. Can’t see the forest for the trees sometimes perhaps.

      The pictures were from a website selling clothes. In most he was in a slightly different position but it looks like they just changed the shirt color in photoshop on this one. Exact same shadows on his pants.

      • JC Price says:

        I just had a flash of the jeans being called “slacks” (what the heck??) and then inserted the word “dungarees” for a chuckle.
        “Slacks” always has a uniform connotation to it for me, like with my flight crew in the Turbulence series.

        • Tam says:

          OMG, dungarees brings up images of the Bobsie Twins and Trixie Belden books. LOL I’m not sure why slacks rubs me the wrong way. Maybe growing up it was women who wore slacks, men wore dress pants. Not sure.

  6. K. Z. Snow says:

    Good point Jordan made. I hadn’t thought of author blindness in terms of misplaced focus, but, come to think of it, that happens to me a lot.

  7. Jenre says:

    Very late to the party here!

    I tend to notice name switches but sometimes continuity errors pass me by – possibly because I was focused on the same thing as the author and failed to pick up on a background thing. I know I’ve read reviews of books and people have said ‘oh that continuity thing was really annoying’ and I’ve thought ‘what continuity thing?’ and it turned out that the characters had blue eyes at the start of the book but it changed to brown half way through. I just hadn’t noticed because I’d forgotten the eye colour from the start of the book!

    When it annoys me most is when it’s so obvious that it pulls me out of the story. For example if they suddenly change the room they are in or the clothing things you mentioned earlier. I think a good beta reader should be able to pick up on some of these errors as well as the editor/proof-reader, or maybe that’s just me. If people ask me to beta their stories, I always pick up on continuity errors. Hmmmm, maybe that’s why I don’t get asked to do it much :).

    • Tam says:

      I probably miss some as well, but in general it’s something I catch. Unless the author and one very rushed proofer are the only ones who read it, you’d think SOMEONE would have noticed. But errors always slip through, such is life.

  8. […] Tam’s curious whether continuity issues in books bother you. (YES.) […]

  9. Crissy M says:

    Yes! They drive me crazy! And they’re distracting because I’ll go back and read it, like, 5 times to make sure that I read it right and that Guy A ALREADY unbuttoned and unzipped Guy B’s pats…ugh! it is frustrating.

    Timing issues are a problem for me too. When the narrative says an event is supposed to happen in three days and twenty things come up between now and then and the even actually happens four days later. One of my favorite books talks about a party that was supposed to be the following week but actually happened a few days after discussed and it frustrates me every time I re-read it. And, yes, I re-read it every time thinking I’ll pick up something that I missed the first five times I read it. *shakes head*

    Enough of the ramble. Sorry. :D

    • Tam says:

      Oh yes, timing is something I’m paranoid about. People do notice and like you,

      I went back and read that extra-carefully to see if there was mention of the pants being done up again. That throws you off the rhythm if it’s blow job, getting hot then… wait, stop, go back, read, puzzle, then get back to the hot. Hmm. Kind of lost it then. Ramble away. :-)

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