Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Writer Wednesday: Inconsistencies

Have you ever noticed that TV shows and movies have a lot of inconsistencies in them? Let me give you an example. In the TV series Friends Chandler is afraid of dogs in one episode, but not in another. My daughter used to watch the show Victorious and in one episode, they say there was never a prom at Hollywood Arts (the high school on the show), but in the pilot episode, one girl complains that no one asked her to last year's prom. Another big example is in the movie Jurassic Park. One minute there's a goat tied up in the T-Rex pen. Then the power is cut and the T-Rex pen is suddenly a cliff that the Jeep falls over. Huh? The producer even admitted he changed that to make the scene more dramatic.

I notice these things all the time. Maybe it's because as a freelance editor, I look for inconsistencies in my clients' manuscripts. It's part of my job to make sure the book is consistent from start to finish. So why do TV and movie writers get to take liberties with these things when authors can't? It's baffled me for years.

Have you noticed inconsistencies like this? Why do you think TV and movies can get away with them?

50 comments:

  1. Really interesting questions! I think we pay less attention in TV and movies because we already have a high suspension of disbelief--we don't have to imagine the scene for ourselves. We're believing exactly what's in front of us.

    A lot of the time too, shows don't have the same writers from episode to episode. Have you ever noticed how some episodes of a show are great and others are terrible? Different writers' hands on the project!

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    1. Great point! Yes, some episodes are awesome and others fall flat.

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  2. Good question! Hollywood seems to be allowed to get away with them because they are Hollywood. They do what they please. I was recently asked to look over a screenplay for a pilot to help them achieve a historical feel to the dialogue. When I pointed out that they had a teletype in a newspaper office only a couple years after the telegraph had been invented -- and was probably not in private use yet -- they said, "We're taking creative liberty with that."

    So, it's not inconsistency. It's creative liberty. :D

    Now, when my copy-editor looks at a historical manuscript of mine -- it's just WRONG and has to go!

    I guess we should be glad we hold ourselves to a higher standard!

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    1. We definitely do hold ourselves to a higher standard and I'm glad because it bugs me to no end to see inconsistencies in movies and TV shows.

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    2. That said, it can get annoying when it hampers creativity in ways that are just NOT about blatant inconsistencies. Willful or otherwise. Is that not a fair point to make, too?

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    3. There are definitely exceptions, Taurean.

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    4. Thank goodness for that.

      I love historical fiction that gets the key things right but still avoids the "Travelogue" syndrome writers can fall into, mostly out of fear they'll be ripped to shreds by history buffs and teachers who could potentially use these books to liven the school curriculum, and while there are books aimed at the educational market for this purpose, there are many trade series that are a hit with educators and readers for both of these reasons.

      I have lot of respect for authors and their fact checkers to minimize these discrepancies.

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  3. That's a really interesting question. I have noticed - actually, it drives me crazy - some TV shows have huge holes. I've found some of them are more with a character than a scene or setting, but both have stuck out to me. Why do they get away with it? Hmmm..... I'm not sure. Dianne is probably right. It probably is creative liberty, which seems a little strange to me.

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  4. A lot of books have inconsistencies too, especially series.

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  5. I never even thought about that w/Jurassic Park- and I love those movies! I think they're coming out w/a 4th in a few years...

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    1. Really? I love them too. We always watch them when they're on TV, which is funny since we own them all. ;)

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  6. Inconsistencies make me a bit batty. I tend to be more forgiving in movies and shows, though I don't know why. Maybe because in books I expect that kind of thing to be fixed--I don't know. But I definitely find them a lot and it totally drags me out of the story.

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  7. Those inconsistencies really annoy me, whether in books or on TV. As a book editor, that is one of the details that I pay very close attention to. As someone who watches TV and movies, I'll pause the show and point it out and then say "that's why I'll never write or edit for TV."

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  8. My husband hates it when Hollywood portrays military people and can't get the uniform right, especially the order of the ribbons. They should at least consult a military person who knows the ins and outs of proper military attire. lol

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    1. Yeah, I don't think Hollywood cares or answers to anyone.

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    2. That doesn't mean we can choose NOT to care, though.

      In that respect, I can understand why some authors don't relinquish their movie rights for fearing this very thing regarding consistencies.

      That said, I wish readers at times would get that unless we're writing nonfiction or about a real place and involving real people,

      There's no place on Earth that's like Oz or Wonderland, so it doesn't make sense to write with the idea that they're some subset of NYC or Kansas where you can be rightly called out for saying a zoo is where a fashion boutique should be. Is that so wrong?!

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    3. We as in WRITERS of BOOKS, I mean...

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    4. Yes, fiction allows liberties. And no, we shouldn't not care, just because Hollywood doesn't.

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  9. I wouldn't say we don't get away with it. Tolkien's book and the LOTR movies have a plot hole people like to point out- why didn't they just ride the eagles to Mordor- but people still love them both. I get more annoyed when I come across inconsistencies in books probably because I'm a writer. I'm more critical of books than movies.

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    1. I know my editors are tough about things that might be seen as inconsistencies, and I'm thankful for that because like you I'm critical of books.

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  10. First off, I gotta say I'm loving these TV themed posts! I'm such a junkie, LOL :-)

    And yes, I love how your analytical mind works picking out these inconsistencies. It makes for such great trivia questions, doesn't it?

    I think that TV is written over so many seasons with so many different writers. They just don't have the time (or probably the budget) to keep an eye for consistency. I think movies hire someone to look out for these kind of things because they're more glaring in a two hour film then stretched across a couple of years on TV.

    I'm definitely going to be on the lookout for more of these factoids. The one about Chandler Bing is hilarious :-)

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    1. I love Friends, but the show has soooo many inconsistencies. Their apartment numbers is another one. They go from 4 and 5 to 19 and 20. Yup, I'm a Friends junkie. ;)

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  11. This drives me insane. We have to work so hard to make out books perfect to get an agent to look at them, but I constantly see shows with big logic holes. People who know a car is chasing them, and yet keep running down the center of the road. People whose arms get grabbed by a zombie but don't struggle - they just scream while there's a closeup of the zombie biting them. Fish and spiders, etc. that growl or chitter while chasing victims. Crime shows where the bad guy intends to kill someone, but stops to explain everything or threaten first, or confesses everything the second he's arrested (when the show's ending). Or when the CSI can't find DNA on knife or gun, and don't even dust for prints. When a "Bones" investigator is using a saw to cut into a fresh body's head and is poisoned because she was wearing only goggles, not the face protector all coroners (and many dentists) wear now to avoid blood spray. And the list of stupidity goes on and on...

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  12. I just wish people would stop giving me a lecture regarding what my animals can an can't do.

    The reason I write fantasy is TO BE FREE of strict restraints and create worlds with my own rules.

    That doesn't mean I don't research, and I do want some facts to ground the story and its setting(s), but my stories are meant to be fun, and fun doesn't always make tangible sense.


    So they talk, work around not having opposable thumbs, etc.

    No one gives Snoopy or Mickey Mouse any grief. Well, no one who actually LIKES what inspires what I write, anyway.

    Why do I have to be "Natural Geographic Accurate" at every dang turn?!

    This is probably not the same as being willfully inconsistent, but I had to get that out. Better I say that hear than to a parent's face while I'm in a rage. I almost made that mistake once. Don't worry, Kelly, I caught myself, and I'm pretty sure you're a parent on my side regarding this matter, right?

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    1. Animals in fiction should have plenty of wiggle room for the author to run with. I completely agree. It's done all the time. And it is fiction. :)

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  13. Well, since I watch only cartoons as of late I notice the plot holes a lot more. I get they are for kids - but really. Don't even get my husband started on Rapunzel.

    I've always wondered if Hollywood thinks that people who watch movies aren't looking at anything too deeply? Or maybe they think if we have enough "shiny" distraction, details don't matter. Whatever the case, they sink a lot more money into movies then books - but the thought that goes into plot versus the scene doesn't usually balance.

    And FYI - love the short story!

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    1. Well, I was merely pointing out my personal frustrations with getting readers to suspend disbelief in book versus movies, and that's a separate issue to the willful inconsistencies of plot discussed in the post above.

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    2. Aw, thanks, Michelle! :)

      Sometimes I feel insulted that Hollywood doesn't think we'll notice these things.

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    3. Yes, inconsistencies and taking liberties are definitely different things, Taurean. Fiction should be fictional. But glaring inconsistencies within a story is very annoying. At least to me.

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    4. I agree there.

      Once I've committed to a rule in my story, I don't break it, or if I do, it's clear why this is possible and what the effective consequence is, and while it's best to adhere to whatever rules you've set (Especially in a series) there are times when breaking a world rule is needed, but the consequence for breaking the rule must be equal to the rule broken.

      Just like how many of the best books with magic have a give and take system, and breaking out of that requires greater risk to user for greater reward, or disaster, and sometimes reward worth whatever the risk to the user.

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  14. Interesting thought. Probably most viewers don't notice the inconsistencies. I don't, but then I'm usually reading or doing something else while I watch TV so don't pay a lot of attention. :)

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  15. Ah, yes, ye olde T-Rex coming through a spot with a cliff conveniently placed all too close by...

    Maybe there was a bridge.

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  16. As a kid it was my pet peeve when a certain character had one opinion on a certain episode, and then the writers act like that had never happened on the next. Also, I used to hate it when shows would add a character you really like, but then they would be written out of the script with no explanation.

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    1. Or when a character returns with a different name! I hate that. The actor played one person and then came back to play another who isn't related at all to the first. Grr.

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  17. Yes, there are inconsistencies. I've noticed in many movies and TV series.

    Nas

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  18. Yes! This drives me nuts. Glad to hear it's not just me.

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  19. Hi Kelly, I don't catch too much inconsistencies. I just get pretty involved with the characters' lives. Sometimes with an actor's accent that seems out of place with his character's background. Certainly didn't notice the Chandler thing even though I've watched the comedy so many times!

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    1. Speaking of accents, I love when a character isn't supposed to have an accent but the actor does in real life and that accent slips through. Happened in the first Twilight movie when Edward fixed the dent in Bella's car. I laugh every time.

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  20. Yes, I have. All I can figure is that they think/hope/know the story is so great that viewers will forgive it. Bugs the heck out of me, though. :)

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  21. One inconsistency off the top of my head was on an episode of Sex and the City. In one Carrie explains that her dad split and left her and her mom. But in the new show, "The Carrie Diaries", which is about young Carrie, her mother died from cancer and her dad is taking care of her. She also has a sister. I don't know if the writers of the show did that, or if the books say this, but it's a pretty big mistake about a character's past.

    I think this happens when we get so caught up in our stories and forget things we mentioned. That's why it's a good idea to jot down notes of important details and to edit carefully to pinpoint inconsistencies.

    Nice post!

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