Different mistakes

There’s different kind of mistakes that may pop up in stories. In an ideal world, a writer’s done enough research beforehand, the proofreader and editor will catch any that may have gone by unnoticed, and there won’t be anything to detract from the reader’s experience.

Some mistakes may be deliberate, for example, to make the plot move along faster, but there are different kinds of mistakes to be careful of when plotting, drafting, writing, editing, and getting ready to publish.

This is an overview and there may be more nuanced errors out there.

So, in no particular order, let’s look at different kinds of mistakes to try to avoid.

To start with, factual errors are…well, factual errors. Saying that the Eiffel Tower was built in 1990, that Mars is closer to the Sun than Venus, or that potatoes grow on trees, they’re all factual errors.

Continuity mistakes have to do with timeline inconsistencies. A character is at the beach with only a bathing suit and a towel, suddenly it starts to rain and they have an umbrella that was neither mentioned nor anticipated in any way. Or a character is described as having owned a Ford Mustang and it’s later mentioned as a Falcon.

Then there are plot holes. For example, having an incredibly strong and powerful villain who’s easily defeated by the hero. Or anything that the narrative builds towards and then simply skips over.

There are plenty of times when a phone call or simple answer could have prevented a problem, and thus avoided the whole story. Or cell phones that stop working to create more obstacles. Cars that break down because the driver suddenly forgot to fill up the gas. Yes, these can be considered plot holes, but they’re also accepted more often than not because they move the plot forward. (They’re still criticized, though, as they’re rather avoidable or forced obstacles that some communication or relatively normal behavior would’ve helped prevent.)

Mistakes are understood to arise, especially when manuscripts go through various stages and both real or fictional settings and narratives are developed.

And for a last type of mistake, let’s involve characters. Someone says or thinks something that’s wrong. Character mistakes may be on purpose, as others may correct them or the author uses such errors to point out a lack of knowledge on a topic. Characters’ mistakes can lead to characters learning, which is good for development.

In any case, what’s your take on these mistakes? Can you think of any from your favorite stories? What kinds of solutions could they have? Can you look past some inconsistencies in favor of plot and characters?

Moira Daly

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