Busy weekend and Monday with sick people galore and then a meeting today.
What I wanted to write about today though, was throw aways and continuity.
I have a lot of shows that I love to watch in the background. Amelia usually uses them to fall asleep and they’re always shows that we have seen every episode a dozen times. Friends, King of the Hill, Third Rock From the Sun, and Frasier are our favorite end of the day shows. They’re funny and take no cognitive effort whatsoever.
A few weeks ago we started watching Big Bang Theory and How I Met You Mother because, somehow, we avoided watching either of these shows the past five years they’ve been on. Really, I didn’t even know what they were about. We heard they were good and have been very pleasently surprised by both.
Something I noticed with How I Met Your Mother is the impressive amount of foreshadowing and continuity they have. This is just about the only sitcom I would ever apply the term foreshadowing. And it’s refreshing. It’s also why I think you need to watch from the beginning to really get the humor. A lot of shows have jokes they may do for an episode, but one that episode is done, they’re gone. We never hear about it again. Characters might, might come up again, but once the credits role they’re usually never mentioned again. So many of the episodes I mentioned above have extras and if they survive past an episode or two they’re upgraded to reoccuring character. If they pass through a few seasons they become a regular.
The reason I’m talking about this is I think continuity is important. I’m the type of person that, while reading a book, my first goal is to get a feel for the world and know it’s rules. Harry Potters need wands to do magic, conservation of energy is essential in The Name of the Wind, we don’t talk to primitive aliens in Star Trek, etc. Fantasy and Science Fiction are ripe for these types of opportunities. With all these systems of magic, organizations, species, etc. flying around these little details flesh out and educate the reader on what your world is like.
But I also look for character continuity. I want to know their background, their motivations, etc. In a series, be it television, books, whatever, as ideas become old or the focus of the story changes, continuity often times suffers. I hate that. How I Met Your Mother does a fantastic job of planning and continuity in storytelling. I know for a fact that there are no throw away jokes that won’t matter as soon as the credits role. If it’s said, then it’s real. That time they did that thing was an actual thing that happened to that character and can and will come up again in another episode.
I have always been good at keeping track of my own continuity, probably because I make such a regular habit of paying attention to it in fiction. But even then, I have various support documents that help me to keep things organized. I want to know the whys and hows. I want my character to say things about his world that are off the cuff and in passing. It makes the reader think. But I think they need to be significant. I want my character to be a real person with his own life. If he talks about it, no matter how minuscule, I want it to be something that really happened in his life.
Unless he’s lying. Sometimes that’s that all a part of the continuity as well.