One of the rules you should live by when you create your own fictional universe is, “Stay consistent.” When you set up a rule about how some super-science works, you need to know how that super-science affects your universe, and the people who reside there. If you use magic, you should know who can use it, how they use it, and if there are any situations under which it can’t be used.
This is all important, because if you aren’t paying attention, you can rest assured that someone else–your readers, for example–will be paying attention. If you’re not careful, they will burn you the moment they find an inconsistency. And in these days of instant access to the Internet, said burning will take the form of a forum post saying something like, “Ur story is wrong, U r epic sux, LOL!!!”
It’s easy to forget this when you’re writing. You get caught up in the story, and sometimes, yeah: you forget the little things.
I forgot the little things last night, and I had to play catch up this morning.
My novel Transporting is moving along nicely. Last night I finished Chapter 41, which was something of a quasi-scientific discussion between the two main characters who are actual doctors–one who is a quantum physicist, and the other who is a medical doctor as well as a person responsible for people with psychic abilities, also known as Talents. They were talking about an upcoming event, the main reason why they happen to be at a particular location in space and, yes, time.
One of the things they are discussion are a couple of benchmark times that they need to hit–or, in one instance, one they don’t want to hit, because something . . . bad could happen should they reach that benchmark. It led to a couple of lines of dialog that indicated, yes, this time was approaching, and yes, they could probably get everything finished they needed to finish before Second Benchmark comes around.
So I went to bed pretty satisfied, not a worry in the world beyond the normal stuff I worry about.
And then I woke up, and I realized I messed up. Badly.
Let me explain.
Nearly all of the action in Transporting takes place on two planets that are not Earth, and aren’t even in what would be called “Present Day”. So different planet, different things.
One of the things that’s very different is the main planet’s day. It’s longer than that of Earth’s, being 28 hours long. This means, from the main character’s point of view, when they disused time, when they talk about a “day”, they’re talking about something 28 hours long.
So when I was writing my scene last night, and the characters talked about, “How many days until X happens,” I wasn’t thinking. When I figured how many days to these benchmarks, I was working off our calendar–the one we have today. I didn’t consult the calendar for the character’s planet, which is a lot different.
To show you what I mean . . . the conversation the characters are having happens on 28 March. No problem. They’re look at a date that should happen on 5 April, and we know how many days that is–on our calendar.
But when you look at their calendar, there is a problem. Because there isn’t a 29 or 30 March on my character’s calendar: 28 March is the last day of the month. Suddenly I’ve lost two days . . .
It’s worse than that, however. When I calculated the amount of time to reach these benchmarks–yes, I do those sort of things because it was needed to make the story consistent–I messed up and didn’t use the calendar the characters are using. And, when looking at my benchmark calculations, I realized I just kinda,sorta, messed up my story timeline in Scrivener as well.
So, for about 30 minutes this morning, I had to recalculate dates, update my notes, correct my timeline . . . and change the dialog of my characters.
What did this do to the story? Lets just say the conversation went from, “Oh, no problem, we should have plenty of time to get things done,” to, “Damn . . . we’re really cutting this thing close.” The funny thing is, the later is what I wanted all along.
Sometimes things just work out for you no matter what.