Consistency. If there’s one thing you need in writing, it’s consistency. Loose it and you may find your characters stripping off all their clothes, swimming out to a sinking ship, and filling their pockets with items once they arrive. Or you’ll make pancakes for breakfast, give food to all seated, and when daddy shows up some time later, he sits and begins eating off a plate that appeared before him.
The one thing I learned so many years ago when I started reading in the 1960’s, and had reinforced in the 1970’s, is you have to keep your rules consistent. This is especially true in science fiction, where you are creating new universes, and if your notes aren’t straight, you’ll find yourself crashing your spaceship into a planet that wasn’t suppose to be in your way. Or, as David Gerrold–the World’s Oldest Redshirt–once stated, if you set up your rules so that no one can use their left hand, you can’t have the hero win in the last chapter by using their left hand. It’s not only bad writing, it’s lazy.
Yesterday I’m on a editing burn. I wanted to get through at least two chapters, and three if it where possible, because I’m in Part Two of Her Demonic Majesty, and if I were to finish the last two chapters today, then all that would remain of formatting is Part Three, and by next weekend I could get my Table of Contents in order, kick back, and get ready to meat grinder the story.
So I’m going through the story, looking for strange characters and misspellings, and correcting things that need correcting, and I discover one of my characters saying the word “hell”, and I realize it isn’t the only character who is suppose to say that word . . .
Allow me to explain.
Her Demonic Majesty takes place in an alternate universe difference from ours. The main character, Jeannette, finds herself in this universe, and as she learns about the world, she begins picking up on all the little things that set it apart from her home.
One of her partners in crime, so to speak, is a demoness. This demoness comes from another realm–an alternate universe, if you will. The realm has another name, and because the realm has a certain notoriety people of this new universe often use that name when cursing–
It should be noted that this realm isn’t named Hell. Which means within this world you’d never hear people saying “What the hell?” or “The hell with it.” Hell is an unknown name: it’s not part of the lexicon. If there is any character who would use the word, it’s Jeannette, because it is part of her lexicon.
But here I was, having someone in this new universe making a comment that has the word “hell” in it, and I’m scratching my head, because that goes against my rules for the world.
What can one do, you say? You get to fixing.
I threw my story in Scrivener Mode and did a search for “hell”, and once I found it, I checked to see if Jeannette was speaking, or if someone else was. And what do you know? I’d screwed up: I had characters from this new world using the word “hell”. The one who was using it the most? The demoness–the one person who wouldn’t use it, because . . . well, I think you know by now.
Keep in mind I’ve put this story through a couple of edits, and this is something that I missed each time. I might have missed it this time, too, if I weren’t hyperfocused on getting the novel in pristine shape. I caught it, and I know my other two rules have been adhered to, so I should be good as far as my rules are concerned.
If anything, I’m happy I didn’t say the hell with it.
See what I did there?