Friday, January 15, 2010

Old Dogs and New Tricks

By an unknown artist of the English School.

oil, circa 1840.

Over time, every occupation (and each niche within it) develops its own casual dictionary, its own vocabulary and vernacular, its peculiar set of acronym and slang.

I remember puzzling over such basic but new-to-me terms as man titty, TSTL and Mary Sue.

So when I was told recently that I maintained "good continuity" in my writing, rather than barking triumphantly like a dog who discovers a skunk under the front porch, I circled and sniffed around the phrase suspiciously before retreating to my cushion. I sat there, cuffing at my ear, wondering if I should whine or wag my tail.

Because of the perennial presence of various intent young women trotting about with clipboards during my brief career as a fifth-rate actress, I was dimly aware of the meaning of continuity in film terms. I told myself that didn't mean squat. Interpretations do not necessarily transfer from venue to venue and the plain meaning of a term is always subject to industrial nuance.

This time, however, it seems that it does. Close enough, anyway. Seems continuity is the formal term applied to the degree of internal consistency in a work. In fact, I knew its necessity, I just didn't know the name for it.

More than brown eyes turning blue, or an only child who suddenly acquires siblings , continuity means the natural what ifs/yeah, buts/hey,wait a minute -- those questions which might be raised in a reader's mind -- are pre-empted and satisfied within the parameters of the stated reality.The if this, then this makes sense.
Shit-eating grin. I have "good continuity."


StarvingWriteNow said...

Do I want to know what "Mary Sue" means, beyond it being a girl's name?

You're right; "good continuity" sounded... almost like it might not be as good as it sounded. But hey! It really is a good thing! Good job!

(I can't stop typing good! AAAHH!)

Happy weekend, dearest!

Whirlochre said...

I love the way you casually invoke the image of a skunk under the front porch. The best I can manage is a water pipe.

As for continuity, I may be an obsessive. Everything has to fit just right, even if it's nonsense. In fact, especially if it's nonsense.

I shall now go away and google Mary Sue. I suspect this may turn out to be a shocker — but I'm still hoping against hope for a Wikipedia article about the roadie who ironed Mama Cass' kaftans...

writtenwyrdd said...

You DO have continuity, Bernita. :)

And I think your definition of it is quite apt.

SWN/Whirl, a Mary Sue is when someone writes a piece with a protagonist that is an obvious stand-in for themselves. Generally, these are stories that are wish-fulfillment and usually aren't particularly good story telling.

raine said...

Congrats on that continuity, Bernita, lol.
But I'm actually more interested in the fact that you were an actress...? :)

Bernita said...

SWN, Written just provided the explanation.
You've read Mary Sue stories, and like me with continuity, you just didn't know what it was called in the 'hood!
Happy weekend to you too, Dear Girl!

Whirl, thank you. I'm doomed to write what I know. One year we had a pandemic and faint from further distance borne was the sound of shotguns blasting the morning air.

It seems I need more back story though, Written, and I'm afraid of info-dumping.

Only a tw-bit one, Raine, and not for long.

sex scenes at starbucks said...

I think this is something newbie writers often have, actually, which gets wrecked and rebuilt during the learning process. Most people think with good continuity, but then when a writer starts questioning everything, that facet goes out the window. It requires a lot of trust in personal artistic instinct. That's something, too, I think gets lost and found (and lost and found and lost and found again) during the development of craft.

Charles Gramlich said...

Well, that's considerable better than hearing that "your continuity is showing."

Bernita said...

Betsy, you could well be right!

Tis, Charles,but after while one doesn't always know if it is "showing" or not - unless someone tells you - because of the natural process that Betsy outlined.

writtenwyrdd said...

Bernita, add in the backstory, I'll be glad to weild my wicke red pen. :)

writtenwyrdd said...

Gah! Cannot type today! I meant "I'll be glad to wield my wicked red pen."

Bernita said...

k you, Written!
Actually, I've begun reviewing some of your old notes!

Bernita said...

Now how did that happen?
"Than..." was cut off, leaving only the "k" for "thank"...

BernardL said...

I loved your analogy here of accepting praise with a wary eye. :)

'So when I was told recently that I maintained "good continuity" in my writing, rather than barking triumphantly like a dog who discovers a skunk under the front porch, I circled and sniffed around the phrase suspiciously before retreating to my cushion. I sat there, cuffing at my ear, wondering if I should whine or wag my tail.'

writtenwyrdd said...

Well, when you get finished with the previous slashed version, I can do it again!

Travis Erwin said...

'tis always good to be good.

McKoala said...

I have slightly dodgy continuity. TG for beta readers!

Anonymous said...

But better to be bad, Travis! ;)

Bernita said...

Hee, Bernard. It's exactly how I felt!

That's awfully good of you, Written.Thank you.

Travis, "good" is the word du jour.

And best to behave, Anon.

laughingwolf said...

you do indeed, bernita!

love the way you presented this [i say, with shit-eating grin ;)]

btw, continuity in film IS critical:

for instance, you get thrown totally off track watching something where one minute the character has buttoned down sleeves, wearing a tie, and the next cut shows him/her tieless, sleeves rolled up... etc

Lana Gramlich said...

Congrats on the genuine compliment. Continuity issues are never fun for readers!
BTW, another word for man titty is "moob" (as in man-boob.)

Bernita said...

Thank you, LW.
Real waidaminute scene!

Thank you. Have to add that one to my list, Lana.
The guys on some covers do look as if they need a bra...

Suzanne Perazzini said...

I'd take continuity - any compliment will do. They keep us writing - as well as the voices in our heads of course.

Bernita said...

That is so true, Suzanne!

SzélsőFa said...

it's a praise, and congrats!

sometimes i have this tendency to do so much for continuity, that i go into so many details, monitoring the characters even throughout unimportant actions and features.
i think i will lament on it some time or another..

Janel said...

Glad to hear it was a genuine compliment. Depending on what kind of mood I'm in I can be suspicious of all compliments.

Thank you for taking the time to comment on my C of N story!

Natasha Fondren said...

That is a great compliment. I was curious what it meant. Now I know what to call the thing I'm struggling with in a short story I'm writing. :-)

Bernita said...

McKoala, betas are among the blessed.
(Now how did I miss you first time through?)

Thank you, SzelsoFa.
Those extra details can always be removed on edit. There's an old proverb: "better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it."
"Lament" is such a great word.

Me too, Janel. Too many "awesomes" and "fabs" around.
Your story was neat, complete, and funny. Refreshing to read among so much conventional drama. I liked your voice.

One would think continuity would be easier in a short story, Natasha, but I've never found that it is.

Anonymous said...

Good continuity is a story whose spine is consistent though not necessarily poking through the skin. Having multiple coherent spines is only a bonus, of course ;-) (starting to visualize some nightmare Giger beast)


Bernita said...

A point to remember, Asa. The subplots also have to have "continuity."

Scott from Oregon said...

man titty?