Marji Laine

I Love a Good Mystery!

Reader Rejectable: Continuity


mashI’m dating myself, but are there any M.A.S.H. fans out there? I was a fan when I was a kid and most of the humor went over my head. I was a fan again about a decade ago when I got to see four late-night episodes at a time. The comedy genius of the writing and the combination of the actors was extraordinary.

But continuity? Forget about it.

Whatever the situation needed, they threw in. Sometimes minimal details that were unnecessary but made huge issues later on.

Case in point: Hawkeye’s family. Oh he had one in the first episode as he’s writing a letter to his dad. He mentions a greeting to “mom and sis.” And yet, the fact that he’s the only child of a widower doctor is a huge part of many episodes. Makes that letter kinda creepy when you  think about it.

Margaret Houlihan’s family is equally odd. Her parents are married, then her father is dead, then they are divorced and dancing together in New York, and finally he’s still in the army touring Korea married to someone else? I’m not sure. I never could keep them straight.

Continuity in a TV show with multiple writers is obviously a challenge, but continuity in a book shouldn’t be. I read one recently where Wednesday a party was being thrown. It was currently Monday and the main character had four days to prepare for the party on Friday.

Are you confused? So was I. I wasn’t sure whether there were two parties or the author just couldn’t count. In fact, the only thing I was sure of was that the current day was Monday and at some point in the near future a party would be thrown.

I didn’t put the book down for that one little instance, though. Of course not. Just a minor glitch that should have been caught but slipped through the cracks. Once in a while, things like this happen. Less in traditionally published books I think. If only because so many eyes are on those manuscripts.

Indy pubs have a greater challenge. As an author, I tend to skip over words when I’m reading through my own chapters. I miss little details here and there. In my own manuscript, I discovered that I had a man visiting an event for the first time – his reactions and discoveries – but it was the second instance in which he’d gone to the event. Oops.

Gong-ShowI recently read a book that I did put down for this problem, though. It was a mystery using extensive computer programming technology. The author went to great lengths describing every detail of the action, which would have been fine, if there had been real action. But this author detailed benign routines – like untangling and clicking the seat belt, fooling with the radio switch, shifting gears, checking mirrors. (Yep, at least a page of that boredom started off the first chapter – that in itself was enough to put the book down.) As the main character eases into traffic, she starts up a conversation.

Huh? I thought she was alone in the car. The woman she’s speaking with adjusts the mirror and slows at an intersection.

If you’re like me, your eyes are squinting, trying to figure out what you just read. As I continued with the scene, I learned that not only was the main character’s best friend in the car with her, but the best friend was driving.

I figured if the author couldn’t get that part of the story straight, I didn’t have much hope in understanding her mystery.


Your turn: This is my last reason that a reader might reject a book. Did I miss anything? What was wrong with the last book you put down? Tell me about it!

Author: Marji Laine

Marji is a recently "graduated" homeschooling mom whose twin girls have blessed her by sticking around the nest for a little longer. She spends her days directing the children’s music program at her church and working with the authors of Write Integrity Press to put out the best possible version of their books. Raised in suburban Dallas, she got her first taste of writing through the stories of brilliant authors of their day, Mignon Eberhart and Phyllis A. Whitney, and through stage experience. After directing and acting in productions for decades, Marji started writing her own scripts. From that early beginning, she delved into creating scintillating suspense with a side of Texas sassy. She invites readers to unravel their inspiration, seeking a deeper knowledge of the Lord’s Great Mystery that invites us all.

4 thoughts on “Reader Rejectable: Continuity

  1. 🙂 I picked up a free mystery the other day cause I liked the cover. Small mistakes at the beginning I could handle,but when they started head hopping, I was done. I don’t mind reading classics that do this, but not today’s authors…


    • I’m with you on that. There are a few contemporary authors who have been writing for 30+ years and still lean to the older omniscient way of doing things. Lots of telling and very little deep POV if any. And I love that I can actually tell the difference. LOL!


  2. I loved Mash and a great point about continuity. Small details are hard to root out sometimes. You have to have other sets of eyes on it, I think.