How to create CONTINUITY

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Most of you  have probably heard (from me and elsewhere) that every scene needs to develop the plot and characters, otherwise seriously consider scrapping it. I'm going to amend that statement.

Every scene needs to develop the plot and characters AND tie back in to the main plot.

I'll exemplify this with my Guardian Redemption series. So I needed to give Cleon something to do. He has history/roots in the slums so he hangs around there a lot. I decided to have some sort of gang of mages called the Trifecta going around and causing strife for the non-mages living in the slums, and Cleon would have to stand up for them yaddayaddahero.

While this can make an interesting conflict and shows the conflict between mages and non-mages (because there's immense prejudice against the non-mages, which motivates the main antagonist), the tie back to the plot is extremely weak. It essentially just exists to give my character something to do, which is NOT a valid reason to include something in a novel. Whatever they end up doing, it has to have a strong link to the main plot/main conflict.

Back to my Cleon example, how did I tie that back in? (and unless you've been following me for a while know the basic plot, this will make no sense) but I made the Trifecta be hired by another prominent character to find these special mages, because there's this whole sideplot with that character  needing those mages because of reasons...

OKAY Let's try an easier example from a friend's novel I was helping out with.

She needed her two protagonists to stay at home even though every ounce of logic advised otherwise. So she had a shooting happen in the neighborhood. Yes, this does move the plot forward, however, it doesn't tie back in with anything, making it seem random and contrived.

There's a sideplot in the novel including special drugs, so we came up with the idea that the gunman was actually a drug lord, and there was a territorial gang fight happening. Not only does this move the plot forward and link to another thread in the story, it subtly HINTs at that thread before it comes up.

Here's another example from my least favorite show, Legend of Korra (but here's one of the things it actually did right!). In the first episode, Pema is introduced to the scene and she's pregnant. Katara (her mother-in-law) is all smiley and says, "I sense a strong air bender!" or something along those lines. Pema's expression immediately goes sour, and she's like, "For once I'd like a non-bender!" The main conflict of the series is the non-benders feeling oppressed by and hating the benders, and Pema's comment brilliantly and subtly introduced that. It was a great link.

Here's another example of awesome continuity in the ATLA/LoK universe: Wan was the first Avatar, and we saw him die in this battle-field place. There was an episode in ATLA where the character Zuko was walking through THAT SAME BATTLEFIELD. So Zuko had walked through a 1000 year old battlefield where the first Avatar died. Crazy continuity right there. :)

I'm sure you've all seen posts on tumblr from fandoms pointing out the subtly-executed continuity of their favorite shows and movies. It always brings a huge smile to any fan's face when they make a link like that, so try to make it happen in your own novels! You can make the link obvious or make it really subtle. The subtle ones are fun because it increases the reread-ability of your novel (i.e., people will be more likely to reread the novel to find all the little links and "easter eggs", most prominently seen in Pixar movies).

Take home message: the more ways you can link your plot devices and characters together, the more you can blow your readers' minds! Continuity is one of a writer's greatest assests in storytelling.

But on another note, beware of TOO many links. You'll have your readers raising eyebrows if your MC is the lost princess of so-and-so land, happens to bump into her long-lost brother whom she'd never met, and also has the one secret power to beat the antagonist, who just happens to be her father. The links should be believable, not there just for the sake of linking things together, because then things line up too perfectly--a one in a trillion chance for all this to tie-in.

It's a hard balance to find, but once you find it, you'll have rabid fans drooling at your heels.

What are your tips and tricks for creating smooth links between events and characters? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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