A combination of my writing group’s meeting last night and the book I’m currently reading got me started thinking about how writers convey consistency, or inconsistency, in their characters across the time period of their stories. I’m particularly irritated by the inconsistency in characters’ emotional states in the book I’m reading now, which title and author I’m not revealing to protect the guilty.
There are several places in this book where a character is in deep despair on one page and is laughing and joking on the next. And there is no indication of any serious passing of time. In another scene, a main character loses a wife, who he didn’t love but who he did respect. After his wife’s burial the guy goes from anger at himself for not being able to feel more emotions about her passing to a giddy, laugh filled, guiltless sexual act with a woman who he has always loved on the same damn page. Since this character seemed to be presented as a very duty-bound individual (that’s why the marriage to the woman he didn’t love), it just seemed so inconsistent for him to at least not experience some feelings of guilt. And the guy was presented as a hero but lost his credibility as such for me with this one scene.
The whole book has some serious problems, though, and after another irritating scene I’m just scanning the remainder of the book. In the scene in question, the villain has a huge army, far in excess of the army of the good guys. She also has a tremendously powerful bomb, which the hero manages to deactivate. The villain’s army immediately breaks and runs. Say what? That just makes no sense whatsoever. According to the build up of the book the villain’s army has conquered almost the entire land and has executed almost everyone who opposes them other than the small group they now face. They did this all without the bomb. So now that the bomb is gone they all turn to cowards? The villain is still alive, still has all her powers, and her army just melts away?
This relates to my writing group because last night we were talking about how it can be difficult to have a break between days of writing and then try to get back into a work in progress. I mentioned that, for me, the hardest part was not picking up the plot or action, but picking up the “mood” of the characters and the scenes. This is how the poor book I’m reading now reads, as if the author wrote one scene in one mood and another in a different mood and just didn’t bother to try and make the work read consistently.
The most frustrating part of this for me? The weak book I’m reading is part of a trilogy, from a genre not unlike those of my Taleran books, but this was published by a major press and has also been picked up by a book club. I hope you'll excuse my whine but I happen to think my books are a lot better.