When writing in the Fantasy Genre, and to a larger extent any genre, maintaining consistency is vital. Lack of consistency can kill a fantasy story. When you write fantasy you are asking the reader to suspend their disbelief and accept a world, a universe of your creation, one that might be completely foreign to the reader. Whether your story is in the vein of classic fantasy like Lord of the Rings, modern urban fantasy such as The Dresden Files, or something entirely original, consistency is the mortar keeping your story together. Otherwise, without consistency, your fantastical world will collapse like a poorly made house. One of the worst mistakes a writer can make, especially in the fantasy genre, is break consistency, whether that is by ignoring or contradicting something previously established, for simple plot ‘convenience.’ Xlibris Publishing offers some advice and suggestions about important aspects to remember and apply consistency.
Consistency of Characters
It is of vital importance that you keep your characters consistent. If you are further along with your story, with main characters firmly established, it can be jarring to your readers if your main characters do or say things that grossly contradict a character’s earlier behaviours. Once you have established the kind of people your characters are, what values they uphold, and what they are willing or not willing to do, stick to them. If you write your character to suddenly do or say something they previously refused or even admonished another for, then at best the reader might see the character as a hypocrite or at worst question your writing skills.
It is also important for your characters to be consistent with their own capabilities. If a character established as a mediocre fighter is suddenly, out of nowhere, capable of fending off a small army, a reader might take issue with that. If a character established as a highly skilled assassin is incapable of properly following an untrained man in total stealth, a reader might take issue with that. It can be construed as a sign of a poor writer to suddenly change or ignore a character’s previously established skills and capabilities for the sake of plot convenience.
Consistency of Setting
When you pick your setting for your story keep in mind what are the norms, values, and practices of such a setting. For example, if you set your story as taking place in a world not unlike that of feudal Europe then keep in mind how feudalism worked, how it was practiced, and what was not done or tolerated in such a society. If a character (hero or villain) does act in a way that is unorthodox or even taboo to their society, there should be proportionate consequences. If a character acts in a way their society finds detestable and loathsome, yet how their society sees and treats them is relatively unchanged, such can be construed as bad writing.
It is also important to maintain consistency with the fantastical and magical elements of your fantasy story. Establish the rules by which magic operates in your story fairly early on. Establish or lay the references to the fantastical early in the story, so that they do not seemingly appear from out of nowhere later. Be sure to clearly demonstrate the limits and range of what magic and fantastical beings are capable of doing.
Consistency of Plot
Be sure to maintain consistency with your plot. Keep in mind actions and events that took place in your story, especially the consequences of said actions and events. This is similar to keeping consistency with your setting. A sign of poor writing is when the writer, in order to force the plot down a certain path, ignores what happened or had been established earlier in the plot. One character spends an entire arc of the book mustering allies and resources to their cause yet another character, without explanation, does so in one chapter or worse, off page. Maintaining consistency can help you prevent plot holes that will detract from your story’s quality.
It should be stated that there can be exceptions to consistency, cases where the inconsistency itself is important. However, in such cases the inconsistency makes sense in the full context, which must be fully displayed to the reader well before the story ends. Perhaps the villain can get away with even the most heinous crimes because they are so rich and powerful, but only if it is firmly established (or will be) that the villain is already powerful and influential to begin with.
Consistency helps ensure that readers believe in the world you are creating for them.
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