5

So, I finally began writing my sixtieth or so first draft. And I noticed a small thing:

As sunset came the sky became a river of orange and gold. Maybe like a lava stream? Gyvaris might have been a red dragon, but as embarrassing it was, he never saw actual lava in his life. The only time he heard about it was from his mother, the rest was left up to the wyrmling’s imagination.

It's still well in WIP, but I didn't plan for this on the character sheet, it just came randomly and I just added

"Gyvaris spent his early years in a large forest, much like the one he later choose to settle in. His parents rarely ever went beyond its borders after he was born, and they never really explained why."

This did help develop Gyv as a character and establish that he has holes in his lexical knowledge despite his intelligence and resolve.

But I'm still afraid that this will lead to contradictions in other characters later.

This is a useful thing but how can I prevent it from leading to contradictions later?

12

In the end, the story you are creating will either be convincing or not. But being logically coherent has little to do with making a story convincing. (The fact that there is an entire YouTube subculture dedicated to finding plot holes in blockbuster movies should convince you that a plot hole is not fatal to a story's appeal.)

Being convincing has far more to do with creating a sense of reality, the sense that these are real people living and moving in real places. As you are writing, you will imaginatively "play" these characters and if you do this well, you will inevitably find that you are imaging moments, and responses to moments, that are not in your plan. You can't plan for the act of imaginative discovery that you engage in as you write, you can only do it or not do it. Thus that notion that a decent book can be written entirely to plan does not work.

There is a constant tension to be managed between imaginatively inhabiting your characters and your world and being as true as you can to what your imagination reveals to you as you write, and keeping your plot on track so that all the characters arrive at the climax at the right time and in the right configuration. Normal people, after all, do not blithely walk toward such climactic moments. The plan matters to make sure that you get them there, but it has to be subservient to what the imagination discovers and created in the actual imaginative act of writing.

Which is probably why so many books and films do have plot holes if you look at them too closely, because they have stuck with the dictates of imagination to create compelling scenes and characters, and then resorted to coincidences and outright inconsistencies in the mechanics of plot to get all the characters lined up in the right order to play their role in the central climax.

In short, trust your imagination to reveal who your characters are and the world they live in, and then lie, cheat, and steal on the mechanics of plot to force them into the situations you need them to be in.

12

I am a discovery writer, I make 90% of the story up as I go along, so I do what you are doing (inventing background, thoughts, feelings, biases and attitudes, etc) constantly.

However, anytime I do anything that might impact later actions -- say it helped create a conflict if my character hates beans -- I note that on a character sheet for that character. Usually just the act of doing that is enough to make me remember the fact. But also, because I have this habit of making the note, I am also checking the character sheet anytime I am about to add something to it, and that prevents me from inventing something new that just doesn't fit with the things I have written before.

A trick you can use in conjunction with this, which is good for writing anyway, is to be specific: The character doesn't claim they hate beans, they hate kidney beans. So first, if you can't find "kidney beans" in your manuscript, you aren't contradicting yourself. Elsewhere the character may eat black beans, pinto beans, navy beans, but that's okay, for the purpose of the conflict in question they only hate kidney beans.

Make their biases specific, make their lack of knowledge specific. Your character has never seen magma, that is plenty specific enough for a search. If you get too general in what they have never seen you may have to read the whole book.

If you already have a character sheet, add notes to it as you go, and review it every time you are about to add another note, to catch a contradiction in the bud.

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