Real Mistakes, Real Laughs:

Air bases were built on captured islands of Tinian, Saipan, and Guam but they were barley within the range of the long-range bombers.

(hope the bombadiers weren't on gluten-free diets)

Didn't catch the typo? Scroll to bottom of page

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

To Be Continued

Just when you thought there wasn't anything mundane left for me to talk about, I proffer, for your consideration, continuity errors.

In film, television, and written fiction, continuity (also called time-scheme) refers to "consistency of the characteristics of persons, plot, objects, places and events seen by the reader or viewer over some period of time" (Wikipedia).  Mistakes in continuity occur when a writer changes something that interrupts the consistency.  In film, scenes are shot over and over again, often on different days.  Scripts are not filmed in chronological order.  Every detail must be reproduced exactly or there will be continuity discrepancies.  Editors catch most of these errors but there are plenty that slip through the cracks, and it's fun -- in a Where's Waldo? sort of way -- to catch them.

Example:  One of my favorite novels, Air Force Wives by Ruth Walker, centers around the lives of four women: Tai, Shelley, Bobby Jo, and Crystal.  In one chapter when Shelley receives a wedding invitation from Crystal, the narrative reads "Her first thought was to call Tai and Shelley."  I read it over several times, but there it was.  "Shelley" should have been "Bobby Jo." Neither the author nor editorial staff caught it.  Neither did most of the public, I'm willing to bet.  In a world where the slightest error of any type is enough to get a query letter rejected, I found it ironic that such a blatant continuity error made it all the way to the printer.

Another example:  In the epic film Braveheart, the Princess of Wales meets with William Wallace to discuss a truce.  She wears typical 13th century headgear that includes a swath of gauzy fabric under her chin from ear to ear, resembling a chin strap.  Closeup shots of the Princess and Wallace alternate rapidly to capture the emotional subtleties, but they also capture the fact that the Princess' chin strap seems to migrate from under her chin to over it and back again, all within seconds while she is seated in one position.

Or how about Steel Magnolias:  Early in the story, Daryl Hannah's character meets a young man who introduces himself as Sandy.  Throughout the film, as their romance blossoms and culminates in marriage, various cast members refer to him as Sammy.  A single mis-speak is one thing -- Sandy and Sammy sound similar enough -- but after you hear more Sammys than Sandys, you wonder how the production crew could allow the actor to introduce his character by the wrong name. 

With so much technology doing most of the work for us, it's easy to see how human attention to detail can falter.  Not to worry; there's probably an app for that.

What's your favorite continuity error?  Send it to me and we may have a new list to start!

Cynthia Polansky "Expect the Unexpected" http://www.cynthiapolansky.com/ http://www.cynthiapgallagher.com/

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