Continuity (fiction)  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

In fiction, continuity is consistency of the characteristics of persons, plot, objects, places and events seen by the reader or viewer. It is of relevance to several media.

Continuity is particularly a concern in the production of film and television due to the difficulty of rectifying an error in continuity after shooting has completed, although it also applies to other art forms, including novels, comics, anime, videogames and animation, though usually on a much broader scale.

Most productions have a script supervisor on hand whose job is to pay attention to and attempt to maintain continuity across the chaotic and typically non-linear production shoot. This takes the form of a large amount of paperwork, photographs, and attention to and memory of large quantities of detail, some of which is sometimes assembled into the story bible for the production. It usually regards factors both within the scene and often even technical details including meticulous records of camera positioning and equipment settings. The use of a Polaroid camera was standard but has since been replaced by the advent of digital cameras. All of this is done so that ideally all related shots can match, despite perhaps parts being shot thousands of miles and several months apart. It is a less conspicuous job, though, because if done perfectly, no one will ever notice.

In comic books, continuity has also come to mean a set of contiguous events, sometimes said to be "set in the same universe" (see fictional crossover) or "separate universes" (see intercompany crossover).

Today, maintaining strong plot and character continuity is also a high priority for many writers of long-running television series.

Homeric Nod

Homeric nod (sometimes heard as 'Even Homer nods') is a continuity error. It has its origins in Homeric epic.

The proverbial phrase for it was coined by the Roman poet Horace in his Ars poetica:

... et idem
indignor quandoque bonus dormitat Homerus
... and yet I also become annoyed whenever the great Homer nods off.

There are numerous continuity errors in Homer that resemble "nods", as for example:

  • In Iliad he is still alive to witness the death of his son.
  • In Iliad 9.165-93 three characters, Phoinix, Odysseus, and Aias set out on an embassy to Achilleus; however, at line 182 the poet uses a verb in the dual form to indicate that there are only two people going; at lines 185ff. verbs in the plural form are used, indicating more than two; but another dual verb appears at line 192 ("the two of them came forward").

In modern Homeric scholarship many of Homer's "nods" are explicable as the consequences of the poem being retold and improvised by generations of oral poets. So in the second case cited above, it is likely that two different versions are being conflated: one version with an embassy of three people, another with just two people.

Alexander Pope was inclined to give Homeric nods the benefit of the doubt:

Those oft are Stratagems which Errors seem,
Nor is it Homer Nods, but We that Dream. - Essay on Criticism

Modern usage

In his online column, Best of The Web Today, James Taranto of The Wall Street Journal often uses the phrase "Homer Nods" as the title of a retraction or correction.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Continuity (fiction)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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