Continuity (fiction)

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In fiction, continuity (also called time-scheme) is consistency of the characteristics of persons, plot, objects, places and events seen by the reader or viewer over some period of time. 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 wrapped up. It also applies to other art forms, including novels, comics, anime, videogames and animation, though usually on a smaller 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 The use of a Polaroid camera was standard but has since been replaced by the advent of digital cameras.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 and fictional universe) or "separate universes" (see intercompany crossover). <---continuity slips--->

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


Continuity errors

While most continuity errors are subtle, such as changes in the level of drink in a character's glass or the length of a cigarette, others can be more noticeable, such as sudden drastic changes in appearance of a character, or the unexplained appearance of a character believed to be dead. Such errors in continuity can ruin the illusion of realism, and affect suspension of disbelief. In cinema, special attention must be paid to continuity because films are rarely shot in the order in which they are presented: that is, a crew may film a scene from the end of a movie first, followed by one from the middle, and so on. The shooting schedule is often dictated by location permit issues. A character may return to Times Square in New York City several times throughout a movie, but as it is extraordinarily expensive to close off Times Square, those scenes will likely be filmed all at once in order to reduce permit costs. Weather, the ambience of natural light, cast and crew availability, or any number of other circumstances can also influence a shooting schedule. There are three main types of continuity errors.

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