I’m reading a story and am really into it. All of a sudden, I stop in the middle of a paragraph. I thought they were sitting in the boy’s house with only three characters. Where did the other person come from? I’m confused. And how can that one act happen so soon after the other? It is impossible! I can’t continue to read as I am turning the pages back trying to get oriented. The next thing I know I’m rereading sections trying to make sense of it usually to no avail. You’ve lost me now.
When you aren’t consistent in your story, you lose a reader. That is the opposite of what you want to happen. You want the reader to get lost within the story, not lost from the story. Something great will get ignored as more reviewers tell others to avoid your story as it is too confusing. Not good. Consistency is very important.
Consistency includes characters, locations, plot, and scenes. A character’s hair should not change colors unless it is told that they dyed their hair. Their hair should not be long in chapter two and a pixie cut in chapter three. Again, that is acceptable if you note that it was cut. The same is said about color of eyes, skin, and so forth.
It also includes a character’s traits and how they respond to situations. If the character is shy around strangers, you don’t have them walk up to a stranger and start a conversation without a lot of prompting and anxiety. It shouldn’t be easy for them. If they are outgoing, they shouldn’t become shy all of a sudden without good reason. Athletic characters stay athletic. Keep the characters in...character.
Are they in Paris? Then don’t describe Big Ben. Are they in the country? Then don’t describe a busy street. Keep them in a consistent location or move them in a logical and obvious manner.
Another thing that is very important for consistency is the time period. I was reading a book that was supposed to be set in pre-Christian Britain. That was fine except the author had transportation means that were not available until the Elizabethan times. She described technology that wasn’t around during that period. I couldn’t enjoy the story for all the inaccuracies. The story wasn’t consistent.
Keep your reader entertained. That means having another set of eyes read over your work. In fact, get several extra sets of eyes to look over it and point out consistency issues. No matter how well you write how good the plot idea is, lack of consistency will push readers away.