I do a bit of writing too, but whenever I get to a part of the plot where I get stuck, I start thinking ”Oh, my characters actions don’t make sense, they don’t correspond with where the story is going.” How do I get my characters and plot to make sense? I don’t know how to describe it. Does that make sense?
Oh yeah, that totally makes sense to me. That’s one of the main things you have to work on in editing, is make sure your characters actions are consistent. So, this a bit off topic, and I’m going to come back and answer this question directly, but readers expect consistency with the real world, except where noted, people expect consistency with the genre, and people expect consistency with the world. So, what that means, is unless you have magic or aliens or something, people expect the world to act like the world does. So, they don’t expect people to be like, “Yeah, and then I just walked on the walls for a while and then walked away.” And people will be like, people don’t walk on walls. So, they expect that. Unless you note it. If you give this person the power to walk on walls, and then they walk on walls, no problem. Then people expect consistency within the genre. So, people expect a sci fi book to have aliens and not magic, and they expect a fantasy book to have magic and not aliens. And then, people expect consistency within the work, which means when you establish something within the book or the movie or the story, then that shouldn’t be violated later.
So, a lot of times, what you’re talking about is called character consistency, and so, when a character does something or acts something that is contrary to their previously established desires, motivation or skill set, that is probably what you are talking about., I would think. And the great part about this is, the solution to this is the same as the solution to almost any other part of the story, which is finish the manuscript. So the funny thing is, that sounds flippant, but I’m actually very serious. That is the solution. The solution is you don’t fix it in the moment. You go, “Crap, I’ve got a problem,” and let’s say your at the end of chapter 10, and you realize at the end of chapter 10, your illiterate sea captain is reading a book. So you write that down, and you leave a note for yourself at the end of the chapter, and you go “Crap, this guy can’t read.” And you make a little note, and you say from here on out, I’m going to say he wasn’t reading. I’m going to forget about that; I’m going to say the book is gone. So now you start chapter 11 and he doesn’t have a book anymore. But later, you have a little note there. Later, when you’re done with the book, go back with your editing, and then you’ve only got one scene to fix and not an entire book.
So what you do, if you notice your characters are acting inconsistently, you notice your characters have done something that, “Oh crap, that ruins the plot,” you then go “OK, what should they have done here?” and you make a quick little note, and from here on out, you proceed as if they have done that. So, he shouldn’t have killed this girl here. So now I’m going to proceed as if she’s alive, even though I have already written the scene in which he murders this person. So then for the rest of the book, you are proceeding as if this girl is alive. Later, you have to go back and change it so that he doesn’t kill the girl. Or, a couple of chapters later, you go “Nope, he should have killed her,” so then you do it again. You make another note. And you go yup, he killed her after all.
(responding to a comment in chat) Yes, it is violent. I’m sorry. This is a murder mystery and she was alive the whole time.
But yeah, that is the idea. Leave a note for yourself, and fix it when you are done.