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aka: Internal Consistency

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There are, roughly speaking, three kinds of consistency that a viewer expects from a story:

  • External Consistency: Consistency with the real world.
    The fictional universe is Like Reality, Unless Noted. Violations of external consistency are "unrealistic."
  • Genre Consistency: Consistency with other fictional works.
    The fictional universe should behave like other works in its genre, unless specifically noted otherwise. Any fictional concepts, characters, or settings borrowed from other works should behave as they do in those works. Tropes are Played Straight. For example, a dragon is generally expected to be a flying reptilian creature that breathes fire; if it's different in your work, the differences should be pointed out before they start affecting the plot.
  • Internal Consistency: Consistency with itself.
    Any rules, events, settings, or characters that have been established within the fictional work continue to exist and function as they did previously, unless otherwise indicated. If your work takes place in an Expanded Universe, you're generally expected to be consistent with the (non-expanded) Canon.

Consistency aids Willing Suspension of Disbelief, while violations of consistency may be jolting and unexpected, which can benefit both humor and drama. The viewer would be quite surprised to learn that in your universe, Hitler was a circus performer, dragons are scared of fire, and that the married couple no longer recognize each other in Act III. Generally, if a work is inconsistent, the viewer expects there to be a good reason for it — commonly accepted reasons include the Rule of Funny (sudden deviations from expected outcomes are comedy bread-and-butter) and "the uncanny" (deliberately making the audience feel that something is "off" about the world). On the other hand, sometimes violations of consistency go unnoticed even if they're quite obvious, or may even be expected; e.g. The Coconut Effect, by definition, sacrifices some External Consistency for Genre Consistency. Conversely, if a work forgoes Genre Consistency in favor of External Consistency, then you have a Surprisingly Realistic Outcome.

Often, a feature in a work is consistent at one level and not at another; for example, maybe your vampires glitter in sunlight, which is not genre consistent with other works featuring vampires, but as long as they always do that, it is internally consistent. Similarly, if a work sacrifices a lot of External Consistency but is heavy on Internal Consistency, you get Magic A Is Magic A.

Sometimes, as in the case of sequels, it can be unclear whether two works are distinct works or part of the same work, making the distinction between Genre Consistency and Internal Consistency a bit fuzzy.

An Omnipresent Trope, since every work of fiction has some kind of consistency (except maybe Finnegans Wake).

No examples please — this is just a descriptive Super-Trope and index.

Related tropes:

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    Fiction in General 

External Consistency

    Presence of External Consistency 
"Realistic." "Just like in real life." "That could really happen."

  • Deconstruction: A work looks at the serious reactions and consequences to a work's conventions that are usually glossed over.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: A work set in the past deliberately shows the unpleasant beliefs and aspects of the past and doesn't whitewash any of it.
  • Like Reality, Unless Noted
  • Plausible Deniability
  • Shown Their Work: It is apparent that whatever subject is referenced or used in the work, the creators did thorough research to ensure they made no mistakes about the subject.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: The realistic consequences and outcomes of certain tropes are demonstrated rather than having the same results as in any other work of fiction.

    Lack of External Consistency 
"Unrealistic." "It doesn't really work that way." "It wouldn't happen that way in real life."

    Excess of External Consistency 
"Too real." "Is this supposed to be fiction or a documentary?"

    When External Consistency Doesn't Work 
"It's this way in reality, but it shouldn't be this way in fiction."

Genre Consistency

    Presence of Genre Consistency 
"Just like in other works." "Seen this one before."

    Lack of Genre Consistency 
"A different take on X." "That's not how it usually works in stories."

    Excess of Genre Consistency 
"Too much like other works, nothing new or original." "Exploring and pushing the genre up to its limits."

Internal Consistency

    Presence of Internal Consistency 
"Everything fits together." "They've set rules and they're sticking to them." "Like it was carefully planned."

    Lack of Internal Consistency 
"Wait, where did that come from?" "Stuff that happened before no longer matters." "It's like a whole different work." "Will they make up their minds?"

  • Abandoned Catchphrase: A phrase a character frequently said initially, but later stops saying or doesn't say as often anymore.
  • Animation Bump: Moments in an animated work where the animation is of a higher quality.
  • Anthropomorphic Zig-Zag: An animal's level of anthropomorphism is inconsistent.
  • Artwork and Game Graphics Segregation: When the appearances of characters and items in a game's promotional and cover artwork don't match what's in the game.
  • Ass Pull: An explanation or solution that comes out of nowhere and completely disregards what the story has already established, named from the idea that the author just pulled an answer from their ass out of desperation for a quick and easy way to resolve the conflict.
  • Ball Index: When a character briefly acts inconsistently (referred to in these tropes as "holding the [trait] ball") for the sake of the plot.
  • Bellisario's Maxim: "Don't examine this too closely." Paying too much attention to the inconsistencies can be to a work's detriment.
  • Beyond the Impossible
  • *Bleep*-dammit!: The work makes use of censorship, but lacks a consistency on when it is applied (e.g. not bleeping out every utterance of a particular profanity, editing out nude scenes while doing nothing to crack down on the violent content, etc.)
  • Breaking Old Trends
  • Broad Strokes: A sequel or reboot establishes that the events of older stories happened, but not necessarily in the exact same way as depicted in the original stories.
  • Character Derailment
  • Character Rerailment: Inconsistent with later characterization in favor of original characterization.
  • The Chris Carter Effect: If too many inconsistencies build up, the audience could leave.
  • Continuity Drift
  • Continuity Snarl
  • Depending on the Artist: A character's physical appearance changes depending on which artist is drawing them.
  • Depending on the Writer: A character's personality, interests and so on change depending on who is writing the current episode.
  • Discontinuity Nod: Characters make a disparaging reference to a reviled part of the franchise.
  • Deus ex Machina
  • Fridge Logic: Inconsistencies the audience only realizes after the fact (as in when they're going to the fridge for a snack).
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation: What is established in the game's story is not consistent with what is possible or apparent in the actual gameplay.
  • Handwave: A work gives a token acknowledgement and dismissal of an inconsistency.
  • Inconsistent Coloring
  • Inconsistent Dub
  • In Name Only: An adaptation that is so different from the source material that the title is pretty much the only thing the two works have in common.
  • Negative Continuity: A work lacks a consistent canon, so essentially every episode contradicts each other.
  • Off-Model: A character has an inconsistency in their character design.
  • Out-of-Character Moment: A moment where a character's behavior contrasts strongly with how they usually act.
  • Plot Hole: A story has an inconsistency with the plot preventing it from making complete sense.
  • Retcon: Making retroactive changes to the established continuity.
  • Series Continuity Error: The series at one point makes a very noticeable continuity error that is too glaring to overlook or excuse.
  • Timey-Wimey Ball: Very often, Time Travel is just plain not consistent.
  • Unreliable Canon
  • A Wizard Did It: Hastily explaining inconsistencies as happening because of magic.
  • Writer Conflicts with Canon: What the creator says is canon is contradictory to what is seen in the actual work.
  • Vague Age: It isn't clear how old a character is supposed to be, which can be the result of the series not being consistent on which age group the character belongs to.
  • Voodoo Shark: An attempt at fixing a Plot Hole that only results in making an even bigger Plot Hole.
  • Your Size May Vary: The size of a character is inconsistent.

    Excess of Internal Consistency 
"This thing is so loaded with rules and self-references you'll never figure it out."

Please do not add examples to work pages, this merely defines the term.

Alternative Title(s): External Consistency, Genre Consistency, Internal Consistency