To be more specific, consistency within characterization. I recently read a fabulous adult sci-fi called Ready Player One. This was everything a sci-fi should be.
Except for the first chapter.
See, the author had a terrific plot involving a virtual reality treasure hunt with the 1980's as a focal point. There were War Games, Dungeons and Dragons, virtual reality wars, Pacman, and a great mystery. For the haters, it basically name drops the 1980's all over the place, which was fine by me. It is one of the better books I have read of late. However, that first chapter was like the author's own personal soapbox and sadly, the character in chapters 2 through whatever was not the same in numero uno. In that first chapter there are a number of character inconsistencies. For example, Wade Watts (our protagonist) is against religion and states that he finds it useless along with its worshippers. However, just a few paragraphs later he tells the reader that one of the nicest and best people he has ever known is a religious women who lives below him. An interesting dichotomy in character that would have been a good jumping off point, but here is the crux, the author never mentions religion again. Not in the entire book. Which leads me to believe that the author has a problem with religion and simply couldn't let his book go without mentioning it, to the detriment of the character since it really has nothing to do with the character or his story.
This is an issue that I have seen in a number of books lately. Shades of Earth, Hunger Games, Insurgent, The Navigator, in a world in which less and less authors and by extension books are being published, one would think that the editors and agents would be quick to point out these major character flaws and authorial intrusions. Something along the lines of:
Dear author, I understand that you don't like organized religion, but it doesn't seem like it matters at all to your character so can we leave that bit out?
Dear author, it is our understanding that your character is a rather logical person, so why would you make her an emotional wreck in the second installment of your series?
I expect such letters from my beta readers and eventually editors. One such beta reader recently pointed out that my fantasy characters are all rather defeatist, a trait that I had not really noticed until she pointed it out. Reading through it again, I realize that yes, they are, and really only one of them should be such a cynic and not because of a lack of training but because of a lack of trust, which are really completely different things.
As the title may suggest, I read The Navigator and City of Time series and found that the character in book 1 was nothing like the one in book 2 and sadly this was not because the character had changed all that much by the end of the first book. I felt like I was meeting an entirely new character in the second book, one who made choices that seemed more like plot points than actual character development and as a reader that is frustrating. Don't get me wrong, I am okay with the occasional plot driven action adventure, but for the most part, I am a character girl. Give me a good engaging character and I may forgive a slower plot simply because I love the character so much. And as authors, sometimes it is important to remember that not all our characters are like us and sometimes we must step aside in order to let our characters shine through.