Monday, January 24, 2011

Monday's Writing Tip: Avoiding the Dreaded Info Dump

"Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass." Anton Chekhov

We've all read craft books which explain that in our writing, we should show, not tell.

Okay, so I admit it, I thought I could get away with telling and not showing! I'm rewriting a novel I started over 10 years ago. A chapter I read to my critique group over the weekend started off with three pages of back story.  Needless to say,they wouldn't let me get away with that!  I was told that I was depriving the reader--which is true!

So today I'm rewriting again, and actually looking forward to it.  Describing a scene, and interweaving back story into is much more exciting for the reader--and won't put her to sleep.

Instead of me explaining what two weeks in Oberlin, Ohio has been like for a newly escaped slave, I can show her interacting with another character.  In my original draft, she merely thinks about this particular character, and how said character shows disdain for her.  She also reflects upon her new life and all the changes she's seen. 

Now I'll need to create a scenario that enables me to show the newly escaped slave with the character who doesn't like her.  This will make for a fun interplay, and the dialogue between them (when not catty) can reveal some of the back story.  More elements of the back story can be woven in at a later time, and some aren't really necessary at all to keep the story moving.

So, no shortcuts, please!  Avoid that dreaded info dump, and show, don't tell!

Have you done an info dump lately? Tweet me @: maria_mckenzie. Thanks so much for visiting today!

18 comments:

Saumya said...

This is great advice. I had similar issues with the beginning of my WIP as well. Sometimes it's just easy to get away with telling, haha! Good luck :) I know yours will turn out wonderful.

Maria McKenzie said...

Hi Saumya! It is easier to tell, isn't it:)? But we have to make it fun for the audience! Thanks for your encouragement!

Old Kitty said...

I love that Chekov quote!!!! If I'm ever stuck with show/don't tell, I'll remember this!!

Good luck with your re-write!! I think your idea of showing your mc interacting with a character who doesn't like her makes for all sorts of juicy scenarios!! Take care
x

B.E.T. said...

Oooh...infodumps. Lots of times I do them through character interaction. AKA, character decides to spill their life story then and there. Lately I've revised it out of my MS but still, it's a tempting short-cut.

Jamaica Golf said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
J.L. Campbell said...

I like to say 'everything in moderation'. Just enough back story to keep me interested and give necessary details works every time.

The Golden Eagle said...

I often do info dumps if I don't want to forget something, or I'm trying to get something written fast and don't have time to weave the content in elsewhere.

Love the quote!

Maria McKenzie said...

@Old Kitty: It is a great quote! Thanks for wishing me luck with the rewrite:)!

@B.E.T.: Tempting short cut indeed! I was reading a novel just the other day when an info dump ocurred through character interaction. Guess if you're a best selling author, you can do that:).

@J.L.: I agree!

@Golden Eagle: As J.L. says, moderatiion is the key!

Melissa said...

This is great advice!!!!

Maria McKenzie said...

Thanks! I'm sure my critique group will remind me of it next time I try to get away with an info dump:).

Nas Dean said...

This is great advice.Good luck with your re-write!

Maria McKenzie said...

Thanks, Nas!

Hanny said...

Good advice, but surprisingly hard to avoid sometimes! Thanks for sharing!

Maria McKenzie said...

Hi, Hanny, Thanks for visiting and thanks for your comment:). And I agree, sometimes it is hard to avoid!

William Kendall said...

Great quote to start it off!

Good luck with the rewriting, Maria!

I've awarded you over at my blog, by the way.

Maria McKenzie said...

William, thanks so much for the award!

The Happy Whisk said...

Gotta love those information dumps. Great job on digging out your old manuscript. That's about how old my other one was before I started reworking it from 3rd person to first.

Enjoy your weekend, Maria. Great blog you have. Very low-drama. I appreciate that.

Happy Writing :-)

The Happy Whisk said...

Or, really, no drama. You do a great job and I always look forward to your posts (though I don't always comment). Anyway, have a great weekend. Cheers.