Friday, September 19, 2014

1001 Ways to Wreck a Story - Part Five

Julie offers this installment:

The Info-Dump – Slamming the Brakes on your Pacing 

There are so many details that need to be in your story to add richness, flesh out your characters, bring in their backstories, explain the history of what brought your story to this point, etc. But inserting these details should be more like scattering bird seed than using a backhoe. In order to understand info-dumping, you really have to have a good grasp on Pacing and its multi-layered impact on your story.

The Problem
If “Pacing” is the car that your story is driving down the road, an info-dump is a fistful of pointy tacks thrown in the way. Whatever the pace of your story at that point, info-dumping will slam on the brakes. The Pacing of your story is its movement and momentum and you want your reader along for the ride. Making them stop to read huge road signs of detailed information will make them get off the ride in frustration.

Here is an example– If your Main Character joins a circus as a roadie and is now on a dangerous mission to steal the abused horses and escape, you, as the writer are going to want to explain how she got there, why she is motivated to do this, the fact that she is very talented with horses, and so on. And your reader will want to know all this. But mostly they want her to save the horses before the one in the worst shape dies, and to get her own butt out of there! Reading four pages about her past and her skills set is going to frustrate your reader. You need to weave it in small bits all the way through, painlessly.  

The Fix There are many tools in a writer’s arsenal to accomplish this, including:
  • External Dialogue with other characters--comments about how differently they used to do things back home on the ranch, or comments about evil bankers foreclosing on hard-working people, and so on, spread into numerous conversations throughout the story. 
  • Internal Dialogue--comparisons in her head of the vast differences between this setting and her past world (this allows you to paint the current setting, and draw in details of her past). 
  • Sensory induced memories--smells in the circus could give her brief flashes of memories from her past. 

These are just some of the ways to scatter the “birdseed” of information throughout your story. If done skillfully, your reader acquires the knowledge without even realizing it. They never get off the ride, and every relevant question is answered by the time the car crosses the finish line. Victory Lap!!

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