The character arc demands that a writer supply the character’s motivation to the reader. One of the easiest, and most insidious ways to accomplish this is with ye olde info dump.
Writing Tip for Today: What is an info dump and how can you avoid it?
- Take a Tip from Secret Agents. Agents in spy movies only give info on a need-to-know basis. You may write a lot of back story or other descriptions of your character’s life in order to know this stuff as the creator of the work. But remember, your readers are not you and they only need the smallest of explanations to buy into a story. Most readers will forgo lengthy explanations (RUE*, right?) in exchange for scenic action. Go ahead and write that stuff–but don’t leave it clumped together in the work itself.
- Use Beats, Not Clumping. While we’re on the subject, look for chunks or clumps (your choice) of descriptions, back stories or other explanations that are a paragraph long or more. You’ll hear me talk a lot about weaving –that is, breaking up the chunks and inserting sentences of same into and around the dialogue and action. I like to call these sentences “beats.” If you practice arranging beats around spoken parts or action, you’ll find you need far fewer attributions such as “he said.” Plus you’ll convey the inner life of the character in small doses.
- When in Doubt, Leave it Out. If you are unsure if readers need-to-know a detail or back story, it’s almost always best to leave it out. The details are for you to know–much like a marionette’s master, manipulating strings that the audience doesn’t see. I know, I know. You researched and found out all sorts of interesting factoids. But trust me, readers want story, not a history lesson or a sermon. Use the Rule of Three** to gauge how much is too much.
*RUE Resist the Urge to Explain.
**Rule of Three If you add more than 3 sentences of dialogue, back story or description, consider switching to a different speaker, or from narrative to action.
11 comments on “Avoiding the Info Dump”
Great post – thank you. Its great to read a post about writing that gives clear, tangible ‘doing’ advice.RUE and sentence ‘beats’ rang true for me.
Glad to help, Gabi. You’ll be amazed at the results–keep writing! ~Linda
Thanks for the reminders.
Your rule of three has impacted my writing.
I mentioned it to my critique group, and now they’re using it as well.
Keep teaching us!
Thanks, Marilyn. I consider you one of my best and brightest students. Keep writing!
Thanks for sharing your post. I enjoy learning from other writers. Blessings, Deborah H. Bateman-Author
Thanks for your support, Deborah. If you have a recent release, I also do reviews. Let me know if you’re interested. Best, ~Linda
What excellent tips and pointers. I so enjoy your teaching 🙂 Have a God-filled day!
What a kind thing to say, Kathleen. Keep writing! ~Linda
its great excellent tips i like this post thanks for sharing.
Thanks, Martin! Come by for more tips–I post Mondays and Wednesdays. ~Linda
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