1. Alesia
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    Alesia Pen names: AJ Connor, Carey Connolly Contributor

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    Anyone else have a problem with info dumping (or over describing)?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Alesia, Sep 24, 2013.

    The question is precisely as the topic title says. Like in my first draft, my MC was talking about having a splitting headache like: "It feels like my head is splitting in half, and there's all this pressure between my eyes, and my brain is pulsing, and blah, blah, blah." when really (and this is how it ended up in the final edit) "I have a splitting headache" would have sufficed just as well.
     
  2. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I think it's a very common tendency. I often find that my initial draft is more verbose than it needs to be. That is why we edit.
     
  3. ManOrAstroMan
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    ManOrAstroMan Magical Space Detective Contributor

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    The tricky part is knowing what to edit when it comes to information about your character/setting/world/etc. We always think everything is vitally important (at least I do) and it's a nightmare trying to figure out what to keep.
     
  4. Alesia
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    Alesia Pen names: AJ Connor, Carey Connolly Contributor

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    Very true. My initial first paragraph was a massive block of text describing every little sensation until editing where it was cut down to the four basic signs of a hangover: headache, nausea, body aches, and foul-tasting dry mouth.
     
  5. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    "I'm not a very good writer; however, I am an excellent re-writer." - James A. Michener.
     
  6. SuperVenom
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    SuperVenom Contributing Member

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    I found to help, I have found not to let my writing get too precious. I think "do i need this" at least 3 times and then if i can delete it or shorten it. And it helps to do this half way through the story too. I noted that I was going off subject and taking way too long to get to relevant check points. So I started editing earlier than the usual finish the first draft and then edit and it really helps. As i become acquainted with earlier parts of the story it allowed me to fill plot holes, get rid of pointless sub plots and in some cases give me a start point for a better sub plot. I found i have removed whole scenes and paragraphs I had earlier been so in love with. But for the greater good they went. In a seperate file so I could use the metaphors, similes and wording etc. in another story. And i don't miss them lol
     
  7. Gallowglass
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    Gallowglass Contributing Member Contributor

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    This seems pretty standard. I revise at the end of every chapter, purely because if I didn't the first revision of the whole book would reduce it in size by at least half. That's not just the writing - that's sub-plots and intrigue, too - but the writing does get heady, particularly if I'm emotionally invested in a scene (i.e., it's ran through my head half a dozen times a day since I first thought of it). I once spent a paragraph describing an empty shell-casing floating in bullet-time past a person's head, and did the same with a character's ever-changing hair until eventually I learned just to write 'it was green today.'
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    such micromanaging [what i call bibo writing... as in 'breathe-in/breathe-out'] is one of the most common bad habits of new writers... and the hardest of all for me to stamp out, when working with mentees...
     
  9. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I think another thing to keep in mind might be this: "Have I already expressed this idea before?"

    And another: "Has the idea already been implied? If yes, does it need reinforcing and/or clarifying, or not?"

    Repetition in certain places can be good. Expanding on an idea can be good. It's in how you do it, and if the idea needed expanding in the first place. And if it's truly expansion, then everything you say related to the idea should reveal something new, some new depth. It wouldn't truly be repetition.

    As for actual repetition, used over the cause of an entire novel, would help drive the point home. Repetition used in close succession I'd see as more of a poetic device, especially for rhythm.

    So, if it the idea is unimportant, ditch it. If the idea is important but simple, say it once and that's it. If it's an idea that is important and complex, then it's up to your writer's intuition to tell you if this is the right place in the story to expand upon it, and if yes, then to what extent. If it is an important but simple point that you absolutely need to drive home, here's where repetition is your friend - I mean repeated words as opposed to repeated ideas, because that's succinct and clear and doesn't *feel* like it's dragging/repeating. If it's an important and complex point that you must drive home, I'd space this out over the course of several chapters, because a complex idea necessitates that you've probably spent a paragraph on it already, and here's where you don't really want repetition because then it'd be overkill.

    Like, for atmosphere, I often use repeated words. "The room was black, black like cancer," is a simple example.

    For something complex, it might be:

    "He clutched the knife, letting the tip hover over his chest. He could hear his heart beating: one, two, one, two, pushing the blood that sustained him round and round his worthless body. Yet he'd never felt so cold. The blade gleamed in the dim light, catching the cotton of his shirt. He shuddered, squeezed his eyes shut."

    So the knife is given more detail as the paragraph goes - first you see only its position, then you see how it looks (the gleaming), then you feel a snatch of a knife on one's shirt. It's not true repetition, it's expansion. His doubt is expanded upon because to talk about blood and body and shuddering is far more effective than simply saying, "He wasn't sure if he was ready", though if the story continued there might be room for something like that, if appropriate. But if I'd written that line, that would be really hammering the point home - that would be repetition, not words, but repetition of an idea. In a situation like this, his doubt has been made obvious - now is not the time for repetition then.

    However I've used a different sort of repetition, if you like, with the "one, two, one, two" and "round and round" - simple things really that emphasises the rhythm of the heartbeat, circulation, and if you wanted to read into it, you could even say it illustrates how the POV character's thoughts are going wild and running in circles, and how life keeps going like his blood keeps going, etc etc etc. Again, like I said previous, repetition is great as a poetic device for setting rhythm, which is what I've done there. But neither the heartbeat nor the blood are given another thought after - there's no repetition of ideas here, just words.

    If something has been expanded upon, repetition should probably be avoided. Unless of course the repetition came before the expansion. Say...

    "The room was black, black like cancer. The darkness was so palpable he thought it crawled, swelling into shapes and curves to whisper of something not quite there."

    Now I have a double repetition, actually - black, black, and "the darkness" - I don't like the double repeat, it's clumsy, so I guess I'd now change it to:

    "The room was black like cancer, the darkness so palpable he thought..." etc​

    Here the repetition occurred immediately at the start, and then it is expanded upon, and here the expansion is used not only as description but to convey how the POV character feels. So it is not repetition. The only repetition is in "black" and "darkness". Imagine if I'd reversed the order - talked about the palpable darkness and THEN the black like cancer simile - it wouldn't work.

    "The darkness was so palpable he thought it crawled, swelling into shapes and curves to whisper of something not quite there. It was black, black like cancer."

    See how it just doesn't work?

    If repetition and expansion of the same are used in the same paragraph, I'd go for repetition and then expansion.

    I haven't a clue if I'm still on topic, and therefore I shall be over and out :D
     
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2013
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  10. Steve Day
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    Steve Day Senior Member

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    Use just enough words, no more, no less.
    If I knew how to do that I wouldn't be here, I'd be on the French Riviera, sipping an adult drink with another very attractive adult.
     
  11. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Me too. And I am becoming a much better writer.

    My first draft, spit out in a manic marathon was the first time I ever wrote something like a novel. As soon as I got my first critique, the telling problem was blatantly obvious and I set about showing the story bit by bit. Sometimes I struggled with creativity, but now it comes much more easily. I'm still working on more creative world building, but I have a lot of the rest nailed down fairly well.

    I'm frequently cutting my lines. My son looks at them and says, you don't need this or that because we already know it.

    "I have a splitting headache" works if you don't need to put a lot of emphasis on the fact. But the rest of your example suggests you are going for something more dramatic about the headache. If that was the case, you still don't need the info dump, you might instead consider a more dramatic metaphor:

    "The throbbing in my brain threatened to push my eyes right out of their sockets."

    You don't need an info dump for emphasis when word changes will do.
     
  12. Alesia
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    Alesia Pen names: AJ Connor, Carey Connolly Contributor

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    Actually, I went with "my head is pounding like a cheap hooker on a Friday night." :D
     
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  13. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    do cheap hookers 'pound'?... or do their 'clients' do the pounding? :confused:
     
  14. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Depends on the fee? :eek:
     
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  15. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    That's when it's great if you can afford to wait a LONG time before doing a big edit. The words that aren't important and the phrases that clog up the works will jump out at you, and will be VERY EASY to dump—or consolidate. Distance is really the key.
     
  16. Alesia
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    Alesia Pen names: AJ Connor, Carey Connolly Contributor

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    Or the position. :D
     
  17. Duchess-Yukine-Suoh
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    Duchess-Yukine-Suoh Girl #21 Contributor

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    Yeah, I do that, but less with information and with dialogue. I write pages and pages of dialogue that has nothing to do with the plot.
     
  18. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Why?
     
  19. Duchess-Yukine-Suoh
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    Duchess-Yukine-Suoh Girl #21 Contributor

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    Who, me?
     
  20. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Yes, you. Why are you writing dialogue that doesn't have anything to do with the plot? :confused:
     
  21. Duchess-Yukine-Suoh
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    Duchess-Yukine-Suoh Girl #21 Contributor

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    I don't know. I mean, it's between the main characters, but them stopping at a gas station requires three pages of dialogue. I feel like it helps develop their characters for some reason.
     
  22. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I've thinned a bit of my story when I couldn't answer the question, how is this moving the plot along?
     
  23. alex ramirez
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    alex ramirez New Member

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    I think the main thing is to keep it short and sweet. If there is enough action in your story then you don't need to spend two pages describing a headache. New writers have tendency to do this, to try and fill space. But it only weighs the story down. Keep it moving. Think of each sentence or paragraph like rapid fire from a machine gun. You don't want the reader to get bored.
     
  24. Alesia
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    Alesia Pen names: AJ Connor, Carey Connolly Contributor

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    Or if that's confusing you could say "My head is pounding like a whore-house on a busy night."
     
  25. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Haha that's creative!

    Don't worry about being too literal - some people hate it when metaphors and analogies are not literal (and sometimes they're right that it doesn't work), others see the poetic device or comedy behind it. I fall in the latter group. Esp if you're going for Kinsella - readers of that sort of genre are unlikely to be nit-pickers I think, nor would they care. I'm a nit-picker by nature and I thoroughly enjoy Kinsella because in that kinda genre, you don't *expect* literary genius. What you expect is pure entertainment.
     

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