1. leamadzt
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    leamadzt New Member

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    Do you dump?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by leamadzt, Mar 1, 2013.

    I'm an info-dumper! I dumped through-out most of chapters 1, 2 and even some of 3. It's played a huge part in the awkwardness between myself and MS Word but no matter how I try, I can't seem to clean it up.

    When your world is set a few hundreds years into the future, you obviously have a fair amount of history to cover. So how do you avoid your protagonist harping on over 3 chapters about 300 years of history?

    It's made my novel feel stale, immature and irritating. Without that information, the story is suddenly missing a huge chunk of it's depth. It's quite the dilemma and it's making me less grumpy :(

    Does anybody else have similar issues?
     
  2. TimHarris
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    TimHarris Senior Member

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    Do you often recite history in your own daily life? If not, there is no reason why your protagonist should either. You can make descriptions about how the world look and feel early on, but at that point it's probably more important to hook the reader on the actual plot rather than the backstory, which you can slowly add in later throughout the story as it becomes necessary for the reader to know more.
     
  3. Xatron
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    Xatron Contributing Member

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    You can either include a prologue that will be a summarizing chronicle of the history the reader needs to know about or give only the info absolutely necessary for your plot to progress. When i see a book starting out with info dumps i almost always immediately stop reading. Unless your character is some kind of devoted scholar even he/she would not know about all that stuff. Why should i have to? The reader only needs to know the events that are directly linked with your plot.
     
  4. leamadzt
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    leamadzt New Member

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    Well I know this, which is the problem. I know the info-dumps are annoying and I know realistically my MC does not know the full ins and outs of the history she's boring on about. but I can't seem to leave the info out. I've tried for a good week now to readjust and as soon as I delete parts (big, BIG parts) suddenly the situation makes no sense :(

    It's dystopian, so the changes in history are relevant. I'm just having to constantly remind myself that the book is not about those events but it IS about the story line of my MC.
     
  5. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Two ways to deal with this: one is to just go ahead and write it, and realize that you will have a lot of cutting to do on editing; or, you can take a minimalist approach and include as little backstory and description as possible. The latter is probably a better habit to develop, but you'll need to edit no matter what you do.

    Do NOT include a prologue. A prologue infodump screams at the reader, "Skip this!"
     
  6. Xatron
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    Xatron Contributing Member

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    Tell you what. Remove ALL references to the history before your plot-related timeline. When you reach a point an event becomes important to know, you turn back and write it in. Next time you do the same. At some point you will see what events were important and what were not. If you intend to publish your book that is. If not and you are writing just for fun, then you can include as much info as you feel you can handle.
     
  7. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    I write like peeling an artichoke. I see no benefit in telling the reader everything up front. In fact, my lead character has a secret, one that he doesn't even know. The final puzzle piece is in the last chapter.

    Why can't you use something like, "Harvey Lipschitz loaded his barley onto the donkey wagon and started down the dirt road. The sun was hot, the work was hard, but he wanted a better life for his children."

    In the next paragraph write, "Obi-Wan Lipschitz loaded titanium into his strato-cruiser and headed towards the field displacement corridor. The weather was perfect, the meteorological spheres always kept it perfect. But he wanted a better life for his children."

    Obviously time has passed. But the reader doesn't have to know every nuance as the book begins. Let him find it. Draw him in.
     
  8. Nightmarz
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    Nightmarz New Member

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    I am going to have to agree with xatron, if the information is uneccesary, then leave it out for the time being. If you find a point in your plot this information is needed, put it in. The key to not dumping is to space out your dumps to when the dump is needed to understand the story - a little bit here and there.

    When your protagonist reflects on a past event is a perfect example of when to include the history lesson.

    Or you could just write a prologue. Which has also been said.
     
  9. funkybassmannick
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    funkybassmannick Contributing Member

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    The whole idea of "infodump" is that it's dumping unwanted information on the reader. You think it's important for the reader to know, but they think it's boring. The solution? Make the reader beg you to tell them the history.

    How to do that is to start where the action begins. What is the first exciting event in your story? Cut out everything before that, because now you have a hook that will bring readers in. Then, hold back almost all of the info, dealing out little pieces at time. Just enough to whet their appetite, but never enough to satiate them. Have it unravel like a mystery, right alongside the story. Only choose the history that comes out naturally in your current story. Have faith in your readers that they will be able to hold on to clues and put them together on their own. They like doing that, anyway.

    One last tip is that it is GREAT that you have 300 years of history planned out, because it's going to make your current story feel more real. But get used to the idea that your readers will never know all of the history, only the stuff that's most important to your current story.

    Otherwise, do as Ed suggests and continue on with your story for now. Just keep writing and don't look back. Finish your first draft, no matter how terrible it is. It's supposed to be terrible, anyway.
     
  10. TimHarris
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    TimHarris Senior Member

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    This.

    Hence the expression "Less is more"
     
  11. Eric242
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    Eric242 Member

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    There are a lot of good suggestions already on this thread. Definitely take them to heart. :)

    In my opinion it is usually not important for the reader to know why some things are the way they are in a setting. It is fantastic that you have it all planned out, but the reader does not to need to know it all. When I read your question I thought back to some dystopian novels I've read and realized that I rarely knew what happened to make things the way they were. I think it is best to just start where your story begins. Through natural conversation and context clues over the first couple chapters the reader will be able to pick up enough of the setting to follow along happily without knowing everything.
     
  12. Bimber
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    Bimber Contributing Member

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    Eventually if you must info dump move it to be later in the story or chop it up into smaller parts, make your MC take baby steps in that world revealing as progress goes, but like many said you dont need to tell the reader everything let them imagine some parts, challenge them to figure somethings out, and by doing so you give depth to your world making it more real to the reader.
     
  13. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Readers will not be confused if you don't explain stuff to them, even if it's stuff you think is very important. Give your readers credit for brains. They don't need to know everything. They'll fill in the blanks with their own imaginations.

    Look at Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange. It's written in a futuristic teen-slang argot called Nadsat, which is mostly a blend of colloquial English, Russian, and some words Burgess made up himself. In the original edition, there was no glossary. Sure, it was a tougher read than most readers were used to, but they kept at it and understood it, and A Clockwork Orange was named by the Modern Library as one of the 100 best novels of the 20th century.

    Readers like to be challenged. Let them figure things out for themselves. As I say in my signature, a writer's best tool is the reader's imagination.
     
  14. GhostWolfe
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    GhostWolfe Member

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    Eep! I hope I'm not too late.

    Don't delete chunks! Cut them from the story, paste them into a new document & save them to a different folder. That way, you don't have to completely separate yourself from what you wrote & it's still accessible for later projects.

    My biggest story to date has a folder dedicated to "removed scenes", where I keep ideas, scenes, & characters that ended up on the cutting room floor.
     
  15. Fivvle
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    Fivvle Contributing Member

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    I dump info into stuff only I read.
     
  16. GhostWolfe
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    GhostWolfe Member

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    Remember, also, that you can have background without info dumping. For instance, my epic fantasy mentions an event called the Cataclysm of Dragons. The readers know that dragons are from a time long ago & it is mentioned that, during the Cataclysm, a stronghold under a mountain range was destroyed, but I don't go into any detail about what happened. It was cataclysmic. Dragons were involved. 'Nuff said ;)
     
  17. NellaFantasia
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    NellaFantasia Member

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    There's no need to spell out everything for readers. Unanswered questions are what keeps us turning the page because we're naturally curious beings. We want to know why and how. A reader is more likely to put your book down because they're bored, not because they don't understand certain things right away. A lot of people have already given good advice on how to remedy this, so all I can say is try it out and see how it works.
     
  18. Talmay
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    Talmay Member

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    In a first draft, sure. When you go back and edit cut it back to only the essential, need-to-know basis. Revealing the entire mystery at once is no fun for anyone.
     
  19. Bdriscoll3
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    Bdriscoll3 Member

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    Do not include a prologue. Many people will skip it and become lost later on if the information is pivotal. Give enough history so your readers can get through the story without being lost, but it's okay to have them wonder to.
     
  20. Xatron
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    Xatron Contributing Member

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    I don't believe this is advice. It is like an alcoholic asking "how can i quit drinking" and you answer "drink less".
     
  21. lauramaidah
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    lauramaidah Banned

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    If you say you're dump, or that you're dumpin', you're dumpin'. Your hunch is better than mine. You sense it more than we can. And your reader won't get to it if you b r e a t h ed it a ll into c h a pters 3.1
     
  22. The Tourist
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    The Tourist Banned

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    I think you're on the right path, just the wrong addiction. I would draw a parallel to a "food addicition." You don't have to drink alcohol, but you'll have to eat something.

    Same here, if you're going to tell a story you have to write something. The debate we're having here is how to modulate the flow of information, plot development and detail into a page turning novel.

    As you know, I'm struggling with "Angelology." How the heck can you start a novel with such dynamic themes as the fate of the world, the Nazi incursion, angels among us, a well of souls containing the first 'Watchers' and a seemingly intricate mystery, and then drench it in the icy cold water of a discussion on hair and make-up right out of a poorly crafted YA yarn?
     
  23. lauramaidah
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    lauramaidah Banned

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    Amen. Amen to all of that. You need a good segue-read. If you find something, I think it's blogs. And that works for me. Reading blogs helps me space stuff out and not dump. They have nothing but filler.
     
  24. Phoenix Hikari
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    Phoenix Hikari Contributing Member

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    Don't dump information on the reader like a journal, it's holly annoying. You can always weave it into the story, like have one character who's job is to relate specific info to the others, when needed of course. or you can make your characters discover it to try to research it because finding these information can help them achieve something. Never dump information, it makes you a bad writer.
     
  25. leamadzt
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    leamadzt New Member

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    Some fantastic advice! Thank you. Would just like to say to some of you, mainly the person above. I'm quite aware that info-dumping is annoying - Hence why I'm asking for advice on how to avoid it (advice and avoid being the key words) ;)

    I've completely removed all info-dump and placed it into a separate document. I have managed to show the world better through adding new characters and scenes that gradually allows the reader to understand the history. It's such a relief after so long being unable to enjoy writing because of the issue before.
     

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