1. Hettyblue
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    Hettyblue Member

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    Dribs and drabs versus massive infodump

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Hettyblue, Jul 5, 2012.

    Hello

    I have been working on a novel (modern setting witchcraft and Shamanism involved). The world doesn't need to be explained as it is our own but obviously the introduction of themes of magic and shamanism mean I have to explain a fair amount along the way. I personally favour the slow reveal rather than a chapter or two of explanations/ history/ mythology rules etc. However I am conscious that I need to make sure the reader is with me on the journey and not floundering (or worse irritated) as they do not understand what a shaman or a witch is in the context of my story.

    So in your opinion what is preferable... A glossary/ mini mythology at the beginning of a magical themed book or gradual build up and reveal at key points in the story? Assuming the main protagonist is ignorant of their 'heritage' for example so you learn along with them.

    Any thoughts on this would be very interesting and of course helpful. Cheers.
     
  2. louis1
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    louis1 Contributing Member

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    just don't write info dumps. you know the rules history blablabla. only mention them when it's relevant. the rest you can keep.
     
  3. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    You want a gradual reveal. "Info dumps" are not desirable, and they are hard enough to avoid when you're not trying to put them in. You certainly don't want to intentionally put in an info dump. A glossary could be helpful, if you really want to make sure the reader has the information they need at the outset.
     
  4. Hettyblue
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    Hettyblue Member

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    Thank you very much - I am going with my instincts but it can be awkward sometimes to get into the flow, writing a chapter or several scenes then worrying that I need to get some explantion in that could slow the pace. That is what re-reading, re-writing, revision etc. is all about I suppose. That is my problem though and not the poor souls I am expecting to read my prose.
     
  5. Steph4136
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    Steph4136 Senior Member

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    Keep in mind that dialogue is also a great way to get information out there to the reader about the history or whatever else you need the reader to know. If you write it right, it doesn't seem like just a big info dump.
     
  6. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    I think the most important thing from a new writer's perspective is not to underestimate your audience. Generally newcomers to the craft over-explain, which can stunt their prose or lead to just such an info dump as you're contemplating.

    Feed the reader as much as they need to know at any given moment, and no more. It is even a good idea, sometimes, to under explain and encourage them to read on for the answers. Your audience is not stupid. They will be able to work things out for themselves, and do not need spoon-feeding.
     
  7. thewordsmith
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    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

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    It sounds to me as though your instincts are intact. Give the reader what s/he needs at any given point along the way.



    BTW ["floundering" (fishing for flounder?) / "foundering" (being set adrift, in danger of (a boat) sinking - the emotional sense of sinking/losing grasp/control of a situation) They may now be commonly used interchangeably - "flounder" even shows up in dictionaries as a synonym for "founder" - but that is merely due to the commonness of the improper usage and the confusion of the two words.]
     
  8. Thumpalumpacus
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    Thumpalumpacus Contributing Member

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    I prefer to let the reader discover the world I'm creating. It heightens their sense of emotional investment in the story. Certain things will need explaining, but it's best to trust that your readers are intelligent.

    Also, "flounder," when used as a verb, does not mean the same as "founder" (v: to sink), but rather it means, in essence, "to struggle". Such usage is appropriate.
     
  9. Complex
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    Complex Senior Member

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    Intelligence is not the same as familiarity, high intelligence doesn't mean a reader will grasp knowledge that is not connected in a proper way and the entire system is beyond their understanding. Magic is one that is typically familiar for most readers, but I would assume quantum mechanics is not, before delving into a physics backed magical system, I'd probably point out layman terms instead of post-grad esoteric terms like up quarks and color superconductivity. Or preons.
     
  10. Thumpalumpacus
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    Thumpalumpacus Contributing Member

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    On the assumption that this is directed at my point about trusting the reader's intelligence, I've already made this qualification ("Certain things will need explaining").

    If it's not directed at my comment, then my apologies.
     
  11. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Slow reveal, as late as possible for each morsel of information. Resist the urge to explain EVERYTHING. Reveal only what is truly necessary for the story. A reader who is curious and hungry for more info is far better than a reader torpid from a gluttony of information the reader doesn't really need or want.
     
  12. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Slow reveal, of course, and don't reveal too much. Remember that your readers are intelligent and creative. Use that. They will infer information, usually correctly, that you don't spell out for them. And if they don't get it right away, it'll dawn on them later. Or maybe it just won't matter to them - they'll enjoy your story even if they don't understand each little nuance.
     
  13. Complex
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    Complex Senior Member

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    Your assumption was correct, but I was providing a case example of what certain things need explaining. Familiarity with the audience is different from 'certain things will need explaining', which I can take in two ways. Back story elements or actual real-world science and such that needs to be explained because the chances of the reader understanding it is about zero. So to refresh my example; readers will have a 'gimme' or two which basically allows the author to do just about anything provided it is consistent. Said explanation is an obligatory kind of 'gimme' that is usually for plot element or spiel on whatever it is and why it is important. However, if you do not have a reader capable of understanding something of which is critical, yet natural, then you have a duty to explain it regardless of whether or not the reader is intelligent.

    The reader should never require a (google/Wikipedia/etc.) search to understand the author's words for a concept easily explained. I am particularly put off when someone brings latin into the mix and never actually explains what the text means; yet the author expects the reader to know; and if they don't they feel stupid. Your signature 'Illegitimi non carborundum.' is a fitting example which has come up in various books. It LOOKS Latin, but it is a mockery and even if I can read Latin, my ability to understand is based solely on a relatively obscure meme from WWII. So yeah. 'Trusting the reader's intelligence' is one thing, it is entirely another to avoid explanation for the tongue in cheek expression or for any reason that is not immediately obvious to anyone other then the author.
     
  14. Thumpalumpacus
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    Thumpalumpacus Contributing Member

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    That's fine. You clearly have a zest for explanation that I don't share. I prefer to let information unfold into the story.

    And yes, my sig is cribbed from General Stilwell, actually. I don't feel the need to explain it everywhere I go, but anyone who asks will get one, without any avoidance. :)
     
  15. Jamie Senopole
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    Jamie Senopole Member

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    This is exactly what I learned to do. I just hope when I get far enough in the writing process, it's just not "easier said than done"!
     
  16. Hettyblue
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    Hettyblue Member

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    Great to read some many opinions (and mainly in harmonious agreement), thank you again.

    I am not planning to blind my readers with pseudo-science, spell+ceremony+genetic prediliction = magic, hopefully will be sufficient, so my intention is to keep things on a 'need to know' basis. I suppose my secret fear is that I will be left with an 'Emperor has no clothes' situation and dramatic tension will be replaced by an overwhelming sense of meh at the end... But not if my story and writing is good enough.

    Great to have an outlet for my insecurities (feel fear to ignore - please)

    BTW - I was not aware of the Flounder/ Founder definitions - my understanding of the meaning of 'Flounder' came contextually from my reading so it has always represented 'struggling' for me. Very interesting The wordsmith.

    'Fear' = Free hmmm :)

    Oh I did know that Flounder are also fish though. I shall shut up now.
     

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