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Dump the Info Dump by Eilis Flynn and Heather Hiestand

Posted by Guest at Sep 23, 2016 12:39 am in , , ,

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How to write succinctly and keep the attention of your reader

Say you’re starting work on your latest fantasy or science fiction story. You’ve just done a ton of research to create and get all the details just so, down to the outer ridge of your heroine’s boot, manufactured in somewhere in Alpha Centauri, having a distinctive triangular pattern as a post-modern variation of a High Holy War-century design. You are proud of what you’ve done, and who could blame you? Inspired, you want to bring the reader into the story and you want him or her to be as fascinated and intrigued by it as you are. But you make a small tactical error. You dump all this stuff at the beginning of your story so they can get started on the wonderfulness that is your story…

And you are left scratching your head when the readers don’t come, or they read the first couple of pages…and wander away, choosing not to continue. What happened? Why weren’t they fascinated? What’s wrong with them?!

inkdripblood-092216So how much research is just right? What’s the tidbit to work in, what isn’t? Info dumps are the clumps of information you run into that are presented in awkward blocks of text instead of being presented in manageable amounts. What’s the precise size of an info dump? That depends on the piece involved. The running joke about the phrase “as you know” being the beginning of one form of info dump isn’t much of a joke at all.

An info dump could be as short as a phrase like “As you know, Fido is our king” (anyone with a pet might agree with this) or as long as paragraphs and paragraphs of information that the author deems necessary for the novel or story involved but long enough that the consumer/viewer/reader gets bored or distracted and wanders away. Info dumps are the enemy, folks. They are the villain in this piece, in which readers are discouraged from continuing on the adventure of your story and they wander away.

Info dumps may not be easy to describe, but certainly you’ll know them if you run across them, mainly by keeping track if your eyes just skip over them. If you notice you just blitzed past a chunk of information and kept reading, it was probably an info dump. If you notice that you were annoyed by a chunk of text because it stopped you from getting into the flow of the story, it was probably an info dump. Info dumps are the barrier preventing the reader from jumping into the glory of the story. Don’t let them! What can you do? Here are some suggestions:

  1. Choose a simple, telling detail to evoke place and time. A rich cape made by Goffean slaves, and the color.
  2. Describe the characters who MOVE THE STORY. If they don’t move the story, to describe them slows the narrative and once more causes the reader to wander away to watch the Kardashians.
  3. What to describe? Describe the clothing, the surroundings, the setting only as it moves the story. Author Jacquie Rogers, who writes fantasies and Westerns, has told me that she tends to skip over details in her stories, to the point that all her characters might as well be naked. Or nekkid, her word. That’s the other extreme. Research is lovely, research is glorious, but if it doesn’t further your story, it’s just a lump o’ words. AVOID LUMP O’ WORDS! They stop your story COLD.

Join Heather and me in our workshop so you too can persuade people to avoid watching the Kardashians or the Real Housewives of Hackensack!

Register today

Dump the Info Dump: The Workshop
How much research is just right? What’s the tidbit to work in, what isn’t? Here are some tricks and tips to keep in mind when it comes to making the best use of your research, along with some examples.
Presenters: Elizabeth MS Flynn and Heather Hiestand
Workshop runs from 10/03/2016 to 10/31/2016
Cost: FFP Members: $15.00/Non-Members: $25.00
Register here  

Discovering Your Own Setting and Description
Some stories have a character that has no name, with a voice that has no sound, yet as unforgettable as the hero and heroine themselves. The setting of your story can be as well-defined as any of your human or animal characters, allowing you to make your story a memorable one.
Presenter: Eilis Flynn
Workshop runs from 10/03/2016 to 10/31/2016
Cost: FFP Members: $15.00/Non-Members: $25.00
Register here  

About the presenters

Elizabeth MS Flynn has written fiction in the form of comic book stories, romantic fantasies, urban fantasies, historical fantasies and short stories, a new-adult novel, novellas, and a graphic novella (most published under the name of Eilis Flynn). She’s also a professional editor and has been for almost 40 years. If you’re looking for an editor, she can be found editing at emsflynn.com and reached at emsflynn@aol.com. If you’re curious about her books, check out eilisflynn.com. In any case, she can be reached at eilisflynn@aol.com.

Heather Hiestand’s first published fiction was a mystery short story, but since then it has been all about the many flavors of romance. Heather’s first published romance short story was set in the Victorian period and she continues to return there, fascinated by the rapid changes of the 19th century. The author of many novels, novellas, and short stories, she is a bestseller at both Amazon and Barnes & Noble. For more information, see her website at http://www.heatherhiestand.com. Heather loves to hear from readers! Her email is heather@heatherhiestand.com.

 

 

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