Just what it sounds like—unnecessary information thrown at the reader. Basically it’s TELLING rather than SHOWING—and all writers know that rule SHOW DON’T TELL. It’s like the director of a film stopping the movie to say, “Hey, wait a second, let me explain something to you…”
Info dumps can be easily identified because nothing within the info dump is happening in the moment of the scene. Often they are reflections on the past (backstory) or convey facts about the characters or world. Or things the author has researched and feels the reader should know it too.
•What is wrong with an info dump?
Pure and simple, it’s boring. There is nothing in it that connects the reader to the story. No emotion.
Sometimes it is things reader already knows.
Sometimes it’s what the other character already knows, and it’s imparted for the readers’ sake.
It slows the plot because there is nothing going on.
•What are some of the things that can make up a dump?
How magical abilities work
Rules of laws of a city
Descriptions of fantasy creatures
LAST, BUT MOST IMPORTANT, CHARACTER BACKSTORY.
Sample info dump using narrative:
Jessica was her best friend. They met in high school and spent every day together. On the day they met, they were at dance class, which they both thought was kind of dumb, but had attended on a whim. Jessica stood right next to her and they laughed together about how goofy the boys looked dancing. After that they started doing everything together and became two peas in a pod.
Sample info dump using dialogue:
“Jessica is my best friend. We met in high school and spent every day together. On the day we met, we were at a dance class, which we both thought was kind of dumb, but….”
As far as info dumps go, these are relatively short. Info dumps can often stretch for paragraphs, pages, or even full chapters.
The keys to effective TELLING rather than SHOWING are:
· Integrate the info into the scene as much as possible. Make it relevant to something that is happening in the moment.
· Keep it brief. A sentence or two is about the max you get before reader’s eyes glaze over.
· Write it in such a way that it conveys something about a character’s personality. A flippant mention of a death keys the reader in that maybe the character didn’t like that person too well!
· Break it up! Sprinkle information throughout a scene or throughout the entire novel. Only tell the reader the minimum of what they need to know at any given moment.
As with anything, writing a series has its good and bad points. And its rules.
Pro: You can bring the reader into the setting where they can kick off their shoes and feel at home. They develop an emotional relationship with the characters. They’re drawn into not only the plot du jour, but you as author have the luxury of leaving some subplots—family relationships, minor characters’ problems, town events, etc.—open for continuation into the next book. This keeps them coming back for more.
Con: You have to recall every detail—hair color and quirky mannerism. You have to keep an ongoing timeline of events. You have to show the characters’ growth and development as they learn from their life-events.
There are a few very important things I learned working with publishers, and now as I’m working with a script writer:
1- Plan for your series. Imagine it as a TV show. Remember how they have three or four actors who appear on a regular basis and then each show employs a few more to complement that specific plot. Make a plan for four or five stories using those three or four basic characters. If more story ideas sprout from that, great.
2- Please please, please, do not stop a novel at some seemingly convenient place and continue it into the next book. Novels are not soap operas. Readers need a complete story, with the main plot tied up in one nice package. You can leave some plot elements open-ended: a romance, an illness, a job search, but the main plot must be wrapped up in each book. Minor plots can be carried through IF they are understandable in this book without backstory.
I’ve had authors argue that their readers like the serialized version—that they are clamoring for the next book. When I ask how many readers say this, usually authors admit to three, or maybe a half-dozen, but that’s nothing compared to the thousands or hundreds of thousands you might intrigue by following a more standard format. It’s worked for publishers since the dawn of publishing. I also ask whether those half-dozen readers wouldn’t still enjoy the book if it were a complete story. My suspicion is that they like your writing style, characters, and/or the general plotline rather than the serialized format.
This is important: Following traditional rules does not change your voice. It doesn’t change your plot or your characters. It doesn’t make you less of a maverick. To be a maverick, use your creative abilities to invent captivating story lines and unique, stimulating characters that suck in those readers. Keep them coming back for more!
3- Each story must be an entity unto itself. Think of TV shows like Murder She Wrote. Each program has its own complete story line. It is separate, with no mention made of what happened on last weeks’ show. You want to infer cool or suspenseful things happened—and you can do this in one sentence dialogue—“Remember that trip we took to Aspen? I can’t believe you pushed the ski instructor into the hot tub”—and let it stand at that. ENTICE don’t TELL.
Remember, if someone picks up the second book in your series and your chapter one starts out with the continuation of ongoing events, or mentions characters without introduction, they will close the book and buy something else. 99% will not go looking for book one. People aren’t wired that way.
A statistic I came across a couple of years ago: you have 20-25 seconds (1-2 paragraphs) to capture the reader’s attention—to compel them to buy this book over the zillions of others out there. If readers end up scratching their heads in confusion after two paragraphs, you haven’t done your job.
4- Keep ongoing character introductions unique in each story—as if they’re appearing for the first time.
Cindy is an award-winning veteran freelance editor—she’s worked with a dozen publishers and over a thousand authors. And she is the author of 24 published novels and non-fiction.
So, You Hate Selling
If you’d wanted to be a salesperson you’d be selling Avon, right? Yeah, selling books is about the same thing. If you don’t have the name recognition of J.K. Rowling or the facial recognition of Stephen King, how can it be done?
Whether you’ve been published by one of the small companies or have been contracted the big guys, promotion is ultimately going to be on your shoulders. First decide what you want from the sales meeting. Obviously the goals are to get your book in their hands or shelves, and then moving quickly off them. But what are you willing to offer to achieve this? A book signing? A talk? A class? Will you work for free just to get your name out there? Be open minded and ready to bend. How badly do you want this?
Pick your victim (make sure it relates to something in your book): school, women’s club, medical convention. We should talk, at another time, about writing these things into the plot of your book. Suck in a breath, stiffen your spine, and paste on a smile. No need to call ahead. Don’t weigh yourself down. Be armed with only a good attitude, a press kit and your book you.
Go Right For The Manager/Boss
No need to waste time explaining your mission to the clerk at the front desk. Be assured managers are going to be apprehensive, wary, and negative. You’ll feel the vibes all the way across the room and want to run for the door. They’re approached by pushy salespersons every day and can’t help projecting that attitude. It’s how we feel when telemarketers call during dinnertime.
But you’re not pushy, you’re friendly and outgoing, you put them at ease. Open the conversation with something about them. Is he wearing a baseball cap? Talk about the team who belongs to the logo. Is she wearing a great looking sweater? Ask where she bought it. Compliments can go a long way, but don’t go so far that you’re patronizing. If it’s a nice day, don’t talk about the weather, it’ll just remind them they’re working while you’re playing. Sure, you know it’s work, but...
Hand Them Your Book
Announce boldly, “Fresh off the press. I’m here to introduce myself and my book to you.” Hand it to them and wait quietly while they thumb through it. They’ll do this even if they’re in a bad mood. Their moms taught them to be polite when they were little tykes. Hopefully they’ll get enough information off the book cover to begin asking questions. Here’s where you let them see your self-assurance and dedication to your career. Talk about your story, your great reviews, or any endorsements. And then quickly move on to what's in it for them.
What You Can Do For Them?
Never tell them what they can do for you. People love when yougive themthings. Find out their needs. Writers group? Book discussion group? Kids’ mentor? Decide on the spot if it’s something you can handle. Don’t hem and haw or tell them you’ll get back to them. Your professionalism will go a long way toward your success. Leave them a business card or better yet a postcard with the cover of your book on it. Good luck. tips