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Adam Israel
Progress 
20th-Aug-2007 10:18 pm
Scarf

Slowly but steadily, progress continues.

When I went in to the CSSF Workshop, I had all sorts of problems with my writing. My prose was passive, I told instead of showing. The ideas were solid, but the execution was lacking.

I focused on the grammatical in the weeks and months before and after the workshop. I'm reasonably certain that I've got a solid grasp on that aspect of the craft now. Feedback from my writers group seems to back that up.

The focus now shifts to characterization. What I'm finding is that I'm almost too tight, I think, on the details I put into the story for fear of infodumping. At some point, some infodumping is necessary, I think. The trick is limiting it to only as much as necessary. I've spent time revising and rewriting to reduce infodump and passive prose but at some stage I cut out too much and I need to work out how, where, and when to add detail that is vital to the motivations of the characters and tone of the story.

Comments 
21st-Aug-2007 05:28 am (UTC)
You the best way to work out how to handle infodumps is to pull out some of your favourites book and see how those authors handle it. Sounds obvious but somehow writers seem to forget that they're readers as well. They don't seem to be able to look at things as a reader, or transfer what they think as readers to their writing. Or do they even read?

That aside, some thoughts from me.

Infodumps are really only a problem when they stop the story actions. Or when it feels like the author is intruding in order to make sure that info is passed on.

If a readers want to know something, then you've got leeway with feeding it to them. And if they're interesting enough, you can get away with even more (e.g. Douglas Adams). Some writers groups like to tag anything bit of information as info dumps, the same way they tag any occurrence of 'was' as passive. Do these people ever read?

Anyway, one thing that helps is to filter it all through the Point of View character. This helps with the stop the story problem (I mean, how many characters will stop in the street and spend half an hour reflecting on the history of the town? Of course if they do (and a local historian might) then they'll probably do it a lot, but not on other subjects. Know what I mean?) More importantly though, when the reader gets the info filtered through the character's perspective, they're learning something about that character so now your "infodump" is doing double duty.

Another thing that helps is to hold off on something but drop clues about it, even if it's not that important to the plot. This works with character background particularly. Then when you do offer it up, the reader *wants* to know it & if you've done it properly, they're more than happy to sit through an explanation (think murder mysteries, this is what they do).
21st-Aug-2007 05:30 am (UTC)
(grumbles about having to write in tiny windows where you can't see all of what you're writing)

Make up something for the first sentence :)
21st-Aug-2007 06:40 am (UTC)
So exciting to hear about your progress! I hope you return so I can see how you're growing as a writer. You'll do great.

"Info-dumps" are almost always a bad idea; the magic (or trick) to conveying information about the character is in making it happen naturally. That is, the reader hears the character recalling something relevant about his or her life as it is relevant in the story; or we get a flashback at the appropriate time; or some detail in the story is a metaphor for a character trait; and so on. Lots of ways to handle it. It's not easy, but I'm sure you'll get it right with practice and by seeing how other writers do it the way you want to.
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