This week, I want to share with you another valuable lesson I learned in my growth as a writer. Nobody likes an infodump!
What is an infodump you ask? Well, allow me to demonstrate. Read this passage from the first draft of one of my works:
“Vicky had done this every year since she started college, six years ago. So she liked college, and changed majors a few times, that’s why it took so long, but it was beside the point. She was about to enter into her last year and the wonderful, fantastic opportunity to put all her experience to good use had presented itself. They had asked her to be manager, and it had proved only one thing in Vicky’s mind. She had to change her major again. There was no way in hell she could do this shit for the rest of her life.”
This is not the worst example I can share, no. (Yes, it is a first draft and there are other issues with this piece, but all first drafts are excrement. Not the point here, refocus.) I use it to illustrate a point. How could I impart this information to the reader in a way that will not bore them?
– Cut it completely, especially if it has no relevance to the story.
– Use it in dialog; make it a playful banter between friends.
“Vicky, how long have you been working here?”
“Six years.” She tapped her pencil on the table. “They offered me a management position.”
“That’s great. Congratulations.” Her friend offered a cheerful smile.
“I refused,” she said, “There’s no way I can deal with this shit for the rest of my life.”
– Tighten the prose. Take out the extra words to make it flow.
“Vicky started down this road six years ago, when she started college. After a few adjustments to her plans, she fell into a routine. She enjoyed college, but now that she was in her last semester, questions nagged at her. When a wonderful managerial opportunity presented itself, she realized something. There was no way in hell she could do it.”
– Describe it in her actions.
“Looking at the clock, Vicky sighed in disgust. Six years of college for this. Screw it. She picked up the memo announcing her promotion to manager, and stuck it in the shredder. Listening to the machine destroy it with a satisfied metallic crunch, she grinned. There was something better out there, she could feel it.”
There are so many ways to introduce information and back story into your work. I learned the hard way that an infodump can pull the reader from your story, fast. Be creative, play with the different ways you feed details to a reader. They’re not stupid. You don’t have to dump it all on their lap in a huge pile of verbal diarrhea.
In romance, it is easy to get caught in this trap. As the author, we want to tell the reader every juicy detail, from the description of the setting and characters to the often long winded tragic back story. Be aware of these perils as you write, and you will find it makes your work that much stronger in the end.