Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Infodumps and Self-Consciousness

Yes, I'm talking infodump because I'm writing one now.

With my first few infodumps, I had no idea I was writing one until people pointed it out to me and said that my infodumps were well done.

Then, whenever I'd write an infodump I'd be aware that this was what I was doing, and before I knew it, lo and behold, they started sucking.

In one sucky instant, for example, I had a dialogue infodump where the protagonist was bored because he already knew everything that was conveyed to him. Guess what, usually if the protagonist is bored, so is the reader.

So now I seem unable to write a good infodump only because I am aware that it might be viewed as such and despite the fact that I used to be able to write them seamlessly.

This is but one case where ignorance is bliss and perhaps this is why I don't like books about writing. Books about writing make me very self-conscious and being self-conscious hinders my writing process as I'm editing my writing even before I write.

Naturally I'm exaggerating slightly, but I believe I made my point and that you can forgive my little angst here and dismiss it to being due to temporary frustration.

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kalbzayn said...

Set up a blog for your characters and let them do their infodumping there. Then you can read through for the good stuff and ignore the rest.

Most people probably would never think the blog was just a book character since most blogs are just places we go to infodump and read other infodumps anyway.

Deborah said...

I tried setting up a character blog last year and failed. What I wound up doing was narrating my plot and not getting inside my character's day-to-day thoughts.

As for writing books, they're helpful in learning the basics. But you still have to learn how to develop your own style and voice.

Jonathan M. Dobson said...

What the hell is an infodump?

I detest writing books too. The only one I ever found useful was The Forest for the Trees: An Editor's Advice to Writers by Betsy Lerner. Just check out the 56 comments she's received. If you are cynical about the comments, then take my unabashed full-fledged WORD that this is a good book for writers.

Benjamin Solah said...

It's true that I feel more constrained after researching writing more. I think writing books and stuff like that give ammo for your inner critic.

melly said...

Kalbzayn, this is exactly the type of thing I'm trying to avoid. I'm not sure what character blogs are, but these methods aren't me. I know they work for some people, but I prefer to just write without thinking too much about it. It's when I think about it that I get into trouble.
Thanks for the suggestion though. I'm sure it works wonderfully for some writers.

Absolutely Deborah, and once developped, one has to remember to keep it and not change it just because some book/people said so :)

Jonathan, infodump is a very sci-fi and fantasy thing where background information important to the plot/world needs to be related to the reader. Information such as important history, scientific facts etc.
And I'll just take your word on that book, although I don't promise to read it ;)

Benjamin, exactly. You totally got me. What I was saying. If only I could be as clear and succinct as that it would have been a very short post :)

Ryan Oakley said...

I like reading info dumps.

FredCQ said...

I was very stingy with information in my novel. Not to get into specifics, but my fantasy world is much different than others. Its almost like a giant melting pot of races and technology. The main character in the book has lived in this world all of her life so she knows how things work. I had to very careful about how I gave out information so that it would not seem like she was learning things that she already knew. It took a lot of work, but hopefully, I've related how the world works without hitting the reader over the head with it.

Jack Slyde said...

I like writing info dumps, they let me know what's happening in the story I'm trying to write, and I can always edit them out in later drafts.

Pat Kirby said...

Uh, ultimately, this is why I'm now super-picky about first readers and critique groups. Too many by-the-numbers types who flip out about every stupid thing they've read "not to do" in somebody's Big Book of Fiction Writing. The result, my writing started getting stilted and my voice flattened.


A well-done info dump is perfectly okay. "Show don't tell" can be overdone.

Diddums said...

Absolutely, it's the 'don't do this' lists that I hate! How do they know they're not putting somebody off writing a real cracker of a book? I prefer to feel my own way towards what works and what doesn't.

Nienke said...

Which proves that the more you know, the more your realize you don't know.

Melly said...

Ryan, you know what, me too sometimes. Especially historical ones and scientific ones, I find.

Fred, your world sounds very interesting. I like fantasy with technology. I can see how especially in something like this it would be difficult not to explain things all the time.

Jack, that an excellent point. I shouldn't worry too much, I know.

Pat, oh, exactly. Good to feel that I'm not alone in my attitude towards "rules". Thanks :)

Diddums, absolutely. It all comes down to - is it good and can people read it without tossing it after the first few pages?

Nienke, indeed. How frustrating :)

Everbody, I am writing this slightly feverish, although I'm better now than yesterday. So please forgive if I didn't make sense.