How to Avoid Info-Dumping By Asking Why

A common problem among writers is info-dumping, which is putting a ton of information on the page that slows your story down. Two common forms of info-dumping are in descriptions and dialogue that doesn’t advance the plot or character development of the story.

Here’s an example of info-dumping that does nothing to advance the story or show the reader anything meaningful about the character:

The house was set back a ways from the road, two-stories of stone with cream-white walls and black trim. The lawns were expansive, lush, and green. In the driveway were two very expensive cars, a Lexus and a Mercedes. He stepped inside the house with its’ high ceilinged foyer and richly-patterned rug underneath him. To his right was a huge living room that was bigger than his entire apartment, and there was the man who had called him to come here in the first place with a job offer.

Why is this considered info-dumping?

It’s a very basic description that doesn’t have any real emotion behind it. The sentence structures are written saying this-and-that with no reason as to why the character notices these details. If the purpose is to set the scene, it needs to be done in order to give the reader an insight into the character.

So how can we rewrite that previous paragraph to keep it from sounding like an info-dump?

Let’s get into our character’s head and see and feel things from his point of view.

He couldn’t believe a house could be set so far back from the road in the heart of San Antonio as he got out of his car and stepped onto the grass, sinking a little into the lush green as he made his way up to the house. He stepped inside and looked up at two-stories of open space then saw off to his right was a single room that was larger than his entire apartment. And in that room was the man who said he had the job of a lifetime to offer him, and by the looks of the house around him, the job could come with more money than he’d ever made before.

 

But at what price?

 

He stepped into the room to find out.

As you can see with the rewrite I started off the first two sentences with ‘He’ so we’re in our character’s POV. So instead of saying ‘The house was set back’ we hear the character’s thought about that (‘He couldn’t believe a house could be set so far back…’).

This first sentence shows that this house won’t be like anything our POV character has seen before. And why would that be? The answer to that needs to be a part of your story and that’s why you need to have not only the physical descriptions, but also your character’s thoughts and feelings about what they’re seeing. And most of all, there needs to be a hook after the initial setup to show WHY the character is in this setting but without stating every detail of that, too.

Another type of info-dumping can happen is when there is a lot of dialogue that has very little to break it up like the example here:

“What’s your name?”

“Mark.” He replied without looking up at her.

“So, what were you doing here?”

“Guarding a group of executives visiting the oil fields down here.”

“Oh, so where are they?”

“They’re safe.”

Here’s a rewrite of the previous set of dialogue to break it up a little and put a little internal reaction to it.

“What’s your name?” Jillian asked as she studied her rescuer.

“Mark.” He didn’t look up at her as he rummaged through the backpack he’d been carrying.

“So, uh, what were you doing here?”

“Guarding a group of executives visiting the oil fields.” Mark sat back a little but still didn’t look up at her.

“Oh, so where are they?”

“They’re safe.”

Well, that was good, Jillian thought to herself. And even though she felt like Mark was being honest with her, she wasn’t sure how much he might be holding back, either .

In my rewrite, I wanted to show was that Jillian was trying to learn more about the situation and Mark was barely cooperating. And though she felt like Mark was being honest with her, she also has a suspicion he might not be telling her everything either. And that suspicion creates a question of WHY that would be, which in turn will keep the story going for the reader.

And that single question, WHY, is the most crucial to ask with anything you write. Because in order to get a reader interested in your story, you want them to be asking WHY things are happening in the story. You want to show them through the character’s actions, thoughts, and feelings what’s going on in the story so if you put something on the page, it has to be the character’s POV, not yours (the author).

In conclusion, here are some points to remember to avoid info-dumping:

Keep things in your character’s POV at all times. Read your sentences back and if they are basic declarative sentences with no POV insight from your character then rewrite.

You can ‘show’ and not ‘tell’ by letting dialogue and your POV character’s reaction set the scene and not inject yourself (the author) into the scene as a third-person narrator.

Make sure your scenes will get your readers asking WHY. This will make them want to know what happens next, which is how you hold your reader’s interest all the way to the end.

How to Avoid Info-Dumping By Asking Why pdf

Happy Endings

When I told my father I wanted to write romance novels he said, “Good. The world needs happy endings.”

I believe this is true now more than ever because seeing a happy ending, like Prince Harry’s wedding to Meghan Markle today, is a reminder that there is good in this world. It’s love triumphing over hate, over pain and suffering, and cynicism and indifference. And it’s a reminder that no matter what happens in life, it will go on.

The eternal optimist in me has never given up completely on life. Yeah, I can get down, and pissy, and flat-out mad as hell sometimes, but in the end I know and passionately believe love will triumph over hate. So when people put down romance and happily ever after’s, whether in fiction or real-life, I want to tell them to stuff that. And not just because I don’t like put-downs of something I hold very near and dear to my heart, but because I think it’ss an act of defiance to believe in the good of this world when there are people who are doing their dead-level best to destroy it. And I’m not just talking about blowing us all to kingdom come, but to divide us into have’s and have not’s, to keep us separated along lines of race, religion, and other barriers that are the constructs of people without hope and compassion in their hearts.

Because believing in love means having compassion, empathy, and kindness towards others. True love looks past the surface to the heart and soul of a person. It’s why true love isn’t limited by skin color, religion, or any other barrier the butt-holes of the world try to throw up. Love doesn’t build walls but tears them down.

So to keep it short and sweet today: the world needs happy endings because love does win. Always.

Writing Wise: A Good Beginning

This is the first in a series of writing articles. These are not writing tips for working writers, but hopefully an insight into the writing process for those not writing full-time (or at all).

One question that comes up a lot among writers, especially those new to the process, is where do I start my story? This is a very good question as the beginning is the writer’s only opportunity to get a reader’s attention and keep it until the end. It’s also where a lot of problems with a story begin, but there are some things a writer can keep in mind when working on a beginning.

Now, I write romance and a key element of that genre is the hero and heroine usually meet if not in the very first scene, by the end of the first chapter. This is because in a romance the story of the hero and heroine’s relationship is the key element, not backstory, or description of the world they live in, or a plot element happening to other characters. Personally, I think having lead characters introduced right away would work with any genre of fiction so a good beginning should start with them first.

A common way some writers like to start a story is with a flashback scene (or chapter) For me, a flashback scene (or chapter) at the beginning of a story can work if doesn’t feel like a character is narrating it from the present, future, or from the great-beyond, and if it also connects to the present story. I’ve read flashback sequences that I couldn’t figure out how they connected to the present and if a reader has to ask that question, then they’re going to be pulled out of the story.

Another way a reader can be pulled out of a story at the beginning is what I refer to as info-dumping. You don’t need to walk up to the first pages of your story and dump out all the backstory of your characters and research you have done. Communicate ONLY the key information you need your readers to know through your character’s actions and dialogue. And when it comes to dialogue, don’t do a marathon back-and-forth session trying to get all that information on the page. You’ve got plenty of time to reveal what you need to and if you need to know when to do that, let your characters guide you.

And by characters guiding your story I mean reveal what you need to as they learn of it. This eliminates any distance between the reader and the story itself because for characters to truly engage the reader, the writer needs to take themselves out the story. Your characters are the best guide for where to take your story and listening to them at the beginning will give you a solid foundation to start your story, and finish it.

Finally, you don’t have to have a flash-bang beginning, just something that engages the reader by getting the story into motion. Make that beginning come alive and get that reader wanting to know what happens next. Because if the reader is engaged from the very beginning, they’ll stay to the end. And that is the ultimate goal of every storyteller and to reach that goal, you have to start at the beginning.

Writing: Cheap Therapy Only in Terms Of Money

Over the last few months, my writing output ebbed and flowed and at times, dried up altogether. But in the end, when it began flowing it became cheap therapy that was only cheap because it didn’t drain my bank account. But it did one heck of a number on my mind, heart, and soul even though I’ve come out on the other side.

 

At times, it felt like I was battling a storm from Hell on the Bearing Sea. And if you’ve ever seen the show ‘The Deadliest Catch’ you’ll get a really strong visual on that. Towering waves of icy-cold salt water crashing over the deck, waves hitting the boat so hard they almost knock it to its’ side, and the ever-present fear of one wave taking the boat down to the bottom of the ocean. Now I’ve never thought about going to the bottom of the ocean on my own (suicide) and I’m not lying on that. I’ve always thought about just crawling away somewhere and never coming out. But I know that’s not the answer either so like those crab boats on the Bearing Sea, I soldier on. Because after all, storms don’t last forever.

 

And that’s the big thing I’ve always learned from writing things out: nothing lasts forever either good or bad. My father used to say life was both and that you just had to accept and deal with that. When I started writing again a couple of months ago, almost everything I wrote got deleted. And that’s okay because not all writing deserves to see the light of day. Sometimes the blank page is a therapist who works for no money at all, just time and emotional equity.

 

And by the way, difficulty writing isn’t just limited to non-fiction either. Fiction writing can sometimes stir up some pretty intense stuff and be used as a form of writing therapy, too. I wouldn’t say writers as a whole are neurotic nut-balls, but if you really get into writing and keep coming back to it no matter how long you’re away from it, you know you’ve got the strength and endurance to get through emotional storms. So I’m going to tell myself here that although I probably won’t ever set foot on a boat in the middle of the Bearing Sea, I can do what those guys do in my own way.

 

I had planned out a schedule of writing with this blog but as always, I seem to be deviating from it. That’s alright because this is my blog and I call the shots here. If I hold back on something, I have my reasons and don’t need to disclose why unless I want to. And that need for privacy is something that should be respected with every person.

 

In another way I’m like those fishermen in Alaska, I know that if I work through the storm that there could be one heck of a payoff at the end. I haven’t hit the jackpot yet but I’m happy where I’m at because I can see the road I want to take.

 

 

I’m not knocking conventional therapy in any way, shape, or form. I believe in it with all my heart and soul and I have the upmost respect and admiration for people who seek professional help. To me, that’s strength and courage. I’m just broke as hell right now and not in that much need. I actually have a pretty sunny outlook right now despite being flat-broke and living out of a suitcase. As I’ve said to people, I won’t exchange the freedom I have in my life for the one I left two years ago. I’ve made mistakes along the way but so has everyone else. I’ve done my best to fix what I can, and learn from the rest. And a lot of that I learned from writing things down (or typing them on my laptop here like I’m doing this now).

 

I know writing is recommended for people to work through their thoughts and feelings and I will add to that recommendation. But I will say that if you really get into writing be prepared. Because like stepping onto a crab boat in the Bearing Sea, you’re going to hit by more than a few storms, empty crab pots, and situations that will push you. And as I like to say, you don’t know what you can handle until you’re faced with it. For me, as long as I can write, I know I can figure things out.