Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Process Examination #17: Stepping Around the Steaming Infodump

I've become allergic to infodumps. Nothing makes me feel more patronized as a reader than an infodump. "See here," the author is saying, "this is how this bit of worldbuilding works and connects with the story." I'd rather figure it out from context, thankyouverymuch.

I'm not sure when the allergy started, but I stopped using infodumps in my writing very early on. Unfortunately, I didn't learn a decent replacement technique to get vital character backstory and/or worldbuilding information across to the reader. Thus, the most consistent complaint I get in the first chapter or two deals with not understanding the odd references characters are making to each other about something that happened in the past or being perplexed by whatever geewhiz element of worldbuilding I shoved into the early going.

Yes, of course I ran into this with PPR. My frist critique contained several "Huh, wha?" reactions to my protagonist's job and to the broader world I established and to the basic rudiments of the paranormal element central to the story. I'm happy to report that, with just a sentence or two in dialog that did not in anyway resemble "as you know, Bob," questions about my protag's job became a non-issue for Mark. Alas, the paranormal element and the broader world details were still fuzzy for him. For the former, Mark and I figured out exactly where he got fuzzy and that adding a mere two words solved the problem. For the latter, Mark kept saying, "you need to explain that" and I kept saying "no" because I will not knowingly commit infodump. I quickly figured out a way around the problem in general but then had to struggle with the specifics.

Well, I figured out the specifics in a way that shouldn't add more than 100 words to the story and enhances the connection to the worldbuilding in a very nice way. Also, the fix is a nice segue into PPR: Novella the Second, which, if PPR sells, will be nice to have either well-outlined or underway should I happen to nab a multi-project contract out of the sale. I also have broad outlines for three other stories in this same universe (one is the third story in the current PPR timeline to complete a little trilogy, one is a prequel to this trilogy, and one--which I have rather a bit more outlined as I was working on it in a completely different capacity until I realized it hooks up well with this universe--is the backstory to how the paranormal element PPR universe came to be). So, success with the informing without infodumping, at least in theory.

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