The Author Wheel Podcast

Quick Tips to Avoid the Dreaded Info Dump

May 16, 2024 The Author Wheel Season 5
Quick Tips to Avoid the Dreaded Info Dump
The Author Wheel Podcast
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The Author Wheel Podcast
Quick Tips to Avoid the Dreaded Info Dump
May 16, 2024 Season 5
The Author Wheel

In this week's quick tips, we're taking a deep dive into the info dump.

What's that, you ask?

An info dump happens with the author writes everything they know about a character, setting, or their worldbuilding into a single stretch of prose. It's really common, especially for newer writers who  feel like they need to explain everything for the reader.

TL:DR - You don't.

But how can you avoid it?

Tip #1: Beware the prologue. Readers don't care about the world until they care about the characters, which is why many will skip the prologue anyway. If you're going to write one, keep it short, sweet, and in the action.

Tip #2: We like the broken glass metaphor. Imagine you write it all down on a single pane of glass, then drop the glass. Pick up the pieces and insert the shards of information only where necessary.

If you’re enjoying this podcast, please consider supporting the show. For a few dollars a month, you can help us cover the ongoing expenses—like hosting and editing—that are critical to the creation of this podcast. Plus, supporters will be thanked on each interview episode, so you'll get to hear your name on the air!

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Another great way to support the show is to leave a five star review and share it with a writer friend. We don't advertise, so our growth is entirely dependent on word of mouth.

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The Author Wheel:
Website: www.AuthorWheel.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorWheel

Greta Boris:
Website: www.GretaBoris.com
Facebook: @GretaBorisAuthor
Instagram: @GretaBoris

Megan Haskell:
Website: www.MeganHaskell.com
Facebook & Instagram: @MeganHaskellAuthor
TikTok: @AuthorMeganHaskell

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Show Notes Transcript

In this week's quick tips, we're taking a deep dive into the info dump.

What's that, you ask?

An info dump happens with the author writes everything they know about a character, setting, or their worldbuilding into a single stretch of prose. It's really common, especially for newer writers who  feel like they need to explain everything for the reader.

TL:DR - You don't.

But how can you avoid it?

Tip #1: Beware the prologue. Readers don't care about the world until they care about the characters, which is why many will skip the prologue anyway. If you're going to write one, keep it short, sweet, and in the action.

Tip #2: We like the broken glass metaphor. Imagine you write it all down on a single pane of glass, then drop the glass. Pick up the pieces and insert the shards of information only where necessary.

If you’re enjoying this podcast, please consider supporting the show. For a few dollars a month, you can help us cover the ongoing expenses—like hosting and editing—that are critical to the creation of this podcast. Plus, supporters will be thanked on each interview episode, so you'll get to hear your name on the air!

Click here to become a paid subscriber and support the show!

Another great way to support the show is to leave a five star review and share it with a writer friend. We don't advertise, so our growth is entirely dependent on word of mouth.

We appreciate your generous help!

Follow Us!

The Author Wheel:
Website: www.AuthorWheel.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorWheel

Greta Boris:
Website: www.GretaBoris.com
Facebook: @GretaBorisAuthor
Instagram: @GretaBoris

Megan Haskell:
Website: www.MeganHaskell.com
Facebook & Instagram: @MeganHaskellAuthor
TikTok: @AuthorMeganHaskell

Support the Show.

FREE Mini Email Course

Have you ever struggled to explain to others exactly what you write? Or wondered which of the many fiction ideas running through your brain you should tackle? If so, The Author Wheel’s new mini-course might be your solution.

7 Days to Clarity: Uncover Your Author Purpose will help you uncover your core writing motivations, avoid shiny-thing syndrome, and create clear marketing language.

Each daily email will lead you step by step in defining your author brand, crafting a mission statement, and distilling that statement into a pithy tagline. And, best of all, it’s free.

Click here to learn more!



Speaker 1:

Welcome to the Author Wheel podcast. I'm Megan Haskell, award-winning fantasy author of the Signari Chronicles and the Rise of Lilith series.

Speaker 2:

And I'm Greta Boris, usa Today bestselling author of the Mortician Murders and the soon-to-be-released Almost True Crime series. Together, we are the Author Wheel. Our goal is to help you overcome your writing roadblocks so you can keep your stories rolling. Today, we're gonna cover a common problem for fiction writers the dreaded info dump. First of all, what is an info dump and why do they lead to pacing death? Megan?

Speaker 1:

Pacing death. I love it.

Speaker 2:

All right, Dun dun dun, which is not a good kind of death, like the deaths in my books. I just want to point that out.

Speaker 1:

Well, arguably even the deaths in your books aren't good deaths, they're just Anyway. Okay, we're going to.

Speaker 2:

We've already gone down a rabbit hole and we haven't even started.

Speaker 1:

Oh man, all right. Well, so an info dump happens when the author, who you know. We spend a ton of time developing the world, the history of the world, the characters you know, the character descriptions, right, the setting, all of that. So an info dump is when you put all of that information, everything you know, onto the page into a single stretch of prose. Really common for new writers to do this, especially, I think, in fantasy, because there's so much world building that has to happen before you know we actually start writing the story. And then, because they have all that information, they want to make sure that the reader knows it all, that the reader has all the information they need to really understand what's going on and what's happening with the characters and all that. So that leads me into tip number one, because the way a lot of these authors do that is through the prologue and you have to really be careful with a prologue.

Speaker 1:

There are ways to write a good prologue. I've written prologues. I think I've done it well. I've tried. There are good ways to do it. But to do a prologue well, it can't be an info dump. Readers just skip over those. So the way the not way to do it. The way to not do a prologue is to use it to introduce all the history of the world. So the worst you know that that drive me nuts is when they go into all the different kingdoms, all the political factions, the lineage of. You know the characters and, uh, you know every little detail about the magic or how the magic works. Right, like these prologues. They're, they're heavy.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. And they slow everything down what's like an encyclopedia of an of a fictional world, and it's like I don't even know if I want to know yet.

Speaker 1:

Exactly exactly. And so I think and that's the problem it's like when you have all this politics and geography and development, readers don't care. Yet they don't care about the world until they care about the characters that exist in that world and, as a result, a lot of readers skip that prologue, right? They just, they just don't want to read that stuff. They'll maybe come back to it, maybe if they feel like there's something that you know they aren't understanding, but it feels like a textbook, it feels like boring history rather than part of the actual story, because, quite honestly, that's what it is.

Speaker 2:

Yes, and also on an extra Tip, one plus 1.5. If you are pitching agents, prologues are almost always like they won't even read them. Yeah, and considering they only want the first 10 pages of your manuscript most of the time, I mean even that's being generous If they even want 10 pages of your manuscript. The last thing you want to send them is your encyclopedic history of your world, right? Because it doesn't really tell them anything about the story.

Speaker 1:

So now let's talk about quickly how a prologue can be done well, and I think prologues do work when it's a brief, action-based or dialogue-based scene from maybe a different point of view character, or a flashback, something like that that just gives a little bit of insight into the story that's about to be told. But it's even. But then you know it's short, it's quick, it's it drives the plot forward, it gives it, it's almost like a teaser trailer, you know, in a way, and so that can be very effective as a prologue. But you also have to realize that some readers are still going to skip it because they see the word prologue and they go nope and they just turn to chapter one.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and the other thing about it, too, that you can do with a prologue is to leave a question that really makes a reader want to turn the page. To leave a question that really makes a reader want to turn the page. So so, like in the book that I'm just going to be turning in to my publisher this week, the first chapter, it could be called chapter one. It could be called a prologue because it is from a point of view character, we never, ever see again a woman walking her dog in a park early, early in the morning and, um, she thinks she's being followed, gets nervous, goes to sit next to a person who's sleeping on a park bench because she feels like any person is safer than this person following her, and then, when the sun completely comes up, she realizes the person on the bench is dead and then it goes into the book. So something like that, like where there's a lot of tension, a lot of excitement.

Speaker 2:

And then immediately you're like oh, and to make it worse, the body doesn't have a head or hands. So to make it worse, how did she not? Notice that it didn't have a head, because there's a book, the book. There was a book. Like she thought it was a book covering the woman's face Like she fell asleep reading, but actually the book was not on the woman's face and she wasn't looking too closely, to be honest, and it was darkish.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, but anyway Anyway.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, point being, that kind of thing can work well because it's like, oh wow, and then you never get back to that dead body for several, for a couple of chapters, but it makes the reader want to go forward to find out. Well, who was that, how'd they die, what happened? You know all that.

Speaker 1:

So yeah, so, greta, how do you introduce information in a exciting way?

Speaker 2:

Yes, because I was going to say another problem, another info. Dumpy problem happens with. I can happen, I'm sure, in fantasy, but it also happens a lot in like psychological suspense or probably romance. I'm not a big romance reader so I can't say for sure. But other types of stories is, you know, you're told you want your characters to have a backstory. So that backstory is kind of like fantasy writers, world building right.

Speaker 2:

It's like why is my character so neurotic that she's going out with this guy, or why you know you have to have this reason and it's this childhood thing or whatever. And so, even though you may, as a writer, you may write that backstory as if it's almost its own story, because it happens before the plot, before the action. You need to know what it is and all that. And then the temptation is to maybe start the book, get a chapter in and then go oh, now I have to explain my character. They know her, they've known her for a month, for a chapter, and then you leave the main world and plop in this whole story about her terrible childhood and people get bored and or lost. Like, well, what is this about? Is this about you know this mystery, or this suspense or this romance, or is this about you know her terrible childhood and so the way to fix? That is what we call the broken glass metaphor, and I honestly do not remember where I learned this, but it was a big aha moment for me and I.

Speaker 2:

So, once you have that backstory of your character and say you've written it out, imagine that you've written it on a mirror or a pane of glass, and then you pick it up and drop it and you take shards and you insert them into your story as you go.

Speaker 2:

So you literally are putting in a paragraph or two, maybe a reference to something about the character's backstory, and you're feeding it to the readers piece by piece by piece by piece. It makes it more compelling, more interesting the flow of the story, like putting in this huge boom backstory, and it actually builds tension rather than kills it, because now you've got another mystery, another reason for them to turn the page. Like, oh, you know, she had this person who she's scared of. And then you learn that she's scared of him because he did something when she was a child and he did it in this place. But you don't know what it is and you might not know what that experience is that she went through when she was a child, until you're all the way like five chapters from the end of the book. So it's another mystery that can keep those readers turning pages, absolutely.

Speaker 1:

And that's a huge tip too. I love that imagery of the broken glass and inserting the pieces, the clues, here and there, because it does add layer and add depth rather than slowing things down.

Speaker 2:

So anyway, Yep, yep, yep. So if you are enjoying this podcast, please consider supporting the show. At the bottom of each episode's show notes is a link that can lead you to a place where you can donate as little as $3 to help us cover the ongoing expenses, like hosting and editing, that are critical to the creation. And not only can you feel good about yourself for doing it, but we will give you a shout out on the air. We will tell the world about your books or your author, service or product. So that's a little perk for you $3 advertising, not too bad. And another way to support the show is to leave a five-star review and share your favorite episode with a writer friend. Until next time, keep your stories rolling.