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Old 02-23-2012, 09:15 AM   #1
Morwen Edhelwen
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homage paragraph, or how to avoid infodumps

This paragraph from my WIP is one where I begin paying homage to Evita in revealing something about a major character's past. I'm a bit concerned about whether or not it's too much information at once. Does anyone have advice on how to avoid infodumps?

Looked up at Señora Valverde’s photos. She’d shown me the ones of her father’s secret visits to her family. He died when she was seven. Her family couldn’t go to the funeral. “His wife threw us out.” She spat out the last words.
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Old 02-23-2012, 09:35 AM   #2
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Quote:
This paragraph from my WIP is one where I begin paying homage to Evita in revealing something about a major character's past. I'm a bit concerned about whether or not it's too much information at once. Does anyone have advice on how to avoid infodumps?

Looked up at Señora Valverde’s photos. She’d shown me the ones of her father’s secret visits to her family. He died when she was seven. Her family couldn’t go to the funeral. “His wife threw us out.” She spat out the last words.
It doesn't read info-dumpy to me, Morwen, but it's very hard to tell with just that teeny-tiny grab. Keep writing and then look back and see it in retrospect. If all the stuff around it is info-dump, then you've got an info-dump. As it stands - as far as one can tell in a vacuum - it reads perfectly well. But I'm going to join the general chorus of "Please Morwen Stop Making New Threads Whenever You Write A New Sentence." There's probably no actual harm in it, but it just comes across as entitled and a little bit irritating. Plus, I think it's slowing you down.

There's nothing I've seen that you've written that doesn't look as though you're potentially a very gifted writer. Do get on with it, chicken!

Last edited by mccardey; 02-23-2012 at 10:03 AM. Reason: fiddling. commas and such.
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Old 02-23-2012, 10:04 AM   #3
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I don't think 5 or 6 sentences is any kind of info dump worth worrying over. It's 5 or 6 paragraphs that get ugly.
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Old 02-23-2012, 10:28 AM   #4
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Looked up at Señora Valverde’s photos. She’d shown me the ones of her father’s secret visits to her family. He died when she was seven. Her family couldn’t go to the funeral. “His wife threw us out.” She spat out the last words.
If this is the entire "infodump" section, it isn't very infodumpy at all. If there's more, it's hard to judge how infodumpy it is from this one snippet.
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Old 02-23-2012, 12:48 PM   #5
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It doesn't read info-dumpy to me, Morwen, but it's very hard to tell with just that teeny-tiny grab. Keep writing and then look back and see it in retrospect. If all the stuff around it is info-dump, then you've got an info-dump. As it stands - as far as one can tell in a vacuum - it reads perfectly well. But I'm going to join the general chorus of "Please Morwen Stop Making New Threads Whenever You Write A New Sentence." There's probably no actual harm in it, but it just comes across as entitled and a little bit irritating. Plus, I think it's slowing you down.

There's nothing I've seen that you've written that doesn't look as though you're potentially a very gifted writer. Do get on with it, chicken!
Logging out for the week. ETA: Actually, that's not true, I'll still be posting-- just trying not to start any new threads, especially not on TLGP.

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Old 02-23-2012, 12:51 PM   #6
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Logging out for the week.
Don't stop writing, though I'm keen to read it.
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Old 02-23-2012, 01:04 PM   #7
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Who cares if it's infodumpy? This is your first draft! Famous writers typically just dump out the info in their head then clean it up later. Put down the descriptions of your characters, their backstories, the scenes you just need to describe before you forget them, then go back through and clean it up and tie it all together so it flows well. Good luck with your week of writing!
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Old 02-24-2012, 01:38 AM   #8
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I wouldn't worry about it. Infodumps are only really annoying, I find, in the context of the work as a whole. Take A Song of Ice and Fire -- the most infodumpy series of all time, IM, for example: the infodumps may be 5 paragraphs long, but they're usually followed up by intense action (and then 500 more pages). It still turned out OK, right?
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Old 02-24-2012, 01:49 AM   #9
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I don't think 5 or 6 sentences is any kind of info dump worth worrying over. It's 5 or 6 paragraphs that get ugly.
yeah, but what if, ok, what if, one wrote 6000 words of nothing but action and the novel SCREAMS info. What then. What then?


(ok, so i'm going through a finished novel crisis, so what?)


eta, re the OP ()

if it's earned it's fine. that's the rule.
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Old 02-24-2012, 05:49 PM   #10
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Saying, 'He died when she was seven. They didn't go to the funeral.' Isn't really info dumping in my opinion. More brief telling. The more telling you do is when it becomes a dump.

I make standard rules for myself. Inevitably there are times when you must 'info dump' or simply 'tell', to get across why someone acts the way they do or so the audience can understand your magical world better or whatevr. I limit myself to 1-5 sentences, and often play with the wording to make it as concise as possible. Only include information that is necessary for the scene. Don't drabble.

Example of an Info Dump:

We would have picnics every summer along Loch Lomond and sing the song to remember my now departed father who drowned after a crooked policeman discovered that he was about to be turned in for supplying drug lords. The policeman was Italian and came from a wealthy family. Some say his father was apart of the mafia. We found my father's body, eight days after he disappeared along the banks. We could hardly identify him; he was so badly decomposed. The policeman's wife, Janice, said it was God's punishment because we built our house over a mass grave site, but we didn't know that until excavators came and found fragments of human bone. I was seven when he died. I wasn't able to attend his funeral.

So maybe if this was a real excerpt from someone's story all these things would be important. A crooked police officer who's father was apart of the mafia. A mass grave site. Loch Lomond. Janice. But no one gives a hoot about a lot of these things right now and besides the paragraph is horribly constructed I really jumped around up there.

Keep to what's important, and in your example you did. You kept it short with minimal information. Just what was necessary for the scene.

An example of 'telling'/'info dump'-like scene that's acceptable would be:

Dr. Bennett always hated Evon for his debauchery and aloof attitude. If he laid a hand on his daughter again, he would do what he should have done ten years ago--kill him!

In this short segment you can draw quite a few conclusions: Evon isn't a very moral guy; his aloof attitude shows that he's not bothered by his past. Dr. Bennett is an over-protective father, he's moral, but intolerant hence him having the desire to 'kill' Evon because he had 'touched' Dr. Bennett's daughter ten years ago.

Short segments like these are fine because they're really not an info dump. I mean, one could take it that way because it is 'telling' rather than actually showing, but it's short and acceptable and you can gather quite a bit from it.

Using the right words can cut a segment like this in half. Instead of saying all the immoral stuff Evon did, using one word: debauchery, basically wraps up his past. He had a lot of a women--end of story--no need to delve into where he picked them up or how he treated them; how long he stayed with them etc.

So basically, when you have to 'info dump', being picky on your word choice and limiting yourself to what's most important for the scene disguises the actually telling that's going on. Sometimes you can info dump by using radio-stations, newspapers, television stations, voice-mail recording, medical records, diary entries etc. to express something that's happened in your world, but again it's important like I said before to keep these short and concise.
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Old 02-24-2012, 06:08 PM   #11
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morwen....keep lurking, just don't be afraid once in awhile to actually go for it and dip your toe instead of prefacing every single move with a new thread. That is what I believe McCardey was getting at, and is certainly my own advice.....nobody is telling you to leave, only to step back and do some of the writing as well instead of just asking about it, because by now it is starting to look more like a procrastination exercise than anything else.

Jump on that horse.
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Old 02-24-2012, 08:22 PM   #12
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Mmm... Slight derail; sorry folks.

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Old 02-24-2012, 08:48 PM   #13
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Mmm... Slight derail; sorry folks.

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I believe it is Quentin Collins, the secondary villain in the Dark Shadows TV series.
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Old 02-24-2012, 08:54 PM   #14
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But I'm going to join the general chorus of "Please Morwen Stop Making New Threads Whenever You Write A New Sentence." There's probably no actual harm in it, but it just comes across as entitled and a little bit irritating. Plus, I think it's slowing you down.
Agreed. Morwen, I know that you are probably unsure, and it helps to seek advice along the way. Most of us do that here. But the thing about your threads is that they would be better answered in SYW. After you've written a good chapter or two, you can post a passage in SYW, and people will tell you if they feel it is infodumpy, or if it works or does not work for whatever reason.

Feel free to participate in the forums. But in a way, some of your threads are wasting your time, which would be better spent writing. You can get the feedback you need when you have a draft together.
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Old 02-27-2012, 01:00 PM   #15
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That is what I believe McCardey was getting at, and is certainly my own advice.....nobody is telling you to leave, only to step back and do some of the writing.
Yes, exactly. I don't think you should stop posting and I certainly don't think you shouldn't feel welcome at AW. I've said here and in other places I think you're potentially an excellent writer. The little grab in your original post, for instance, shows a very good writer's mind at work; it's not info-dumpy, but it contains - even in such a brief grab - information, voice and hints of further plotlines; so it seems as though you're quite capable of pulling most of the things you need in a book together. Plus as I said to you somewhere else, I think your rhythms and language are frequently lovely.

The question is just whether it's helpful to test-run everything. You run the risk of slowing your work up - but worse, of losing your authentic voice and theme, and writing by committee instead.

(And to answer the other question that you keep bringing up, perhaps you'd avoid the fan-fic issue completely by just seeing what the characters do and not worrying about giving them the extra burden of carrying such a pedigree?)

Anyway, keep writing. As I said before, I'm keen to see what you come up with

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Old 02-27-2012, 01:46 PM   #16
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Yes, exactly. I don't think you should stop posting and I certainly don't think you shouldn't feel welcome at AW. I've said here and in other places I think you're potentially an excellent writer. The little grab in your original post, for instance, shows a very good writer's mind at work; it's not info-dumpy, but it contains - even in such a brief grab - information, voice and hints of further plotlines; so it seems as though you're quite capable of pulling most of the things you need in a book together. Plus as I said to you somewhere else, I think your rhythms and language are frequently lovely.

The question is just whether it's helpful to test-run everything. You run the risk of slowing your work up - but worse, of losing your authentic voice and theme, and writing by committee instead.

(And to answer the other question that you keep bringing up, perhaps you'd avoid the fan-fic issue completely by just seeing what the characters do and not worrying about giving them the extra burden of carrying such a pedigree?)

Anyway, keep writing. As I said before, I'm keen to see what you come up with
The characters are based on Guevara and the Perons. It seems like I'm doing okay with it according to your comments. (I bet everyone here could also guess who they were based on if they read the whole thing, which I'll post on SYW when it's worked on enough.)

I'm probably biased, but if I found out someone was writing a YA dieselpunk novel with characters based on Che Guevara and the Perons, my first reaction would be "When can I read it?" I'm not the only person either. Since "if you give two writers the same plot, their stories will be different" (paraphrase of several posts on this board on similar subjects) of course my take on "what-if-Che-Guevara-and-the-Perons-knew-each other?" would be different to another person's. Different plots, for one thing.
ETA: Are you allowed to start another SYW thread for the same piece of work when the first one has dropped off?

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Old 02-27-2012, 02:21 PM   #17
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ETA: Are you allowed to start another SYW thread for the same piece of work when the first one has dropped off?
I don't know how SYW works - sorry. I haven't posted anything there and I don't crit there; but perhaps the stickies have all that info? And if not, I'm sure someone can post here and answer that for you.

Quote:
Another ETA: I'm probably biased, but if I found out someone was writing a YA dieselpunk novel with characters based on Che Guevara and the Perons, my first reaction would be "When can I read it?" I'm not the only person either. Since "if you give two writers the same plot, their stories will be different" (paraphrase of several posts on this board on similar subjects) of course my take on "what-if-Che-Guevara-and-the-Perons-knew-each other?" would be different to another person's. Different plots, for one thing.
I really don't know much about CG and EP, but I would imagine you'd be pretty safe if you were absolutely rigorous about bringing your own interpretations and voice (and perhaps themes) to "their" (read - your) story - thus avoiding the obvious ALW connections.

But then I'd be inclined to wonder why you hadn't gone the whole hog and given the characters their own names and personas - and just allowed those who wanted to to make the quasi-historical connections as a kind of insider bonus?

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Old 02-27-2012, 02:28 PM   #18
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I don't know how SYW works - sorry. I haven't posted anything there and I don't crit there; but perhaps the stickies have all that info? And if not, I'm sure someone can post here and answer that for you.



I really don't know much about CG and EP, but I would imagine you'd be pretty safe if you were absolutely rigorous about bringing your own interpretations and voice (and perhaps themes) to their story - thus avoiding the obvious ALW connections.

But then I'd be inclined to wonder why you hadn't gone the whole hog and given the characters their own names and personas - and just allowed those who wanted to to make the quasi-historical connections as a kind of insider bonus?
The rest of the story is like that passage- my own interpretation, voice etc. BTW, thanks for the compliments.
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Old 02-27-2012, 03:04 PM   #19
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The rest of the story is like that passage- my own interpretation, voice etc. BTW, thanks for the compliments.
Well, I know you're still at school and you have a lot of work, but do keep writing on (not just re-writing, though that's good, too); and when you have enough to feel comfortable about, try posting a really good-sized chunk in SYW and see how it goes.

ETA: Or do what I do - write the whole first draft and find a beta reader or two who can let you know if there was anything in it that left them confused or unsatisfied. You don't want them to tell you how to fix it - just let you know if there was something left out or unconnected. It's up to you to decide what to do with the information...

Keep on with it, anyway.

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Old 02-27-2012, 04:59 PM   #20
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ETA: Are you allowed to start another SYW thread for the same piece of work when the first one has dropped off?
I'm sure that's all detailed in the sticky threads there, so do check them: but I think the protocol is to post your revised version in the existing thread, and change the title of the thread to direct people to your new post (all the posts are numbered: just add something like "revised version at post #28", or whatever post number it's at).
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Old 03-02-2012, 02:54 PM   #21
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I'm sure that's all detailed in the sticky threads there, so do check them: but I think the protocol is to post your revised version in the existing thread, and change the title of the thread to direct people to your new post (all the posts are numbered: just add something like "revised version at post #28", or whatever post number it's at).
Thanks on that.
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Old 03-02-2012, 05:13 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by mccardey View Post
But then I'd be inclined to wonder why you hadn't gone the whole hog and given the characters their own names and personas - and just allowed those who wanted to to make the quasi-historical connections as a kind of insider bonus?

I guess this is my sticking point:

if this is not che, not evita, in an alternate world, and you keep having the issue of using che and evita but with altered names, altered lives, etc., I'm not sure why you insist on them being che and evita in the first place, other than as a vanity project--it seems to bring you more grief than just letting them be someone else.
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Old 03-03-2012, 05:16 AM   #23
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Because they are basically Che and Evita. Same personalities, same actions in history- just in a different country/different world.

Last edited by Morwen Edhelwen; 03-03-2012 at 06:15 AM.
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Old 03-03-2012, 05:35 AM   #24
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Originally Posted by Morwen Edhelwen View Post
Because they are basically Che and Evita. Same personalities, same actions in history.
But not really, though - because C and E were actual people, and actual people of whom you have no first-hand knowledge, and who have no temporal connection at all with your fictional world and its characters. So your characters are based on C and E. They're not "basically" C and E at all - they're based on them.

Some people will find that fascinating - even more so if they work it out for themselves. But by insisting on using the names, you can see you're just setting yourself up for arguments with people who mind you blurring the distinction between "actual" and "based on" - quite apart from people who might know a whole lot more about C and E than you do!

"Fans" of C and E (that is, people who see them, say, as the ALW characterisations) might get a buzz out of being clever enough to work out the connections. Students or people with a real interest in them or the real world they really lived in might be a lot less forgiving. A whole lot less. And publishers will know that.

It just seems unnecessary trouble you're making for yourself, do you see?

But there. I've said my bit.
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Old 03-03-2012, 05:36 AM   #25
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The same personalities Andrew Lloyd Webber gave them, you mean.
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