How to Write Succinctly and Keep the Attention of your Reader
or, Beware the Info Dump, My Child
By Elizabeth MS Flynn w/a Eilis Flynn
Say you’re starting work on your latest story. You’ve just done a ton of research on it to get all the details right, down to the button detail of the outer ridge of your heroine’s boot, a distinctive triangular pattern as a post-modern variation of a 15th-century Native American design from the Humptulips, WA, region. Inspired, you want to bring the reader into the story and you want him or her to be as fascinated and intrigued by it as you are. But you make a small tactical error. Just a small one. You dump all this stuff at the beginning of your story so they can get started on the wonderfulness that is your story…
And thus you find out the hard way that info dumps are BAD. Or maybe you already knew. Certainly those info dumps can slow down the story and even confuse the reader, but let’s face it, sometimes you NEED them. Info dumps can be an unwelcome but necessary part of storytelling, you know? Certainly in a story that’s not contemporary; if it’s not the contemporary setting you see around you, you have to set the scene, and if you’re dealing with the historical past (or even the prehistorical past or even the posthistorical past), the futuristic future, and the fantastical futuristic past or alt-past or…well, anyway. If it’s not the here and now, some info dumping is necessary.
Here’s the thing about info dumps. Too often, you gave your readers too MUCH information to chew on. You didn’t give them a little of the wonderfulness of the information at a time. You scared them away!
What kind of info dumping is necessary? An imparting of information that sets a scene that’s not necessarily the easiest to understand right off the bat isn’t a dumping of information; it’s the quickest and most effective method by which to set the scene. You just can’t overdo it.
What’s overdoing it? Some people will tell you that overdoing it is when you get a little too enthusiastic about your topic and start pontificating. You risk immediately losing your intended audience that way. Just because you’re fascinated by the button detail doesn’t mean that anyone else will be. After your audience wakes up after being lulled into a doze after the information about the button detail, they may decide that some other activity not involving button detail may be a better use of their time.
This workshop came about when Heather and I started to talk about the imparting of information and how too much makes our potential reader wander off, bored, especially in today’s short-attention-span society. That’s the problem with info dumps. It’s too much, too soon, and our eyes, used to tidbits and sound bites about the Kardashians and the latest about Kate Middleton, go blind with actual, useful information.
If you’re curious about when and how to deal with the info dump, check out Heather Hiestand’s and my online workshop for the Futuristic Fantasy and Paranormal chapter (romance-ffp.com/beware-the-info-dump-my-child) and join in the discussion as we look at info dumps!
More About the Author
Elizabeth MS Flynn has written fiction in the form of comic book stories, romantic fantasies, urban fantasies, historical fantasies and short stories, a young adult novel, and a graphic novella (most published under the name of Eilis Flynn). She’s also a professional editor and has been for more than 35 years, working with academia, technology, and finance nonfiction, and romance fiction. If you’re looking for an editor, she can be found editing at emsflynn.com and reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’re curious about her books, check out eilisflynn.com. In any case, she can be reached at email@example.com
Don’t Miss Eilis Flynn & Heather Hiestand’s
Beware the Info Dump, My Child
This 2 Week Course Starts May 4th
Sponsored by FF&P
Find out more HERE