Saturday, January 27, 2018

Writing and Info Dumps

Hello everyone!
Today I wanted to take the time to talk about the famous information dumping that can happen when writing a book. We all do it. I've done it and still do sometimes, even in a second or third draft. We need to learn to recognize when we have dumped too much backstory in one area of our manuscript.

Here is an excellent example of how not to info dump. I recently watched the Netflix movie Bright. After the first two minutes of the movie, I knew exactly what kind of world the story took place in and even a bit of history without one word spoken. How? Here's a small spoiler for those who haven't seen it.
Graffiti. The opening credits show graffiti and street signs from all over L.A. They show us that this is a world that contains orcs, elves, humans and other magical creatures living alongside each other. It even mentions a dark lord and civil unrest between the races. With a few flashes of images and no dialogue, we have already learned our setting, what our characters' races may be, and that there could be an underlying tension between races that could affect the plot. 
Now, isn't that just magic in and of itself? 

I know what you're thinking, "Okay, that was a movie. We have to explain everything with words, without using these famous info dumps." Right you are, my invisible antagonistic friend. You have to find your own graffiti. You have to discover a way to introduce your characters and setting in an interesting way that will keep the reader's attention. You have to show (and not tell, of course!) the reader a setting without going on for ten pages about the way a city looks and why. You have to explain a history without a prologue that tells you every little detail about it. You have to establish a character's backstory without them sitting down with their best friend and rehashing their entire existence. (Because really, who does that in real life? Nothing irks me more than characters who sit around and talk about topics they both already know as fact for no other purpose than to give the reader this info.) 
It is always easier said than done. 

The trick is being able to recognize when you have left info dumps in your writing. If a beta reader or editor points them out to you, even better. Then you have to use what I like to call the sprinkler effect. Take that information and sprinkle it all throughout your story. Not only will this help with info dumps, but it could make for more interesting writing. 
Instead of knowing Amy's entire past at the beginning, perhaps we are shown small pieces of her past here and there through flashbacks, off-handed dialogue, or her own inner thoughts. Her character could become more mysterious and interesting if we find out more about her gradually. 
Maybe we discover the setting by following our main character as they go for a jog in post-apocalyptic New York, skirting abandoned cars and leaping overturned hot dog stands. Later, she may show us her thoughts about missing the time before the great war/plague/invasion that left the world this way. Or maybe she hears an old song and it brings back a memory of her pre-apocalypse life.
You have to find your own system that works for you. 

Good luck, writers. The best way to research how to help with your own information dumping is to read. Read other amazing books that bring you into the story in ways that don't give you pages and pages of why Jimmy hates his mother. Discover a way to use more imagery and everyday circumstances to show the rain forest the story takes place in.
Have fun and happy writing!

Saturday, January 6, 2018

December Reads & Reviews

Happy New Year, everyone!
I hope 2017 treated you right. I didn't quite reach my reading goal for the year, but I did read 106 books. Considering there were a few months that I didn't read at all, that's not bad. I read some seriously amazing books last year, especially from indie authors, so I think my next post will have to be my top ten of the year. But for now, let's see what indie books I read in December!

Origins of the Never
by CJ Rutherford

Rating: 4 Stars

An interesting fantasy.
Though this has all of the typical overdone high fantasy elements like elves, magic, and good versus evil, it held my interest. The story was well-written and drew me in, making me care about the characters in a short time.
A good intro to a series.

Mutant Toe & the Risky Recruitment
by Edward Davies

Rating: 3 Stars

To be Continued?
This book is not to be taken seriously, as in, it is one goofy roller coaster ride of laughs and crazy plot lines. If you grew up watching 80s TV shows or cartoons, the one-liners will have you giggling and rolling your eyes. Even the other characters can't take someone seriously when they yell out "You won't get away with this!" and "You'll never escape!" which makes it all the funnier.
This feels like it would be a good comic book, but some of what he is trying to convey just isn't coming out well on the written page. This is definitely a more visual story. Also, being as long as it is, the story would have more appeal if it were broken down into comic book issues.
All around, a decent story if you want a laugh. Perhaps a bit too over the top for my taste, but amusing nonetheless.

Blood Master
by Kirsten Campbell

Rating: 5 Stars

An interesting take on a dystopian world that drew me in from the first chapter. The main characters are fleshed out so well that we follow their exploits with great interest. The details we are given about their lives, their thoughts, and their feelings make them real for the reader, and that's exactly what I look for in a book.
The story itself is complicated but intriguing, keeping me glued to the pages to find out what happens next. I won't give anything away, but let's just say that I am rooting for the albino! If Book Two is half as good as this one, it will be a wonderful adventure indeed.

I'm excited to read more amazing indie books this year and tell you all about them. Happy reading!
* Books that I read but rated less than 3 stars are not included.