How not to info dump when you have a really cool idea and just want to make sure that everyone knows all about it
So I started working more seriously on this new story idea yesterday, I’d spent time thinking about it the night before, mulling over my main character and the world in which the story is set. It hit me that I didn’t have a story at all. I had an awesome character who is completely physically/mentally/emotionally different from anyone I’ve ever written before, born into a very strange situation and raised to be something which certainly doesn’t exist.
I have a COOL idea, but it’s not a story. I have a character, a setting, and a nicely developed back story. But I have no plot, and no conflict to explore.
Drat, don’t you hate it when that happens?
Thankfully, the really wonderful thing about creating awesome stuff to write about is that eventually you can get to the heart of where the story is. The tricky part is how to do that without doing massive amounts of info dumping about your very cool ideas into your story. It’s hard not to want to, right? When you actually have all those details hashed out and everything developed, it’s very tempting to make sure your reader knows all about it.
This however, is rarely a good idea. Dropping bits of info into your story is fine, but you have to get past that initial excitement in order to do so effectively and there are a few ways I’ve discovered of doing that.
Firstly, I like to get to know my characters a little. I give the pen over and let them come through and tell me everything and anything they want to. I often find out how little I actually knew when I do this, and sometimes it can be a little scary to see what comes out. I’ll show you what I mean with the start of what my intriguing new character had to say:
My name is Delaney Jones.
We’re all Jones’ here, because that is the name of our Father. While we all had other fathers, and other mothers, he is the one who created us, though those other mothers and fathers will never know this.
Curious! I found out a bunch of other things, and managed to get out heaps of back story in the writing that followed. I know a lot about Delaney and what makes her tick, I also know that she has many holes in her and THAT my friend, is where the story lies.
For me, the most interesting kind of conflict arises from within your main character. Sure things might be happening out in the world that are interesting and exciting, but ultimately you will really sell me on a story if I’m curious about the characters internal conflict. After letting Delaney out for a bit, seeing the world through her eyes and learning about her life, questions begin to form in my mind and boy oh boy, there is a treasure trove of potential there for me to plunder.
After you’ve spilled your guts on your character, written all they would allow you to, it’s time to move onto your world. Paint it down in as many words as you need, get it all out there so that only the necessary bits need make it into your story. I know some people are really fond of vast amounts of details, but it’s not good when it bogs down the flow of the story, or when a reader starts switching off. You want them to know enough about the setting to feel like they have a sense of place, but not so much that when you mention the important parts they don’t stand out.
Get all of it out of your system! I think it’s the only sure fire way not to info dump in your story. It can be more tempting in shorts because you have so little space in which to deliver a story, whereas with a novel you’ve got a lot more time to show off your creations. If you have that world built though, you can always tap back into it. It doesn’t have a finite life. You can build on it and work within it forever. You don’t have to show everyone how cool it is with just one story. Besides, if you do your job right, you’ll manage to get the interest across without ever having to dump even one bit of info – it will all be integrated into your story seamlessly.