Monday, September 3, 2012

No Info Dumps...

But give us something. 

I recently read a few contest entries and the one thing that stood out was the lack of info dumps. It was impressive -- sort of. I get it that most writers hate those big sections of a character "thinking" about his or her past as they walk to a door or drive up to a house, but I'm not convinced readers do.

For one, reading those contest entries I was struck by how little I knew about each character. Which meant not all of their actions were properly motivated to me. Things like: After the way her boyfriend treated her, she wouldn't let another man insult her...don't tell me much. Seriously. After the way her boyfriend treated her, she wouldn't let another man insult her...says to me that her old boyfriend insulted her. But how? And is it really enough to warrant her being bitchy to a stranger -- who had done nothing to her? Because that's what I see a lot in contest entries. Strong heroines, willing to stand up to and even insult the hero, all in the name of some unknown thing that happened to her  in the past. And if I don't know what it is, then I might not like your heroine.

I get it that you don't want info dumps, but you've got to give us something. Something clear and substantial that will show us motivation and in that motivation a reason to root for the heroine not question her. 

By the way, this doesn't mean the hero needs to know (or visa versa). For story purposes, you can string him along as long as it fits your story. But readers need to know motivation. 

So take those nice one-line character hints you've been taught to write and fill them with meat. That simple one line above could have tons of info in it. In fact, if you want a little homework I'd suggest you take a few minutes and pack that line with some meat! Change it around a little bit so that we get a fact about what the heroine's ex-boyfriend did, something that would make her sympathetic rather than overly sensitive.

I think that could be fun.

So here's my attempt... After the way her boyfriend announced his engagement to another woman  at a party she thought was meant to show her off as his new girl friend, she didn't really trust men anymore.


After the way her boyfriend fired her at a board of directors meeting to save his own behind, she really didn't trust anyone anymore.

What's yours?

Happy Monday

susan meier

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