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Friday, February 19, 2016

World-Building and the Infodump

Now that I have freed myself from some stressful obligations (for now, anyways), I find myself turning my attention back to the creative endeavors that usually make me happy. In this instance, writing fiction. It’s slow-going getting back into it. And most days I can’t muster the energy to actually write anything (life has given me other, newer stressors that I need to deal with), so I am thinking about some of the WIPs I have just sitting out there.

One in particular is a S&S tale with my “Clonan” character. The story sits at about 18k words, if I recall, and is pretty much done. I just need to figure out how to actually end it satisfactorily, and tie up any loose ends. However, some conversations with established writers have me thinking about the whole thing in a different light.

I tend to write shorter fiction. I’ve never been sure why, but I find myself often so daunted by the prospect of an actual novel –length work, that I stick to the shorter stuff. And I recently figured out one reason why that may be.

When I write my stories, the amount and nature of the information presented is usually dictated by the main character. I present the world through his/her eyes, and confine myself to relating only what they know, and even in that it’s usually only what they know in the context of what is happening at the moment. I tend to avoid the “infodump” about the world outside of them, and I think that may be a mistake.

But how do I correct that? I have often railed against the “doorstopper” novels of GRRM and others for being fluffed with so much tediously-detailed, and ultimately superfluous information, that I instinctively avoid that in my own writing. And I think that could be a mistake. I think maybe I should be adding some of those details, though certainly not the extent of Martin or Tom Clancy.

The question is, how do I do it without jarring the reader out of the story? This is something I need to experiment with, and maybe look for some guidance from others on. So, if you have any advice, let me know.


3 comments:

Shane O. Burns said...

I am not a writer but I have often dreamed of being one. The first thing that came to mind is to give the main character a companion. Maybe not at the beginning but at some point. That companion could describe what they see or give their point of view which would allow to expand in more or other detail.

The other thought is to have someone else tell the story based on what they saw or passed down like legend.

Another thought is to give the main character alter ego that describes what they see or another persona that takes over and describes or explains more of what's going on.

If your story takes place in the woods then go out into nature while writing to get inspiration. Take what you see, hear and smell and incorporate it into the story. Change it and adapt it to what is going on in your world. Go to a pub or bar and watch and observe people and adapt what you see to your world.

Volunteer to read to children and ask them questions about the story to get inspiration from them.

Co-write, let someone else add the fluff.

Just some thoughts, I'm no writer but I hope it helps. - Shane

Shane O. Burns said...

I am not a writer but I have often dreamed of being one. The first thing that came to mind is to give the main character a companion. Maybe not at the beginning but at some point. That companion could describe what they see or give their point of view which would allow to expand in more or other detail.

The other thought is to have someone else tell the story based on what they saw or passed down like legend.

Another thought is to give the main character alter ego that describes what they see or another persona that takes over and describes or explains more of what's going on.

If your story takes place in the woods then go out into nature while writing to get inspiration. Take what you see, hear and smell and incorporate it into the story. Change it and adapt it to what is going on in your world. Go to a pub or bar and watch and observe people and adapt what you see to your world.

Volunteer to read to children and ask them questions about the story to get inspiration from them.

Co-write, let someone else add the fluff.

Just some thoughts, I'm no writer but I hope it helps. - Shane

Charles Gramlich said...

Some things you can potentially do. For one, those really big novels have multiple characters or groups of characters, and each may see the world in a different way. As you develop the different characters you naturally develop them within the world they live in, so that expands your world building.

Two, I think info dumps are OK as long as they are kept to short manageable lengths, 2 to 3 lines at a time, intermixed with dialogue, action etc. I think in both SF and fantasy you really have to do this to get everything in.

Three, potentially, you can have an appendix at the end of a book which has more details and readers who are interested can look this kind of thing up as they go to enrich their experience. Readers who don't care about that stuff don't have to be troubled by it.

Four, one way I got around it in the Talera books is by having the main character being an outsider to the world who had to have many things explained to him and asked many questions.