Friday, May 4, 2012

What to Cut? Info-Dump

Source: & Wordle
From what I've read and from my own first time experience, the biggest mistake a newbie novelist (my hand goes up here) makes is info-dumping, especially at the beginning of a novel. Instead of thoroughly developing characters and setting before writing, the new author works this process out in the actual first draft. 

I had whole chapters that introduced and described my characters. The chapters did not move the story along, so they had to be cut.

For fun, here is an example of info-dumping:

(Background: Teacher introduces new student, Kristen Walters to the class and asks her to tell the class something about herself.)

"Hi, my name is Kristen. I'm ten years old. I just moved here from Italy. My dad was there for the Navy and was stationed there for 2 years. We lived in La Madelena, but had to travel to Sardinia every day to go to school. We took a school bus to the dock, then a ferry boat to Sardinia, then a luxury tour bus to school. We went snorkeling on the weekends and the water there is crystal clear.

Before Italy, my dad was stationed in Florida and we lived near an alligator zoo. My best friend, Megan was the daughter of the owner, and every day after school I'd help her feed the baby gators. We'd feed them fish and crawdaddies mostly. The babies were fun to hold."

Problems with this:

1. The character seems like she is bragging, when I actually wanted her to come across as shy. This is her first day of school in a new place and because she moves so much, she has a hard time making new friends. She would probably just tell the class that she moved here from Italy and then go to her seat.

2. Information is interesting, but Kristen should be introduced gradually through the story (just as you would get to know a new friend --gradually). Also, only relevant information about Kristen should be shared. Maybe she is fearless of critters b/c of her gator experience and that could be used later in the story, but Italy might have no bearing on the story.

Are you a newbie novelist like me? Do you info-dump? What have you learned through revision?


  1. I've learned some things are importent and need to be peppered in through out the novel. Not in the first few pages.

  2. You know, I don't usually do that, but I noticed that I did it with one novel in a different way-- world building. I had created a little town that was kind of unique and I became a little enamored with it. So, I dumped and dumped and dumped... it freaks me out to think about how horrible it is. So, it's slated for a 100% rewrite. EEEK.


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