May 25th, 2015

Burp

Writing Excuses 10.20: How Do I Write a Story, Not an Encyclopedia?

Writing Excuses 10.20: How Do I Write a Story, Not an Encyclopedia?

From http://www.writingexcuses.com/2015/05/17/writing-excuses-10-20-how-do-i-write-a-story-not-an-encyclopedia/

Key Points: Infodumping... Skill levels: 1) description 2) dialogue 3) interwoven 4) transparent worldbuilding, and multiple duty bits. Start by asking what information does the reader need to continue the story? You don't need to describe everything, just the necessary parts for the plot. Layer information in, either because you are going to use it, because it describes the character, or there is an emotional relationship. Mask information by having the character involved. Giving us the information in a paragraph should be your last resort, but sometimes you do it. Make sure the character has a reason to think about it. Beware "As you know, Bob" (aka maid-and-butler dialogue). Give them a good reason to talk about it. A Watson may help, but don't introduce them just as a foil for explaining things. Break it! When people fix things, they need to talk about it. To get beyond dialogue to explain something, think about emotional impact. How do people feel about the geewhiz, what emotional attachments do they have? Look at the item in use, with people interacting with it. A key is don't stop the story for the description. Use interesting scenes with worldbuilding threaded in. Use Watson, what can go wrong, what side effects are there, to do things. But there must be a plot-specific reason for explaining things! Sometimes you just need background color, so mention the Battle of the Red Armies, and move on. Even when something is important to the plot, occasional casual mentions are better than a single in-depth infodump. How does it work, what does it look like, and what is your character's relationship to the item -- those are the key pieces of information we need.
Collapse )
[Brandon] We are running out of time. We do have a lot of podcasts on world building and show versus tell, so the archives once again can be very useful to you if you want a little bit more on this topic. Mary, you have a writing exercise for our students to do?
[Mary] Yes. So what I want you to do is I want you to pick a specific geewhiz item, some specific item to your world, something that you have created, and I want you to have something go wrong with it. I mean, again, this can be culture, this can be an object. Whatever it is, but something goes wrong and your main character has to deal with it going wrong. So, these are the three pieces of information that I want you to get across while it is going wrong. I want you to get across how it works, what it looks like, and again, physical or cultural, and your character's relationship to it. So if this is something, and I'm going to use an object as an example, if it is an object that is something that she cannot afford, then I need to know she can't afford it. If it's something that she covets, I need to know what. If it's something that she disdains, I need to know what and why. So what I want to know is... You're showing me a scene in which something goes wrong with your geewhiz item. How it works, what it looks like, and your character's relationship to it.
[Brandon] Excellent. This has been Writing Excuses. You're out of excuses. Now go write.
  • Current Mood
    sleepy