Wednesday, April 27, 2011

W is for Walrus

Info dumps = walruses.  I'm sure you've seen 'em before too.  Those big long paragraphs of description and pages of back story that really doesn't have much to do with the story taking place at the moment.  You know, those things the reader skips over to get to the action.

For the writer, it's important to know why our character is terrified of cats and how this fear affects him/her.  It might be important to an event that will happen in our story.   Maybe this fear is why the character reacts in a certain way during an important scene.

And, sure we need to set the scene for our reader, to let them know where the character is, where the story takes place.  Especially when writing fantasy or science fiction.  But when our walrus is so big it covers the whole beach, that's not a good thing.

That's where ADE comes in.  A mentor of mine told me about it. 

A = Advance the plot. 
D = Deepen the characterization. 
E = Enhance the setting.

Each sentence we write should do at least one of these things.  It's even better if it can do two and super great if it can do all three.  And this is where the work comes in.  It's sometimes hard to get those sentences to earn their keep.

And sometimes, we may have a great sentence but it's in the wrong place.  For example, our character who's afraid of cats.  Would it not be better to have her react to a cat when the reader least expects it than to tell the reader 50 pages beforehand that he/she's afraid of cats?  (That's also the show don't tell thing.)

Having info in your story is not a bad thing.  It just needs to be woven in here and there, in little bits and pieces.  Don't let your really cute, impressive walrus get lost in the crowd.  Make him stand out!

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