Sunday, September 20, 2009

Avoiding The Info Dump


This past weekend, I watched Whiteout. It was an action-packed suspense. Although there wasn’t enough emotion or romance for my taste, it was a great example of how to build in back story. New writers – and even some veterans – are tempted to dump the hero/heroines past into a prologue or first chapter. What a writer should do is weave bits here and there throughout the first chapters to build interest. As a reader, we learn there was a traumatic event that affected the hero/heroine, but we don’t know exactly what happened. We want to know, and will keep reading to discover the secret.

In the movie, the heroine observes the battered body of someone who fell from a great height. This triggers a memory of seeing this type of damage before – during her traumatic past. The movie only gives us a small flashback of a minute or two of the event, which would take maybe a paragraph in your book. We know something happened, but still don’t know what yet. The trigger is important. Your hero/heroine needs a reason to reflect on the traumatic past. Several times throughout the first quarter of the movie, the heroine thinks about small segments of this traumatic event. Finally, the possible love interest asks her what happened and through dialogue we learn the secret – a great way of revealing past history in our books as well.

Whiteout is also a great example of unexpected twists and turns that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Plus, how to set up character development. We learn her confidence was shaken when she missed the clues that someone she trusted had gone bad, so we know she must see the clues this time.

The suspense alone makes this movie worth seeing.

Until next week,
Happy Writing,
Tina Lavon


Emmanuelle said...

I'll check it out. Thanks for the heads on ;-)

Nikole Hahn said...

I was tempted to information dump on the prologue or first chapter for my fantasy novel. Then, I realized it would be too much for the reader to take in at one time and so much more effective to keep them guessing and to build in the backstory.

Tina LaVon said...

Let us know what you think, Emmanuelle.

Nikole, glad you avoided the dump.