Last week I talked about how to avoid info dumps in your writing. This week I will talk about how to fix info dumps and how to balance the slippery slope of exposition and action. As I mentioned last week, I started editing a project I have been working on for three to four years (on and off writing while in college). The first chapter had almost two pages of back story and I ended up rewriting those two pages into a new scene which took up four pages.
I don’t have an issue with adding to my word count or page count because the story I’m working on is fantasy and basically a novella. As it is now, it’s less than 35k words. Eventually, I want to increase my word count and revising the draft is a good way to do that. Not only does it make you read through your story, you can also see where there is information needed or not needed.
Rewriting your info dump into a new scene is one way to fix them. It doesn’t always work mostly because sometimes a new scene isn’t needed and then it feels out of place. Not only do I suggest that you read through it but have someone else read it specifically to point out if there are sections in the manuscript that need a bit of trimming.
Another suggestion would be to list all the information that you need the reader to know right off the bat. I usually do this in a chapter outline. I make a list of what needs to happen and the information that needs to be put in. That way, I can control how I write information. It’s all about planning for the most part. It doesn’t have to be a complete list but a rough sketch wouldn’t really hurt.
Having the information relate to what is happening at the moment in-scene is my next suggest. Say for example your character is talking to someone they lost contact with and the reason was because there was a lie or something. Not only could you use a quick flashback sentence to let the reader know about the beef the two have but you could also do it in the way they speak to one another, thoughts, and body language. That way, this information and scene says something about your character the reader wouldn’t know otherwise.
The important thing is to keep the story moving forward. In my opinion, I think it’s important to have something happening in a story whether it’s physical, emotional, or psychological. Keep it brief if possible and integrate it into the story. It’s like killing two birds with one stone. Your exposition is pulling double duty. If you have to have a huge paragraph with information then so be it. At the end of the day, work with your writing style.
One last thing I will say it that the most important thing to do is write. You can always go back and change whatever needs changing. Get the story down on paper or on a digital document and then stress out about editing and revising.
Kassandra Carrillo received her B.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Houston. She enjoys writing dark paranormal fiction. However, she has dabbled in writing fantasy as well, science fiction, western, short stories, poetry, and script writing but she prefers writing novels. In her spare time, Kassandra edits, proofreads, and copy-edits college essays and writes content for Gameway (ANDi Games Ltd).