Monday, July 8, 2013

Writing in 140: Avoiding the Info Dump in Dialogue

One issue I often see in dialogue is the info dump, a piling-on of exposition that might be important to readers; however, dialogue is not the place to reveal that info.


Example: one character acts as “interviewer,” asking questions to show interest in whatever the other character is saying. As each question is asked, the other character will go on for paragraphs, detailing back story and fully explaining situations. When read, this dialogue sounds unnatural because it’s not a “true” conversation; it’s a report for the reader. In revisions, it’s important to go through dialogue to ensure it reveals character, intensifies conflict, moves current story/scene forward, and/or has real purpose to the story as a whole. If the material you trim is pertinent to your story, find more organic places to incorporate it.

What issues do you see in dialogue?

-----
Writing in 140 is my attempt to say something somewhat relevant about writing in 140 words or less.

-----
FYI: A great tip post on effective dialogue can be found here at BRP by Susan Mary Malone, "5 Tips to Effective Dialogue."


Shon Bacon is an author, doctoral candidate, editor, and educator. She has published both academically and creatively while also interviewing women writers on her popular blog, ChickLitGurrl: high on LATTES & WRITING. In 2012, her second mystery, Into the Web and her short story "I Wanna Get Off Here" (in the short story collection, The Corner Cafe) were published. Her next release, Saying No to the Big O, was published in April 2013. You can learn more about Shon's writings at her website, and you can get information about her editorial services at CLG Entertainment. Currently, Shon is busy pursuing her Ph.D. in Technical Communication and Rhetoric at Texas Tech University ... and trying to find the time to WRITE.

16 comments :

  1. This is right on target, Shon. Unrealistic and contrived dialogue turns me off every time, and I will put the book down...permanently. A good way to locate such information dumps is to use an old-fashioned tape recorder (or a more sophisticated counterpart), read the dialogue into the mic, and play it back, paying careful attention to your reaction. If you can't wait for it to end, or if you cringe at its unlikeliness to occur, you'd better follow Shon's advice to find a more appropriate place to share the info with your readers.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Info dumps are right up there when it comes to annoying the reader in me! I want to get on with the story as it unfolds. Sadly, I've stopped reading a number of books because of it.

    Great post...I love "Writing in 140" concept, btw!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Definitely agree with you, Shon. Info dump in dialogue is often all it takes for a reader to put down the book.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I love the irony of discussing info dumps in 140, Shon! I see this problem all the time. In addition to one person doing all the talking, another info dump warning flag: you as author can't think of things for the people to do during the dialogue beside lick their lips or sip tea or beer. What do any of us do during a lecture? (Fall asleep, haha.) This can be an indication that the dialogue is not integrated with the novel's active conflict.

    ReplyDelete
  5. "Chris is my name ... dialogue is my game."

    ReplyDelete
  6. That's great advice, Linda. Dialogue IS heard, so listening to it hear those problem areas would be a good thing to do.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thanks for the compliment, Anne! It's appreciated. :-) As an editor, this is typically the first type of issue I see when it comes to dialogue. And it's understandable. After all, the writer spends so much time researching her characters and developing their back stories, and when it comes to the actual story itself, she wants to get as much of that info into the story as possible--but where to put it? Dialogue is one option for them...though, as you say, it annoys readers and oftentimes, they just skip or skim these passages to get on with the story.

    ReplyDelete
  8. *chuckling* There is some irony there, isn't there, Kathryn?

    That's another great warning flag, too.

    ReplyDelete
  9. And I'm taking it that's a great game you play, too, huh, Chris? *chuckling*

    ReplyDelete
  10. I absolutely agree, Shon. e.g. "As you know, dear, we have ten children and..." LOL

    ReplyDelete
  11. Advice from another blog said anything more than 3 sentences in a dialogue paragraph is a "speech", not "conversation." Dialogue is not 'real' speech, but it has to 'sound' like real speech. That being said, since I write mysteries, often there's a lot of information during interrogation scenes. I hope readers don't regard that as information not necessary to the story.

    Terry
    Terry's Place

    ReplyDelete
  12. Ha! YES, Heidi! That issue hurts my ears when I read it, too.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Hey there, Terry. I think readers usually see that type of information as a GOOD thing and integral to the story. At least I hope so considering I write mysteries, too. LOL

    ReplyDelete
  14. Terry, in a mystery interrogation is half of the story! How else would the sleuth learn anything? :)

    The important thing is to avoid the "As you know, Sally ..." bits.

    ReplyDelete

The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...