Thursday, October 9, 2008

A Problem?

I was reading an agent blog today and the entry was about common mistakes they see in requested pages. The post mainly focused on what is commonly called an 'information dump.' To explain, an information dump is usually found somewhere in chapter one and will be a whole load of background information about the character/s. Since I was in a bit of a hurry this morning, I only gave it a cursory read and then of course spent the rest of the day wanting to look at my own work to see if I'm guilty of this crime. I finally found five minutes to look at the opening chapter of SOAP book 1, and of course immediately found three separate places I'd 'dumped' information. After that I spent the remainder of the day thinking "is this why agents have been passing on my work?" But then I just went back and read what the agent was saying slowly and luckily I think I'm ok. I think what this agent was trying to say was that if there's just pages and pages of back information, with no present action or dialogue, then it would be a problem and an immediate 'no' from them. However, I really think some background information is obviously necessary. The trick is to weave it into the action and dialogue, instead of bashing your reader over the head with it. I think mine is ok. Probably not great, there's probably some other way I could have done it better and it's a mistake I'll be aware of avoiding in the future. No one has ever pulled me up on 'information dumping' before, so it can't be too big an issue in my work. I still believe my work is good enough to get me that currently-elusive 'yes' from an agent or publisher.
Oh, and I still haven't heard back from Avon, which I'm taking as a good sign. Hopefully it means my query actually made it to an editors desk and is being considered for a request.
Song: Pacifier by Shihad.


Cafrine said...

This is what I think they are talking about:

"What is it?", Harry Potter asked.
"Well," whispered Hermione, "It's You-know-who, the Dark Lord who rose to power about fifteen years ago and started decimating the Muggle community and then he discovered this prophecy that said this kid would be born that would be able to defeat him, so he went to destroy this kid before he could do that and managed to kill both of his parents but not the kid because the spell backfired and hit You-know-who instead and he disappeared into who knows where for the next decade, while meanwhile teh kid was left in his mean aunt and uncle's care and raised as a Muggle but recently found out he's a wizard and was sent off to Wizard school and now You Know Who is back and running down the corridor on the other side of this door!"

Which I've seen so many times it makes my brain hurt. Especially since it has been in published work. (Why are they out there and finer authors aren't?!)

Jess Anastasi said...

yes, but I think they're also talking about:
Harry Potter grew up with a mean aunt and uncle who locked him under the stairs. One day he found out he was a wizard and then he went off to wizard school where he found out about his parents and the evil wizard trying to kill him.
See, its boring just to read it like that when it could be in real time action or through dialogue or bits of information littered throughout the peice.
It's such an easy mistake to make, and I think sometimes authors do get away with it if it's not done too badly.

Cafrine said...

Oh my God, I was reading one of my favourite authors just last night and I spotted this:

"Ana was alone for the first time in her life since she had been found as a newborn in the desert after a Samazen storm."

While that is mostly just a badly constructed sentence and no so much an info dump, it is also the characters ENTIRE back story. And still stopped me in my tracks as a bad piece of exposition.

So, even the best of 'em do it.

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