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Lessons from MANY GENRES, ONE CRAFT: Avoiding Info Dumps with Maria V. Snyder

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

In Many Genres, One Craft, award-winning author Michael A. Arnzen and Heidi Ruby Miller gather the voices of today’s top genre writers and writing instructors alongside their published students. It fosters the writing process in a way that focuses almost exclusively on writing the novel. Using a compilation of instructional articles penned by well-known authors affiliated with Seton Hill University’s acclaimed MFA program in Writing Popular Fiction, the book emphasizes how to write genre novels and commercially appealing fiction. The articles are modeled after actual “learning modules” that have successfully taught students in the program how to reach a wider audience for over a decade.

Excerpt from “Dumping the Info Dump” by Maria V. Snyder

Many Genres-One Craft

Imagine with me. . . . You’re curled up on the couch in front of a roaring fireplace with your favorite beverage within easy reach. Sleet is clinking on the windows while you’re reading. The story draws you in, the real world disappears, your beverage cools, and . . . WHAM! You hit an information dump and are either rudely ejected from the story world or become mired in paragraph after paragraph of dull explanation.

An information dump—also known as the “info dump”—is just that. A large chunk of exposition used by writers to explain backstory, technology, characters, etc. . . . Basically a huge pothole in the middle of the story, bringing the story’s action to a screeching halt. Many readers will not recover and will seek another book to read in their cozy living rooms.

As a writer, you want to avoid jolting your readers from your story world. But, you say, my characters are living on Planet Futon and I need to explain how the strong gravity has turned them all into squat warthogs! Wrong! You only need to include it when the information is critical to your plot and is necessary to avoid confusing your readers.

Work Cited:

Snyder, Maria V. “Dumping the Info Dump.” Many Genres, One Craft. Eds. Michael A. Arnzen and Heidi Ruby Miller. Terra Alta, WV: Headline Books, Inc., 2011. 39. Print.

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