Curing the Tendency to Dump
by Victoria Grace Howell
Every writer of fiction and maybe even some non-fiction have had the problem with dumping. It’s a very common beginning writer problem.
So what exactly is dumping?
Dumping is when you over-explain and over-describe in your writing to the point it stops your story. This happens often in the beginning of your story -- especially with fantasy writers. You created this big world, so now you want to describe your amazing scenery and tell about that background of the royal family that dates back two thousand years. Well, the thing is, this gets really annoying when you’re reading. Let me give you an example.
The book opens with this intense opening. A man rides on horseback with a toddler away from ancient robots from the Sky City. But wait. The author starts explaining about the magical Sky City and why the ancient robots are there and who invented them and how awesomely epic they are because the author has spent years planning out their intricate design. After three or four massive paragraphs then you finally get back to the man on horseback with the toddler.
Doesn’t that sound annoying?
It makes you want to skip the whole background bit, doesn’t it? This is the same when the reader reads about yours -- however awesome and interesting the backstory is. We want the current action; what’s going on right now in the story. We definitely don’t want the reader to want to skip parts of our book.
Some older authors have done this. J.R.R. Tolkien is one. He was a great writer, but he did dump horribly and, frankly, I skip a lot of those parts, and I love his works.
But don’t feel bad. That doesn’t mean you can’t use the backstory at all, or that an occasional longer description is bad, but we don’t want it near the beginning of the book. The best way to use backstory is through the Popcorn Method I learned from author Bryan Davis.
What propels your readers to keep reading is mystery, what they don’t know. Even your world can be part of that. Think of your reader like a duck and your bits of mystery like popcorn. Drop in little bits about the backstory of your world (popcorn) through description, interior monologue, songs, et cetera. If you dump the whole bucket of the popcorn, the reader will just gobble it up or may not even eat all of it, then stop reading. So use what your reader doesn’t know to your advantage. If the backstory is directly important to your story’s plot, then you may want to expand on it. But if it isn’t relevant, you’ll want to take the spotlight off.
Sometimes you can’t use every detail you thought up. That hurts a bit, especially when you loved them, but it’s just not necessary sometimes. Use your backstory and description carefully and it can enhance the story, but don’t let it weigh it down and stop it.
So do you have trouble with dumping? Have you conquered the tendency to dump? Do you have any tricks to help you stay away from it?
I hope this post helped your writing! Thank you Emily Rachelle for letting me participate in the tour! Happy writing and let the ideas always be in your favor! :)
Victoria Grace Howell is an aspiring writer of the weird and strange. She’s currently working on a science fiction and fantasy series with her white cat as her companion. When she’s not writing, she enjoys reading, watching anime, and drawing her characters.