8. The Seven Deadly Perils of Style
Page 6 of 10 | Derivative Plots | Grammar and Usage | Viewpoint Wobbles | Viewpoint Transitions | Said-bookisms |
| AWAKS and Infodumps | Xblmrph | Out of Character | Bad Science | Taking Liberties |
AWAKS and Infodumps
You know those scenes in the old B science fiction movies where two scientists are talking, and one says to the other, "As we all know, if we push this button on the framistan ionizer, it'll open a hole in our shields and we'll be at the mercy of the enemy . . . "
This is AWAKing (As We All Know-ing).
It needn't be so blatant, of course. But the sure sign of an AWAK is when you see characters telling each other what they both already know, but the reader doesn't. And you know that the author is trying to convey information to the reader and has taken the lazy way out by spewing it from a character's mouth.
How do you avoid AWAKing? By revealing what you want the reader to know through action or realistic dialogue or through implication, trusting that the reader will understand if you give enough clues. Sometimes it's a case of planning ahead making sure that the information is there before you need it, presented in some unobtrusive way so that it's already in the back of the reader's mind at the critical moment.
Infodumps are similar. An infodump is any kind of expository lump, in which you unload a lot of information onto the reader all at once instead of allowing it to be revealed bit by bit. It can take the form of an overlong description or backfill in the author's voice, or it can even happen in dialogue, if you're trying so hard to get information in front of the reader that you forget to check your dialogue for realism.
Patience and care are key to avoiding infodumps. Dole out the information a little bit at a time, and look for ways to make it come across naturally.
Course content copyright © 2005 Jeffrey A. Carver