This morning, someone said to me that his book wouldn’t win an award because it was his first book. He said his writing skills are still developing.
Duh. Of course they’re still developing, and hopefully, they always will. If you stop learning, you’re dead. It’s the perfectionist part of us that makes us good writers, or good artists, or good moms. We always try to do better next time. If that desire ever fades, well, it’ll be a very sad day.
Do you ever get to the point in your story where you have to tell the reader a whole laundry list of happenings to help them understand the outcome of the plot? Most times, you can write it in real-time, dispersed throughout the story, but in this instance, it wasn’t part of my main story, and my main characters weren’t involved…until the moment they were. While my characters were going about their drama-filled lives, behind the scenes, the King was causing an uproar which would eventually lead to civil war. I spent three hours writing and rewriting five paragraphs about what happened in the three years prior to my characters becoming involved. The next day, I spent another two hours rewriting and editing the same five paragraphs, trying to make them seem as if they weren’t an obtrusive information dump. How could I disguise five paragraphs and avoid stopping my story dead in its tracks? Geez, in the amount of time I spent, I could have written five chapters, not five paragraphs. I was frustrated and frankly, pissed off.
I thought about something I learned recently and decided to put it to the test.
Instead of information dumping on your reader, add a “dumb puppet” to the scene. The dumb puppet can be dumb or smart, male or female, main character or innocent bystander. It doesn’t matter; it’s just a title. What matters is the character knows nothing of the events and will ask questions. Someone is going to have to explain what the hell is going on to him, and the reader will find out at the same time. Genius!
The benefit of using a dumb puppet is you don’t stop the movement of your story for a stupid information dump. Sometimes they are necessary, but I really hate them. I wish I would have kept both drafts so you could see the difference, but alas, the information dump went out with the trash, and I’m left with only the dumb puppet. I’ve used the dumb puppet before but didn’t realize I was using him or that he had a title. This time, I deliberately used him, and I think he did an upstanding job.
See? I’m still learning. By the way, I won an award on my first book, so it’s possible.