And today we have management of infodumps

I am fiddling about with the most recent chapter of Heavy Ice, in which the characters finally have five minutes where they’re both conscious at the same time and no one’s trying to kill them, and are therefore sitting down and asking each other awkward questions. It’s not going well, because there are a lot of awkward questions to ask.

Unfortunately, they need asking. I deplore the kind of book which is 200 pages long because the heroine jumped to the conclusion that the hero has another love interest when he was actually passing on the information about the French spies to his sister-in-law, and would otherwise have come in at 160. (I also deplore the kind of book that is 200 pages long because the hero is convinced the heroine is a despicable cheating liar because some woman looked at him funny once, but I tend not to get more than a few chapters into those before giving up, so it’s not such a problem) So the question is how to do it without making the reader think ‘Huh, this is oddly paced’ or ‘I’m not interested any more, I’m going to play Angry Birds’.

I enjoy writing dialogue more than action in general, but getting the pacing of dialogue right is hard. Particularly as characters, like people, tend to meander back and forth from the topic in hand, and there’s a fine line between letting them bore the reader with inessentials and having them stand stock still and orate Facts that the Reader Needs To Know at each other. Someone who read the first novel I ever finished said that it was full of magnificent landscapes with people stumbling around in front of them saying ‘um’ and ‘bugger’ and they were right.

It doesn’t help that I’ve been re-reading A Princess Of Mars. I’m envious of how well-constructed it is, particularly for something that started life as a serial, and I’m also envious of how Edgar Rice Burroughs can casually condense a battle for a city into half a paragraph. But I’m even more jealous of the way he actually could have his characters sit down and explain their life’s philosophies to each other and then jump on a thoat and go and have another adventure. Unfortunately you can’t get away with that kind of thing unless you are Edgar Rice Burroughs, which I am not.

Ah well. Looks like I’m going to have to either give them something else to do while they’re infodumping, or let them argue. Which is always entertaining for me, if no one else.

Also, I’ve been using both WordPress’s ‘categories’ feature and their ‘tags’ feature for a while, but I have to say I’m not finding them especially useful when I want to find a past post I’ve made – I spent about five minutes this morning trying to work out where I’d put that post where I previously mentioned Edgar Rice Burroughs. Do you use them, and do you find them useful?

About Ankaret Wells

Writing, self-publishing and the strange search strings that lead people to my site.
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11 Responses to And today we have management of infodumps

  1. Sadie says:

    I use tags on my blog but don’t find them particularly useful, especially as I now have several dozen posts tagged with ‘outfits’ and nothing else.

    Btw, I thought you might be interested to know that I am planning on making the Tzenni sock pattern available in return for donations to MSF once my test knitters have checked the pattern through.

    • I am delighted – MSF is a really worthy cause, and I didn’t realise things had advanced to the point that there were test knitters.

      I’m not sure how I get WordPress to just give me my own posts tagged ‘books’ rather than other people’s musings on The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, either, which doesn’t help. I’m sure it’s doable, I just haven’t done it yet.

      • Sadie says:

        Yes, Ros is test knitting and so is someone else from Ravelry who really admired the pattern and was very keen to knit it!

        I seem to get ‘my entries with x tag’ when I click on the tag cloud in the sidebar, and ‘everyone in the whole world’s entries with x tag’ when I click on the tag at the bottom of the entry.

        • The sidebar thing seems to work for me too. Cool!

          And I am not surprised people want to knit it, it’s a lovely design.

        • Ros says:

          I am! I am nearly at the first heel and I have brought it home with me, so hopefully I will have a sock soon. So far I’m finding it a nice knit with a pattern that’s interesting but easy to remember. I think for preference I would do the toe increases slightly differently, but that’s a personal thing and your pattern is perfectly clear and I followed it exactly just to make sure it works, which it does.

          • Sadie says:

            Brilliant! I know that I often ignore heel and toe directions in patterns and use the ones I know work for me – thanks for checking that my instructions work, though!

  2. Ros says:

    I have never quite worked out the difference between categories and tags, but Sadie is right about how you get to your posts/the world’s posts. The WP theme I use allows for nested categories. So I have one for ‘authors’ and a sub-category under that for all the author’s names of the books I review. Which makes the category list an awful lot less cumbersome.

    • I think I’d seen the nesting feature, but hadn’t experimented with it yet. Thank you! I don’t think I’ve ever had any trouble finding a review I remembered reading and wanted to check again on your blog, so that’s a recommendation. 🙂

  3. Alithea says:

    I use the categories for my benefit mostly and tags entirely to help other people find my posts. I find them quite useful but then i think my posts are easier to categorize than yours.
    Must read the other ERB book i have sitting on the bedside table at some point soon, and track down some more. I agree that is he is very good at pacing.

    Good communication is a wonderful thing – characters jumping to daft conclusions on the basis of no evidence and failing to communicate drives me mad, especially in TV dramas where it seems to be more common than in the books I read, probably because I don’t really do chick-lit, although I expect it has probably featured in more than a few historical romances I’ve read.

    • It seems to happen a lot in historicals, for some reason. Usually the same kind of historicals that have the well-born heroine cheerily agreeing to be the hero’s mistress, and the hero then introducing her as his mistress to his friends and family and no one batting an eyelid. (I realise it’s an easy way to have sex scenes throughout the book and then a triumphant wedding at the end, but I do wish people who want to do that would either write about heroines lower down the social scale – who often have more interesting lives anyway – or just write contemporaries instead)

      • Ros says:

        I think in the better kinds of historical novel where it’s quite difficult for the hero and heroine to spend any unchaperoned time together and there are lots of complicated rules of etiquette, the jumping to conclusions is actually more understandable, because it wasn’t that easy to have actual conversations and some subjects that it was very difficult indeed to talk about. But if you’re going to abandon all that, then you have to come up with a better plot device for keeping your couple apart.

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