Today, we welcome Madeleine Drake, author of the new erotic urban fantasy, Faery’s Bargain. At the end of the blog, Maddy will be giving away a copy of the new book in eBook form–comment for a chance to win, plus one additional entry each for blog follow, Twitter follow @Suzanne_Johnson, and a Tweet or RT. And remember, you can still comment on posts (scroll down) to win a copy of the complete Dark is Rising series and a copy of a book by JR Ward (your choice).
The Updike Cure for Infodumps
by Madeleine Drake
Like most beginning writers, I used to have problems with infodumps. Writing fantasy and science fiction means extra worldbuilding, and extra information that has to be communicated to readers. But every time I slid into exposition, my critique partners would holler, “Infodump!”
I cut my exposition to slivers, only squeezing in the barest amount of information that I thought readers needed in order to understand that was happening, a sentence at a time.
But they were still infodumps.
I made a rule: I would only put exposition in interior monologue.
That was better, but those expository passages still stopped the flow of my story.
I made another rule: I would only put exposition in interior monologue, and I would always include an external stimulus to trigger the internal monologue.
This kept the flow of the story going, but it didn’t stop my critique partners crying “Infodump!”
In desperation, I turned to John Updike. I’d recently taken a workshop where the instructor had praised Updike’s ability to keep a story moving in spite of the need for exposition. So I bought an anthology containing his story “A&P,” and I sat down to read it with pen in hand, ready to learn from the master.
By the time I finished the story, I was indignant. “A&P” is full of exposition. How did Updike get away with paragraph-long infodumps when I couldn’t manage to pull off a single sentence?
Some dark chocolate and a few deep breaths later, I read the story again, and in my calmer state of mind, I noticed something that the main character, Sammy, doesn’t tell us about his hometown or the people who live there.
Sammy jokes, complains, and makes snarky comments about his hometown. He guesses what other people might be thinking, he compares himself to the people around him, and he’s defensive about the fact that he doesn’t fit in. He shares his teenage philosophy on life, and he has knee-jerk reactions to everything.
That was when I realized…
Exposition = boring.
But exposition + attitude = interesting.
As soon as the information about Sammy’s small town is filtered through the youth’s point of view–his attitudes, his desires, his fears–it’s no longer just exposition. It’s been transformed into characterization, showing who Sammy is and what he wants via his reactions to small-town life.
Brilliant, eh? Maybe Mr. Updike does deserve his reputation as a master writer after all.
I still keep my exposition short, and I still tend to confine it to interior monologue. But now, when I edit, I always look for a way to include the POV character’s attitude toward the information I want to convey to the reader. If a piece of information isn’t important enough for a character to react to it…then maybe that information isn’t important enough to include in the story.
Leave a comment and be entered to win a copy of Faery’s Bargain, first book in the Tribes of Danu series by Madeleine Drake. Please note this is erotic urban fantasy; rated H for hot!
ABOUT THE BOOK:
–A witch gets more than she bargains for when she lends her magic to a sexy Fae warrior–
Tara’s witchcraft has failed to save her naga-bitten nephew: the only cure is a rare Faery herb, impossible for a human to obtain. Kane, a warrior of the Morrigan tribe, is bound to a baigh-duil; he needs a witch to help him send the soul-devouring monster back to its own realm, and he’s willing to bargain.
It seems like a fair trade — the herb for help with a single spell. But what will Tara do when she realizes Kane can only perform sex magic and death magic? Available from Cobblestone Press.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Madeleine Drake writes feisty, fast-paced paranormal romance and erotica that spans the space-time continuum. Raised by a pride of cats, a friendly mutt, and the Sonoma County library system, she loves to read about ancient history and mythology, anthropology, gender roles, and sexual archetypes. Her current releases include Blood Hero (Excessica, 7/9/10) and Faery’s Bargain (Cobblestone Press, 10/8/10), and her short story First Date appears in Just One Bite, Vol. 3 (All Romance Ebooks, 11/25/10). Her homeworld is located out past the constellation Orion, but she currently resides in Texas. You can find her online at www.madeleinedrake.com.
No, go forth and win!