Posted by: nancycurteman | October 11, 2010

6 Ways to Avoid “Information Dumps” in a Mystery Novel

Bookmark and Share

The last thing a mystery writer wants to do is slow down or stop the action in a story for an “information dump” that is meant to provide details the author thinks the reader should know. Remember, readers don’t need to know everything the author knows. Here are some ways to avoid information dumping and at the same time provide essential information to your readers:

1. Tell readers only what they need to know at any given moment in a book.

2. Do not begin dialog with “As you know..” and then go into a long dissertation about something the character already knows. This is a thinly veiled information dump.

3. Drop small hints that will allow readers to discover information for themselves.

4. Convey information through flashbacks or internal monologues that are triggered by something that is happening in a scene.

5. Scatter bits of information throughout the story. This will encourage the reader to keep reading to find out more.
6. Reveal information indirectly during the course of the story. “John removed his wedding ring then joined the blonde at the bar.” Translation: John is married but is neither faithful to his wife nor honest with his girlfriend.

In a mystery novel, conflict and action reign. Never sacrifice either for an “information dump.”

Other writing tips:
Backstory: 10 things a Mystery Writer Should Know
9 Ways to Create Tension in a Mystery Novel Global Mysteries

4 Do’s and Don’ts of  ”Show, Don’t Tell.”
How Do Conflict and Crisis Differ in a Mystery Novel?
How Important is Conflict in a Mystery Story?
How to Create Minor Characters in Your Mystery Novel
Pacing: A Critical Element in the Mystery Novel
What is Literary Style?
What is Theme in Literature?
7 Murder Weapons That Will Challenge The Cleverest Sleuth
7 Characteristics of Today’s Modern Mystery Novels
Developing Characters is No Mystery
Author’s Voice: How to find it?
What is Story Structure?

Advertisements

Responses

  1. Good stuff. Couldn’t agree more.

    Like

  2. I need that advice for a play too. Thanks.

    Like

  3. Well said. I remember reading McKee’s Story and there he mentions “information dumps” and he uses the film “Outbreak” as an example and how a soldier informs Dustin Hoffman’s character what the outbreak is about, when in reality, Dustin’s characters would have known or else he would not have been there at all! All done for the audience instead. That sure taught me a good lesson.

    Like

    • Information dumping in dialog is one of the most common errors made by novice writers.

      Like

  4. Good points here, Nancy. Thank you.

    Like

  5. Nicely done! “As you know…” is a pox on modern literature.

    Like

    • You are so right. “As you know..” is a sure sign an information dump will follow.

      Like

  6. Thank you for another amazing truth. You are so right that action and passion must keep the reader rushing through the pages of a mystery. Running into an information traffic jam makes a reader about as happy as a traffic jam on a highway makes a driver wishing to reach a destination. Your tips on how to prevent an information dump are very helpful. Thank you for sharing.

    Like

  7. You always make me want to write a Mystery Novel. And, maybe, if I follow your tips . . . it would be worth writing (and reading).

    Thanks, NC

    Like

    • Judging from your blog posts, you’d be a good mystery writer.

      Like

  8. […] The last thing a mystery writer wants to do is slow down or stop the action in a story foran “information dump” that is meant to provide details the author thinks the reader should know. Remember, readers don’t need to know everything the author knows. Here are some ways to avoid information dumping and at the same time provide essential information to your readers: 1. Tell readers only what they need to know at any given moment in a book. 2. Do … Read More […]

    Like

  9. […] Voice: How to find it? What is Story Structure? 6 Ways to Avoid “Information Dumps” in a Mystery Novel How to Write “Killer” Scenes in a Mystery […]

    Like

  10. […] 6 Ways to Avoid “Information Dumps” in a Mystery Novel […]

    Like

  11. […] More writing tips: What is Story Structure? 6 Ways to Avoid “Information Dumps” in a Mystery Novel […]

    Like

  12. […] Writing Tips: What is Story Structure? 6 Ways to Avoid “Information Dumps” in a Mystery Novel 4 Do’s and Don’ts of  ”Show, Don’t […]

    Like

  13. […] 6 Ways to Avoid “Information Dumps” in a Mystery Novel Share this:StumbleUponDiggRedditTwitterLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. […]

    Like


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

%d bloggers like this: