Tuck, Don’t Dump

what to do when you feel the urge to infodump your readers

You know all those wonderful, long, descriptive paragraphs we have read and often write? Well, sometimes they bog down our writing and bore our readers. Really. Our brilliant passages might merely be tiresome purple prose.

So what to do when you feel the urge to infodump your readers?

One solution is to tuck instead of dump.

Instead of a paragraph telling what a character or a place looks like, for example, just work in little bits all through the scene. Consider these sentences:

He tossed his long brown hair over his shoulders.
He stepped close, his blue eyes sparkling with mischief.
His cousin grabbed him by the leather jerkin and hauled him to his feet.
He wiped off his grey pants.
His hand absently rubbed the pommel of his sword.
He grinned, running his fingers over his moustache and close-cropped chin beard.
His leather boots scuffed leaves and grass as he walked.
He spun, his grey cloak flaring out, and swept into an elaborate bow.

By the end of the scene, we can have a fairly good description, without long narratives. Let’s see what we know about this man? He has long, brown hair, blue eyes (that sparkle when he’s up to something), and he’s wearing a sword. He’s also wearing grey pants and grey cloak, he has a moustache and chin beard, and is wearing leather boots and jerkin.

Not bad, eh? And all without a long narrative.

originally published in The Sword Review 2005-11-12

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