This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. Patrice Locke will be awarding a $10 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.
By Patrice Locke, author of “Exit Signs”
Information dump. Those are evil words writers don’t want to hear. It means you’re interrupting your narrative to explain something that you should be weaving seamlessly into your story.
And no dragging out the beginning. Jump into the middle of the action. It’s expected, demanded these days.
My book, “Exit Signs,” which Soul Mate published in September, starts at the end of the story and the bulk of the book is about how the two main characters got to the situation they’re in on the first pages. The published version of the story jumps right into the action.
But the drafts didn’t. There are approximately 6 alternate beginnings for “Exit Signs.” One starts at the beginning and goes chronologically through the action and plot. One starts with what I considered to be the funniest scene, then flashes forward and backward. One is like an essay on documentary film making. And there are others. One sounds as if a stand-up comedian is recounting the events.
In the end, though, I went with the one that leaps tall buildings in a single bound, the Superman version. I picked the scene where the narrator/main character is facing her Kryptonite, is falling apart. That way, we can see what drove her to that precarious spot.
But it’s got to be action. No information dumps allowed. I get that. Usually I do. But sometimes I have the urge to dump away, a tendency that was excused and even applauded at some times in history. Take Jane Austen, for instance. Even people who don’t like her can’t help but admire the way she hoisted her prose around like a lady construction worker. She did the heavy lifting and sometimes she stopped to tell her readers about the side plots. She spends the first few pages of “Emma,” for instance, pouring the foundation for her heroine’s personality.
I know exactly what a writing critique group would say about that: information dump. And, yes, it is just that. She does it with elegance and style. Maybe that’s the key to being allowed that luxury.
But she’d never get away with it today. And how about Mr. Darcy’s letter to Elizabeth Bennet when he skins, carves, and dissects Mr. Wickham’s character? Not a word of dialogue or action. He just dumps that information. And it works.
Of course, most of us aren’t Jane Austen. Okay, none of us are, but we can all take lessons from her. She has a lot to teach us, though her way of storytelling is not in style.
You’ve got to capture the editor, agent, reader, whoever right out of the gate. No time to mosey up to the starting line. You have to open with the starting pistol blast. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
I do, however, sometimes want to sit and think a spell about the characters and setting, and maybe even the background stories before I delve into a book. I’m the type who likes to enter a pool one step at a time instead of careening off the diving board at full speed.
And there’s nothing wrong with that approach. To each his or her own. For myself, I think it’s okay, maybe even better sometimes, to tell rather than to show.
Tracy Price has a documentary-style life until rockstar Jesse Elliot rewrites her script and takes the wheel to drive her crazy.
In her quest to find a writer missing since the 1930’s, Tracy thinks she has discovered exactly how to handle her new relationship. But she may be listening to the wrong voice.
Then Tracy and Jesse find out they’ve both been keeping some big secrets, and the truth may ruin everything.
Will sharing the missing writer’s story open both their hearts?
Read an excerpt:
Jesse lunged toward me. It was too late. I had already launched. He reached out but didn’t connect. Instead, I broke the trajectory of my upper body by grabbing him at chest level and sliding down. He was pushed backward into the table, which stabilized our ungainly host-parasite tableau. He softened my landing so that physically I was fine, but my pride was ready for intensive care.
Heaped at his feet, like a demented penitent, I hugged his knees, my face pressed flat into his thighs. I might as well stay down. What’s worse? To stand up and face you, or remain here, nestled between your legs? What do you think? Then, the finishing touch: I erupted into nervous, snorting laughter. He guessed there was no serious injury.
“It’s nice to see you, too. You are okay, aren’t you? Can you stand?” He reached for my arms to unwrap them from his legs and help me up. I jammed my eyelids together to conjure up a do-over, but no such luck.
I would have to deal with it.
He held my elbows in his hands. “I guess we were both in a hurry to see each other.”
I do appreciate your attempt to lighten the mood, but you are standing SO close. I can feel your body heat. Or is that mine? By the way, you smell tart and fresh, like a lime.
I stared at his shoulder. My dignity meter was stuck on empty.
“Enthusiastic greeting. Thanks for that.” He was blatantly amused.
“It was nothing.” I stepped backward to regain a semblance of independence. Don’t mock me. But, you did go to all the trouble to bring your hair. And your eyes. I might forgive you for witnessing my disgrace. That hair.
About the Author: As a journalist, Patrice Locke wrote a lot of stories with unhappy and even tragic endings. Facts are facts, and a writer doesn’t mess with facts.
But fiction is another world. Patrice began writing novels, where she could control the endings and make them as happy as she wants. The best thing about fiction, she says, is having time to think before her characters speak, so they can say the things most of us only come up with after the perfect moment has passed.
She loves to write, read, and watch romantic comedies where life always turns out the way it should. Her only obsessive relationships are with semicolons and Oxford commas.
Though she doesn’t like to brag, Patrice is an award-winning artist. She won a gold and diamond watch when she was 13 for decorating a turkey drumstick bone to look like Batman. Alas, that was her last recognition in the fine arts.
Patrice lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where the blue sky is brilliant, the air is thin, and the vistas are breathtaking. She is none of those things, which is one reason she enjoys living among them.