Plant vegetables, not information — Rule #27 of 32 Simple Rules to the Writing the Best Novel Ever


I’m dissecting the article Hunting Down the Pleonasm, by Allen Guthrie, using it as a cattle prod to search for little nasties in my manuscript.  Yep, you can join in the fun, too.  Let’s take a looksee at topic #27

27: Don’t plant information. How is Donald, your son? I’m quite sure Donald’s father doesn’t need reminding who Donald is. Their relationship is mentioned purely to provide the reader with information.

Ha!  If you’ve ever had a beta read done by me, you know I’m a viper when it comes to info-dumps.  But I usually tag them when they are paragraphs long.

What Guthrie mentions here is a little more subtle, but it should jump out at you as unrealistic dialog.

Anywhere where you are dropping information in an unnatural way is bad.  Also be careful, because you can insert information in a completely logical thought, but then end up going off on a tangent of info-dumping and lose your reader.

Do you have any funny examples of this?



9 responses to “Plant vegetables, not information — Rule #27 of 32 Simple Rules to the Writing the Best Novel Ever

  1. Always a battle to keep it sounding like natural speech – and providing information. SOmething to think about, Thanks

  2. I actually have an uncle who talks like that. He’ll call my grandma up and say “This is Bob Brown, your son.” She always tells us about it because she can’t figure out why he thinks she wouldn’t know who he is, especially when he gives his full name.

  3. I understand the UNnatural dialogue just to inform the reader. It’s tough to get rid of in fiction as well as memoir. Where the twins’ “blond ponytails danced with excitement,” I shouldn’t have added to the scene that “I pulled my auburn hair into a scrunchie before we started to bake.” It’s tough to visually describe the main character when you’re in her mindset. Thanks for the reminder, Jennifer.
    Great post. I love your whole blog presentation. Congratulations on all your publications. I just sold My Father is Grand to Cricket Magazine. It comes out in February 2014. ~Victoria Marie Lees

  4. I can see this as info dumping, but in real life, in my family, we sometimes have to be that specific because I have a brother and son-in-law who have the same name! And my niece is dating someone with the same name as my son, so in these cases, one might say, “How is So-&-so, your son?” in order to be specific about the person you are inquiring about. lol

    In a story, however, in an effort to keep characters separate, I don’t think anyone would have two with the same name. Then, I would definitely skip the ‘your son’ part. 🙂

  5. I know I’ve seen this sort of writing but can’t think of any. Will be on the lookout in mine and everywhere else. Good point.

  6. I talk like that. Just kidding, I do get your point. Good reminder.

  7. I cringe when I see that type of “As you know, Bob” dialogue, particularly when revisiting books I loved when I was younger. It feels even more awkward in a historical, like using it as an excuse to impart information by just immediately dumping it on the page instead of subtly showing the effects of something. Patricia Clapp’s Constance, a largely-fictionalized journal of teen Pilgrim Constance Hopkins, was a prime example of this. I really doubt the Pilgrims were sitting around talking in so much detail about their debt to England and what would happen if they didn’t pay it back, or other of their problems.

    This is another example from a short story that was thankfully only published online, not in a real book: “”No Joan. Megan’s a big girl now, and your two babies are at home. And they’re not babies either, George is sixteen and Heather is fifteen.” Who in blazes actually talks like that? I really doubt the mother forgot her own children’s ages!