This Is How to Transform Info Dumps Into Exciting Plot Reveals by K.M. Weiland - Usa
Clues, mysteries, plot reveals, and plot twists—these are some of a writer’s stock tricks for hooking readers page after page. But as important as these tricks are, when they’re asked to bear the load of being the main attraction for readers, they too often turn into boring info dumps.
Imagine you’re reading a story in which the author has skillfully created some kind of mystery.
This mystery might be:
The murder in a whodunit.A straightforward strategic puzzle focused on figuring out how to defeat the bad guys.Something more domestic, such as an ongoing question of a character’s parentage.Something simple and amusing, such as a character obsessively (and perhaps symbolically) trying to prove that a neighbor’s dog is digging holes in his yard.Less about proving a proposed solution and more about figuring out whether or not something mysterious is happening at all—e.g., is the new neighbor’s strange night activity a sign of something sinister?
The mystery could be the main focus of the story, with the protagonist’s main plot goal being the solution to the mystery (as in Chamber of Secrets). Or the mystery might just be a clever way to avoid info dumps while slowly trickling important information throughout the story (as in Half-Blood Prince).
Whatever the case, adding a mystery can greatly enhance your story’s readability. If you’re able to consistently present questions (whether implicit or explicit), you’re giving readers more reasons to keep reading. In addition to wanting to watch what happens to your characters, they now also want to know the answer to the questions you’re proposing.
But don’t miss the order of that last sentence. Readers are there first and foremost to see what happens to your characters. And this is where we encounter some of the problems you can run into if you’re relying too heavily on plot reveals to provide the entertainment factor.
Ask Yourself: Is Your Story About Clues or Consequences?
Mysteries are fun. They’re fun to create and fun to solve. But in themselves they are not stories and certainly not the best part of stories (even in the mystery genre). This is why it’s important for writers not to fall into the trap of relying on clues to carry the story.
In the myopia of early plotting, it can be easy to feel you’re writing something deeply gripping just because a new clue is being unveiled in every scene. In these instances, the plot progression may look like this: Clue>Clue>Clue>Clue. The progression grows obviously monotonous, no matter how interesting the mystery itself.
E.M. Forster famously distinguished story from plot by emphasizing the causality of events.
The king died and then the queen died is a story. The king died, and then queen died of grief is a plot.
In dramatic fiction, things don’t just happen. They happen because other things happened first. This certainly holds true for the unraveling of mystery. If the revelation of clues are just revelations, the story will stagnate. Instead, any and every clue your plot reveals should be the result of a character’s choice, with the discovery itself turning the plot by creating consequences.