Editor Pet Peeves: Get Your Mind out of the Dump!

As the Assistant Editor for Hinnom Magazine, a bi-monthly publication of excellent weird/dark fiction, I get the pleasure of reading a lot of short stories.

One of the benefits of so much reading is learning to spot the little things that hold a story back. Things that, if corrected, can take a story to the next level. And they often really are the little things — just enough clutter to send an otherwise great story to the rejection heap. In today’s post, I’m going to discuss the dreaded info dump. 

Most of us have heard the Thou Shalt not Info Dump commandment. Don’t dump tons of exposition, backstory, character traits, etc. on a reader all at once. Show, don’t tell, right? It’s one of the first things a new writer learns. So, why discuss it? Because, despite this well-known rule, many authors do it anyway. All the time. In fact, it’s shockingly common. I see it in most shorts I read, and there’s one place I see it more than anywhere else. The most critical part of a story. The beginning. Exactly where you don’t want to do it (not that you want to do it anywhere, but it’s an especially big no, no at the beginning of a short story or novel). So, let’s start there.

You will never, ever hook readers with an info dump.

I cannot emphasize this enough. As authors, we often feel it’s necessary to communicate as much information about our characters/settings/narrative to readers as quickly as possible. Don’t do it. Fight this instinct with every fiber of your being. There’s nothing worse than slogging through a mile of backstory in order to get to the action or conflict (where your story should really start, by the way). And besides…

Readers like intrigue. 

It’s what keeps them reading! They want just enough detail without going overboard. An appetizer that whets the appetite for the main course.

Read the rest on Medium.

Caleb Stephens