Wattys Bootcamp Mentorship Workshop: Active Storytelling

And we are back again with our third summer workshop to help you get your stories Wattys ready. This workshop is open to everyone who wants to learn about the craft.

How does this work? From Monday to Friday of this week, we will post a new lesson every day that teaches you about Active Storytelling. After each lesson, you have 24 hours to post the “homework” for each class for feedback. Then we are off to the next section.

The workshops are run by the Bootcamp Mentorship team and please make sure to either tag my co-host @neverfakeit or myself with any questions. We are here to help :slight_smile:

Tagging some folks from from prior workshops to get the ball rolling:

@Kamiccola @CynkNapp @FritztheGrim @maybeiwas2shy @Glory_feeling2 @Hollie_Wilson @evacharya @cupofsass @calidacolburn @HeraHarker @CuriousAngel87 @MochaVonBee @Themewriter21 @mss_books_lover @DomiSotto @Ellie6880 @MissBelleVincent @xxsoteria @AlexisTKingston @Adairx @pixiedust91011 @monique0912345 @themalinois @swag-gerism @Wholesomedisaster @nerdyangie @xxsoteria @vaishw

Active

LESSON 1:

People love to exchange stories. Stories provide a context for the events, feelings, ideas, and relationships that make up the fabric of our lives. When we describe an important experience to another person, we often shape it in the form of a story. The same could be said about fiction. When we write stories, we want our readers to feel what is happening to our characters and visualize where the story is taking place. A good storyteller balances description with action, drawing their readers effortlessly into the story.

Info Dumps and How To Recognize Them

What are Info Dumps?

Taken directly from Google, an info dump is a big chunk of information that is “dumped” in the reader’s lap all at once. These info dumps are usually done through narration, but they can be found in dialogue as well.

Dead Dumps: Info dumps are easy to identify because nothing within the text is happening right now . Often they are reflecting on the past (backstory), describing a scene, conveying details about characters. They are not active. They are dead.

Boring Dumps: Info dumps are boring. Readers want to be immersed in the moment of the story. They want to feel like they are standing beside your main character as exciting things happen around them.

Obvious Dumps: Info dumps feel like writing. Sure, the reader knows they’re reading a story, but they don’t want to feel like it’s a story. Info dumps call attention to themselves because they’re an unnatural tangent by the author. It’s like the director of a film stopping the movie to say, “Hey, wait a second, let me explain something…”

Early Dumps: The story setup is notorious for lengthy info dumps. The closer to the beginning you dump heavy description, the more likely you are to annoy the reader. Why? Because the reader is not yet invested in your story and may not be willing to wade through the information you want to tell them. Info dumps fail to create an emotional reaction in the reader, and you want them emotionally engaged right from the start.

What are the exceptions?

There are narrative styles that can get away with some info dumping, such as…

Humor: If the info dump is funny and is in the context of a humorous novel, readers usually won’t notice or mind.

Omniscient POV: An omniscient narrator with a great voice and interesting perspective can make info dumps a seamless part of the narration.

A Quirky Character: Peculiar characters are often part of the supporting cast and can be used to share information through an amusing voice or interesting personality trait. Like a pre-schooler or eccentric neighbor who tends to ramble.

Middle Grade Novels: Opening with an entertaining info dump is common in early middle grade stories because it helps orient young readers who aren’t yet skilled at ascertaining implied character traits and back story.

Unique Delivery Methods: This involves the use of props, such as a letter from a forgotten relative, a newspaper article, a radio announcement, a TV broadcast, a conversation with a psychic, etc.

:point_down:t4: :point_down:t4: :point_down:t4:

Remember that these creative techniques can be risky. The goal is to hide the fact that you’re info dumping, which means that you must execute it in a way that is clever and couched within the context of an interesting and engaging scene. Any time an info dump is genuinely entertaining, you’re probably okay, but be honest with yourself.

image

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HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENT LESSON 1:

Share a scene or description from your story where you believe you have dumped on your reader. Explain why you think the section of text represents an info dump. Keep this section handy. You will be using it for tomorrow’s homework.

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not sure…but here:
He placed his pizza down but said nothing. “Something happened between you and Navya?” I coaxed after a few minutes. “If it is an argument, don’t worry about it. You guys always make up a day later-”

His angry voice cut me off. “It isn’t just an argument. Elias, We broke up.” His voice cracked at the end.

My eyes grew wide as his words registered in my mind. “You guys broke up,” I whispered, feeling a bit shocked.

Navya and Connor were inseparable after the first time they met. Throughout high school, they were in a tight-knit relationship. They were each other’s every first, often making me feel like a damn third wheel when three of us were out.

They were the couple that was predicted to be the next high school sweethearts after Ansel Jones and Ryder Simpson.

So, the news of their breakup was an enormous shock for me.

“Are you sure?” I asked, still in a daze.

He gave a dry chuckle as tears leaked from his eyes. “I think I am sure if we broke up or not.”

His jaw clenched with anger, and his eyes spat angry fires. But the tears on his cheeks were an accurate portrayal of his sadness.

I scooted closer to him.

“How?” My voice was a weak whisper as I rubbed his back comfortingly.

He silently sobbed for a minute. I thought he didn’t want to talk about it, so I kept quiet.

“She never loved me, Elias. She told me she never loved me.” His voice was hoarse as he croaked those words out.

After that, a heavy pause followed. My stomach clenched, and for a moment, I stopped breathing.

“Navya was always interested in both girls and boys. She was always a bisexual.” He explained further.

“She was a bi?” I asked, confused. This was something new for me.

He nodded and leaned back. “Navya was in the closet, but she told me that when we started our relationship. I never had a problem with it. It was fine with me. But-”

His breath shuddered at the next words. “But last night she realized that she wasn’t interested in guys anymore. So, she broke up with me, dumping me after three years of our relationship. Telling me she never loved me when I did so much.”

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“Hiella,” says Agnar as he sits on the chair. “This takes everything you said into a new perspective. Helga told me about the goddess you mentioned this morning.” I nod. “There was a curse if I remember right. Uncle Alfis used to mention it a lot. Iye was, she was one of the goddesses of creation.”

Helga drops to my side on the floor. “I understand why Uncle Alfis insisted we learn these things now,” she says. “It was just so, I used to assume he was crazy, always trying to force history down my seven-year-old throat.”

“At least, he tried to educate you. The only person who could inform me decided it was better to just give me a book after she dies.”

I feel Agnar’s gaze settle on the side of my face. I look away and pick up the book; I start to flip through.

He continues, " Unlike the other gods, she wanted to create another race. Another one that would solely contain her own creatures. Her own followers. She managed to do it despite opposition from other gods. That’s where the trouble all started."

“What race of people did she create?” I ask.

“Mermaids,” whispers Helga now folding the bottom of her hanbok into pleats.

“Helga’s right. Humans and mermaids lived in peace for a long time until man decided fish oil was no longer enough.”

“Oh no, please don’t tell me. That’s horrible,” I say, drawing my knees to my chest.

Agnar nods, his face turning a pale hue.“If Uncle Alfis was right. Our ancestors were very horrible people.” He laughs, the sound so fake I cringe. "We’re still horrible people.

On their last hunting escapades for mermaid oil, they managed to kill every last one of them. In a rage, Iye put a curse on the whole of humankind. Her husband, a powerful God managed to remove it before it could do more damage than was necessary."

“He missed Earth,” I say. “Do you think she knows?”

Agnar frowns, shaking his head. “Uncle Alfis never said this but I think some people from here migrated through a magic portal to another realm. He used to say the inn is a gateway.”

I shake my head burying my chin in my knees. “How come Nora didn’t fall through here?” I ask.

“There’s only one answer to that,” says Helga

I believe this section is an info dump because I give the reader a lot of information and I’m not really sure if it’s too much at once or if I should space it out.

@SallyMason1@neverfakeit

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@SallyMason1 @neverfakeit

Investigating Empaths would like to Officially Thank Arlow Tsai for his open cooperation in these investigations. We also acknowledge the discovered duplicates were equally cooperative.
We also officially mention the galactic region governance organization. For allowing us to proceed with the investigation (during a time they considered that solar system an infestation risk to the galaxy).
Background:
Arlow Tsai
Arlow Tsai was born with many comparative situational advantages. Born to a family of generational wealth. Born to a family of sturdy family support.
Unfortunately, the side of the family that had the wealth did not have the powerful family tradition. The side of the family that had a supportive family structure was not wealthy.
His mother fled her wealthy and privileged family during an available adult educational residence. Moving to the opposite coast to find a home with greater ‘communal’ thinking.
His father delivered fresh foods to the commune (sporadic emergency rations).
In making sure the payments were made, the two would travel together. Far from the commune to specific banks found in the city. By chance of that connection and tender affinity, they married for their child.
When the father died in a car accident, desolate mother and baby child returned to the commune.
Arlow Tsai was sent back to his father’s family. His mother doubted the integrity of college girls that visited the commune. She even tried to stay with Arlow in the city, but the memory of the place left her too forlorn.
Arlow was nearing the end of mandatory education when his mother died on the commune.
Here our view is that Arlow Tsai was a remarkable exception. Knowing of the plights of others and seeing unjust behavior and society; he became more steadfast in taking good council.
Avoiding all drugs and distractions. Knowing how fragile a family might be, he set forth to be a proven hard worker. Not even thinking of marriage or relationships until he could support a family.
His father’s family had old wisdom. A way of knowing when destructive influence had landed on a person.
They had scrubbed many times Arlow with brushes until the grumpiness left. He really did understand how a darkness could cling to someone.
On the specific day in question, Arlow sensed the bad and dour mood on himself.
He did as he often had and grabbed his bicycle. Extreme exercise was often a cure. The mean attitude would vanish away.
Arlow Tsai can only recall that on that day he had an accident with his then ‘favorite bicycle’.

It is purposeful info dump: told by an empathic space alien, well before we meet any version of Arlow Tsai.

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I did a backstory of my character Piper and her mother doll Prue because I felt it was important. I think this text represents an info dump because it is her backstory on why they became present to haunt people’s lives. I’ve been told it works so it might fall under one of the exceptions. The following is my Ch. 1.

Living on a ship that sailed through the open seas of Africa challenged the daily lives of the Callis family. Members of the crew could easily drown if they were not careful, for maintaining the ship day in and day out wasn’t easy.

Yet, Nathaniel Callis made sure that his little girl was in good hands with his men. For he was their captain and anyone who would hurt his Jasmine would suffer the ultimate punishment, and that was to walk the plank. Thus, his crew hardly ever thought of disobeying him and kept their eyes on the mischievous girl who would run around the ship as if it were a playground.

Jasmine’s mother was never revealed, but the men had a hunch it was one of the women the Captain fondled when they landed at the dock near a town’s edge. And once Jasmine was old enough to walk, she was kidnapped by her own father who secretly knew of her birth.

Screams were heard when the little girl was discovered to be missing. Women in the brothel ran for their lives to catch the criminal behind this scheme. But to fight off a swashbuckling pirate in dresses and girdles was ridiculous. The women soon toppled over each other or fell down into the muddy dirt, where they were left with tears of agony.

And soon Captain Callis set sail as his men helped him board their pirate ship once they reached the end of the Petersburgh shore. With a crying baby clutching her doll in her hands, Nathaniel left a distressed mother behind, as he smirked in victory.

Captain Callis was a ladies man who didn’t have time for a wife, but he’d take what was rightfully his and an heir to carry on his legacy was what he wanted. Although he wished for a boy, baby Jasmine would do. The captain didn’t want to leave his legacy to his men, for he didn’t believe they were honest enough to earn his trust.

But little did he know that mistake of his would also come with a price, a token of revenge or two!

The doll Jasmine held was given to her by an old woman who helped her mother during pregnancy. And this midwife told Jasmine’s mother that it would protect her daughter no matter where she was and do harm to those who would do her wrong no matter what the circumstances were.

Of course, the mother, who shared the same name as the doll, didn’t believe in such foolishness but despite her beliefs, she gave her baby the figurine to play with.

Little did she know her soul would come in handy as Prue would sink a ship full of men as her vendetta never ended.

A Year later

Soaring the high seas, little Jasmine held her doll tight. "Prue! Prue! Protect Papa and mi Uncas."

Seeing his men working hard with the sails and the hull of the ship, the Captain let out a loud and unrestrained burst of laughter.

In his deep pirate brawl, he corrected her. “The word is ‘uncles’ my dear!” Pointing toward the closest worker near him, he introduced his daughter to him.

"Aye! See Jasmine, this Uncle Ben and …"

A tidal wave interrupted him as it came rushing in and was headed toward the bow of the ship. Dark clouds began to form and rain began to pour from afar.

The men weren’t expecting a storm that night, but Mother Nature could certainly change her mind. The Captain didn’t even have time to warn his men to head for shelter, as the wisps of the waves came crashing in.

And with this, the Captain ran to steer the ship away from the wild waters of Poseidon’s ocean, but it was too late. The misted waters swallowed up the ship and its occupants, yet, the unique doll was saved. It saved Jasmine’s body and cried before her body by laying her head upon it before the ship toppled over.

Prue, now in her human form, had to keep Jasmine alive. And she would do anything to keep her legacy alive!

And then it goes to the present lives of the protagonist and the story of how Piper evolved, so it can be risky as I first thought. But I think it somehow can pull through as I’ve done my best to create almost 50 chapters of Piper now.

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Hello and welcome to this week’s workshop. The scene you’ve shared is written quite well. I don’t see an info dump here. The only section I found where the protagonist gives us backstory is here…

As far as I’m concerned, you have successfully conveyed this backstory in a few concise lines. You do have the option of writing some of it in the dialogue exchanged between these two characters, such as: “You guys broke up? But you’ve been inseparable since you met. Everyone predicted you would be the next high school sweethearts after Ansel Jones and Ryder Simpson.”

Otherwise :+1:

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This was from one of my later chapters, probably my biggest info dump. It’s an info dump because this section was basically just about how the MC interrogated another character and learns about a lot of stuff.


“Sorry I was late.”

The words came from behind her. Katrina spun around, cursing herself for not being more attentive. Her eyes widened.

Celia was casually leaning against a tree, twirling her signature beret around her finger slowly.

“I had to get rid of Ted. He was quite intent on sneaking behind you, so I had to drug him so that I could come.”

Katrina gasped, the realization slamming into her. “You’re one of the scientists?”

Celia nodded smugly. “And none of you ever suspected me.”

Katrina growled at her. “What did you do to Ted? If you hurt him-”

Celia waved an arm. “Nah, don’t worry. All I did was shoot a sleeping dart into his arm. He’ll probably wake up in an hour or two.”

“So you’re the one who sent me those plaques?” Katrina asked. “How? Were you sitting in the trees or something?”

Celia rolled her eyes. “Of course not! The other scientists sent those plaques to you and told me to meet you here.”

Katrina was silent. She couldn’t believe that one of her friends was a traitor.

“Why?” she asked, her voice cracking. “You betrayed us. Me.”

Celia’s face softened. “You don’t understand,” she said. “I was once like you; naive, young, and full of misunderstanding. You’ll understand soon enough though, and you’ll come to embrace what gift the scientists have given you.”

“Explain,” Katrina stated simply. “Please.”

“This is the second time I’ve been in the Experiment,” Celia started, waiting as Katrina’s eyes widened. “Every time a new group of Deviants get drafted into the Experiment, the scientists choose some of them to help work for them.”

“What do you mean?” Katrina asked, her brows furrowing.

“You really didn’t think that the scientists wouldn’t take advantage of Deviants, did you?” Celia snorted. “If you had a bunch of people with superpowers in your control, it’s only natural to have a couple of them help you.”

“Anyways, continuing what I was saying before,” Celia said, “each Deviant who gets selected to become a scientist has a special job. Like me, for example, I have to go into other Experiments and help the scientists decide who to choose.”

“Why can’t the scientists just do it themselves?” Katrina asked. “And why me?”

“There’s only so much you can learn about a person from watching them on a camera,” Celia replied. “And to answer your second question, I think that your newly found abilities to murder can make you fit in quite well with the ADs.”

“AD?”

“It’s an abbreviation for Assassin Deviants, Deviants who kill other people,” Celia explained. “Like I’m an RD- Recruiting Deviant. There are also TD’s, Tracking Deviants, like the Thief, who help track down and capture other Deviants, MD’s, who heal Deviants who get injured on the job, and-”

“Woah, slow down!” Katrina exclaimed. “I can’t remember that much information at once. And who says I’m going to become an AD?”

“The scientists,” Celia replied matter-of-factly. Suddenly, she cocked her head to the side.

“Roger,” she said. “I’m on it.” Celia looked at Katrina, who was looking at her in confusion. “Speaking of the scientists, they want to talk to you.”

“Now?”

Celia nodded. “Yep.” She reached towards her neck and grabbed a small, silver pendant. Upon closer inspection, Katrina realized, the pendant depicted a detailed map of the arena.

Celia grabbed the pendant and held it out in front of her. A beam of light suddenly appeared in front of them as Katrina squinted, allowing her eyes to adjust.

Without further ado, Celia dragged Katrina into the light.

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@SallyMason1 @neverfakeit

I feel like this is a bit of an info dump, due to the fact that focuses on worldbuilding a lot more.

Alben sat at the seat nearest him as Eldon recited his monologue. He’d always ramble on about the days before the humans but Eldon always wanted to tell him all the time. Alben knew he wouldn’t live as long as everyone in the city, but he’d try and do everything he could. Even if that meant visiting the human stronghold for once.

As Eldon got towards the end of his monologue, Albens head hit the desk. He quickly jolted himself back up as the noise he made startled him. Eldon stared at him, “am I boring you?”

"Kinda, " Alben replied. “Did anything else happen? You keep repeating the same details over and over again. This feels like the 50th time I’ve heard the story.”

“But this is the first time you’ve managed to learn magic. I guess I can add something new to the story.” Eldon paused for a moment and he stood on the table. Alben scooted his chair further away from the table. Eldon leaned towards him.

“Why do you think humans haven’t seen us for years?” Eldon asked him and he didn’t wait for Alben to respond.

“Magic. That’s the only reason. And they’ll never find us as long as the barrier holds. And that’s why I teach you magic, you might be skilled enough to do that one day.”

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Hey there! This is an awesome initiative – albeit one I’ve ignored for the longest of time because of my following question :sweat_smile: Can one join without aiming for the Wattys?
@SallyMason1 @neverfakeit

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Someone read this portion of a story I’m working on and declared it an “info dump” and while I conceded that it was a bit of one, I thought I twisted it enough to work within the flow of the plot. I called it a “placing their cards on the table moment.”

So I’d like an opinion if this works or not -

Summary

I was definitely past buzzed and tumbling into drunk, as I stared at his mouth, imagining what it would be like to lean over and kiss him right now.

He smiled, slow and sexy, and he still held my hand. “Are you okay?”

I smiled back. “What’s your deal Ryan Pierce?” I asked, with a noticeable slur.

“My deal?” He quirked an eyebrow and let go of my hand to pick up his beer and take a drink.

I nodded. “Where did you come from? Why are you here? And why are you still single?”

“Well, you’re getting right down to business, aren’t you? Do guys usually answer these questions honestly on a first date?” He chuckled and took another drink.

“This isn’t a date.” I picked up my glass and tilted it at him before taking my next sip.

“Would you like to go on a date?” He winked and showed off his dimple again.

“Well, now who’s the one getting right down to business?” I snorted into my cider.

“Do you always make it this hard on a guy?” He shook his head at me.

“Maybe. It depends.”

“On what?”

“On how you answer my questions.”

This was supposed to be a fun night, but of course I was turning it into something else, something awkward. I frowned.

Ryan rubbed his forehead. “Is it okay if I give you the Cliff Notes version? Or will that fail me? I’ve heard that you’re pretty tough.”

“Have you been asking around about me?” I tried to sound flirtatious, and lighten the mood.

He blushed. “The kids talk.”

I nodded. “They do, and so do the faculty. And you… you listen.”

I hiccuped and Ryan tried to hide his smile behind his hand.

“I like to think I’m a good listener.”

“But not good at talking about yourself?”

He sighed. “Not usually.”

“Then I’ll accept the abbreviated version.” I hiccuped again and smiled

He chewed his bottom lip for a minute. It made me imagine biting it for him, which was quite a pleasant thought.

He cleared his throat. “Well… I’m from Texas originally. But I was an army brat, so we moved around a lot. I’m an only child. My Mom was Filipino. She died from cancer when I was fourteen. Dad never remarried, he barely ever dated again. He died two years ago. Heart attack. I did ROTC to pay for college, so I gave the army eight years of my adult life. I had a serious girlfriend for a few years. She really wanted to get married, so we got engaged. Then I found out that she cheated on me while I was on my final deployment. That was that. I wasted a couple years being angry and directionless. Then decided that I needed a truly fresh start. A good buddy from my old unit lives here, and over the summer, he told me the high school was looking for another PE teacher. So, here I am.”

At the mention of engagements and cheating, my mind flashed on Donovan’s newly bearded face. Just as I feared, my overly-emotional drunk-self took hold and I couldn’t stop myself from welling up.

Ryan was just as good at observing as he was at listening. “Oh man, I didn’t think my life sounded so bad as to inspire tears!”

“No… no, it’s not that! I promise.” I picked up the cocktail napkin from under my glass and dabbed at the corner of my eyes.

He reached across the table and took my hand again. His eyes and voice were gentle. “What’s your deal Vivian Giuliani?”

“You honestly want to know?” I looked into the bottom of my empty pint. The silence grew.

Ryan didn’t let go of my hand. “I do.”

At that moment a bar-back appeared with two fresh drinks for us. He said, “From Laura,” as he swept the empties off our table.

I did not need another drink, but I swallowed some more of the liquid courage anyway. “My deal is that… I signed up for some stupid dating app, and they matched me with my ex. I mean… this guy messed me up. He broke up with me on the morning of my University graduation! I worked so hard to earn a dual bachelor’s and master’s in just five years time, and I couldn’t even enjoy it. I walked onto the stage in an absolute fog. I thought we were moving in together the following week, and just every plan that had been made between us just disappeared.”

Ryan reached across to lift my chin up and looked into my eyes. “He sounds like a really selfish asshole.”

I furrowed my brow. “But what does that say about me, that the one guy they claim is my soulmate is the one asshole that I already failed at love with?”

“I think it says that you just hadn’t met me yet.” Ryan winked and took the drink from my hand. “And I also think that you should let me take you home.”

I studied Ryan’s face for a minute. With his light brown skin, golden eyes and dark hair, he was the complete polar opposite of Donovan physically. Personality wise, he seemed to be as well.

I needed this. I needed someone who would obliterate every memory of Donnie which still held me back.

Ryan knew what I needed, because he had been hurt too, and maybe he recognized that part of himself in me. Well, I could make him forget his ex-fiancé if that’s what he needed tonight.

I nodded. “Okay. Let’s go.”

2 Likes

Chapter one and I info-dumped in a flashback moment, and I have to regret it but it’s so hard to part with :frowning:

Summary

Amma - mother, Appa - father, Anna - older brother, maram - tree

For a boy who had been born on a bed of freshly-plucked leaves of the palm trees, I sure was a terrible climber. Amma made it a point to remind me about it every time I attempted to grasp the bark and haul myself up, my hands digging into the tough receptacles oozing with ants and caterpillars and worms and God knows what. It never did work: and that day, again, my fingers had lost their strength and I had slipped into the strong arms of Velu, who was guarding me below the towering tree, my limbs aching to the bone as I dusted off the bits of bark and straightened my back.

“Dei, Anbu,” my mother chided, pounding and washing our clothes on a jagged and rectangular rock while watching over me. “Still haven’t reached the top?”

“Amma, I am trying. I need time.”

“At eight Velu could run up and run down.” She threw a glance at Anna, who raised one eyebrow before disappearing into our hut. “Appa didn’t even train him.”

This was her usual statement, and my ears had long decided to ignore it.

“He has the strength, he is in the fleet and he flings nets.” I crossed my arms and pursed my lips. “I’ve asked Appa a thousand times if I can join them.”

“Climb that tree first.” Amma washed her hands, wiped it on the loose end of her saree, and smiled at me with the satisfaction that we were back to square one. I kicked the loose leaves out of my way and helped her gather the wet clothes, hoisting them onto thick strings at the back of our hut. The howling of the wind had abated and the sun was slowly slinking away towards the horizon – Appa ought to be home soon.

“Ah, Anbu,” Amma said and ruffled my overgrown ebony locks that settled uneasily on my forehead. “I remember your little hands and your tiny legs there, at that maram there --”

Ah, the trees. Born between the trees. It was a rare occurrence in the village that a child was born outside of its house or the run-down, crumbling hospital. I knew exactly where, when and why I was born there – every single person in my family had painstakingly repeated the story until it had become a scene stuck to the back of my head, and I usually added my own dash of imagination to it and smiled to myself gleefully.

It must have been a sunny day – no one in my family remembered if it was, so this was an assumption. It must have been the day the well in the middle of the village was flourishing, because Amma told me that the pain of the child struggling to emerge had struck her when she was coming home with three vases, one balanced on her hip and two on her head. That was it. They had to make a bed of leaves as Amma screamed and struggled – and I had appeared in the world, crying and gasping at a time that straddled between afternoon and evening.

And apparently they had rested me on the bed of leaves before rushing to Pachaiappan – the Holy One – and he had arrived with the Holy Stones to pen my horoscope.

“The stones.” Amma looked at me now, the narration flowing through her lips as the scene flitted across my eyes. “He was staring at it” – she stopped to stare at her open hands – “and then he threw it across the sand.”

The picture was clear to me: a man with hair whiter than a fish’s iris letting go of the stones as his hands shivered. Everyone had gathered around as he announced what he saw beyond the random placements of the stone.

“Don’t tell me I was born at the wrong time. The old woman Marikozhundu keeps telling that.”

Amma looked up at me and gave me a sharp pat on the cheek, frowning in disapproval. “No! She’s a terrible woman. He told me, you are like the gold that they sieve out, buried in the sand.”

“Gold? That precious?”

“Gold isn’t as precious as you.”

2 Likes

Hi! I’ll be helping out Holly and Sally with the workshop from time to time, so here I am again. :slight_smile: Thanks for participating!

The good thing about this passage is the characters perform a few actions here and there (shifting gazes, folding pleats, etc) while they talk. This is great for grounding the reader in the scene. They’re not just floating voices talking. That said, it is a bit of an info dump. What we need to do is determine the essentials that the reader needs to know in order to move the story forward. I’m not familiar with this story, but if I were to guess, I might say these were the important points:

  • Iye created mermaids.
  • Humans killed them all.
  • Humans got sort of cursed.

The other stuff can be mentioned when they become relevant to the story. For example, someone can say something about going to the inn, and then they can bring up the portal theory.

The reader doesn’t need to know the entire history all at once. When a fact becomes relevant to what’s happening in the story, that’s the best time to bring it up. Otherwise we’re relying on the reader to remember a snippet of information they read several chapters ago.

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Hello, we’re happy to have new participants. These workshops are for everyone interested in challenging their writing. You don’t need to be submitting a story to the Wattys.

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Hello! Here’s a scene I’ve recently rewritten to include more detail, but I still feel as though it could be info dumping…
(It’s a scene between my protagonist, Butch, and his older brother, Jack)

“Galgort Medical Lab. Experiment A47. Had symptoms of extreme facial change, nausea and according to you… looks ugly?”

“Well, have you seen her face? I mean, man, it’s bad! That’s some extreme plastic surgery gone wrong! Like wow, freaked me out with all the contortions, ya know?” I explained.

He turned the page around to face me, clicking his tongue. Her face was like something out of a zombie movie. It had bubbling warts, like radiation, covering the red raw skin. Her expression was a blank kind of lost and her hair was thin and straw-like, as though birds made their nests in there frequently.

I gazed over at Jack as he ignored me, flipping over the page and raising an eyebrow at what he was scanning. I knew exactly which page he was on.

“I may have gotten a little bored,” I explained timidly.

“I can see,” he replied. “Your artistic talent is shit,” he said, throwing the page down at me like a frisbee. “It’s useless Butch! It’s a wonder I haven’t caved your head in yet! You’ve ruined the most valuable research we had!”

“Glad I could be of service,” I mocked, looking across at the ruined piece of paper. A large green crayon monster greeted my face. It was scribbled over the results and made me cringe at just how bad of an artist I really was. Two large bulging eyes, one bigger than the other, stared back at me and two thin sticks joined them to a bulky jelly-like body. Its multiple legs wiggled out in every direction. My drawing was perfection. “What are you talking about? My artistic talent is on point! I drew that whilst driving! Are you damning me, Jack? Cause like, I’m a brilliant artist.”

He glanced back down at the file in his hand. “You’re a shit artist, but what I really wanna know is what happened to the missing patient file.”

I gulped. I remember that page clear as day, Katrina had handed it to me. I couldn’t shake the shivers that came over me. The woman’s face reminded me of that Hitler documentary on twin research we had to watch for history class one time. The only difference was she had no twin. Her skin had been covered in welts, red as sunburnt skin, and she had next to no hair.

“I don’t remember,” I said quickly.

Looking forward to some feedback. :smiley: @neverfakeit @SallyMason1

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This is the first scene I came across that might be an info dump? The first few chapters have been edited for that issue already, so it took a bit of looking. :slight_smile: There’s a lot of info here. It’s important information, but it might be too much all at once?
@neverfakeit @SallyMason1


The two stood in Leo’s bedroom at the apartment. Amadeira sat on the bed, silent, and Leo watched her, unsure what he should say. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you sooner.” He scuffed his shoe along a crack in the floor. “I figured you’d already deduced it from what you’d seen.”

She shook her head. “I thought it was a bit odd how the shadows always seemed to cling to you. But I figured I was just seeing things. Or overtired.”

He shifted, eyeing her without speaking.

Sighing, she waved him over to sit next to her. “The legends say Rithden are creatures of Rith. Sons and daughters of the shadows and the night. You know, beings of great evil.”

“I’m well aware of what’s said about my kind.” Leo stared down at his boots.

“Obviously, but what I don’t understand is why they say that when you clearly aren’t evil.”

“Depends on who you ask.” The corners of his mouth twitched up. “But no… I’m not from your viewpoint at least. And I don’t exist, if you ask anyone else.”

“But you don’t hate the power?”

He shook his head. “No, but it’s easy to lose myself to it.” He rested his arms on his thighs. “I’ve done so before and barely came back to myself. When I was young and it first manifested, I was out of my mind with despair, grief, and anger. I started drawing on the life force of the things and the people around me… It took something from me. I’ve never fully recovered.”

“What…” She licked her lips. “Leo, what happened to cause you to lose control?”

His jaw wound tight and loosened, then wound tight and loosened again. “It… I…”

Amadeira wrapped her arms around his torso and laid her head on his shoulder. “It’s alright if you don’t want to tell me. I understand, and I’m here if you ever want to talk.”

He clenched his fists, resting them on his knees. “I don’t want to talk about it, but…” He bit his lip.

Can I really do this? Trust a stranger with something only my mother, Elkis, and the head of the assassin’s guild know? He swallowed. She isn’t a stranger though. Not really.

“But what?” Her arms clenched tighter around him, making him feel vulnerable but at the same time secure.

How can I feel both at the same time? What’s happening to me? To us? “But I need to,” he whispered.

“Then I’m here.” She leaned back, and he missed her warmth.

Steeling himself, he dropped his head into his hands and took a deep breath. “I lost control because of my father.”

She stayed silent, and he appreciated her willingness to wait for him to tell her what he would in his timing instead of pushing him.

“When I was six, my father decided I should be taught what it meant to be a man. And to an Ishtralian, that meant I needed to learn that women were only toys for our amusement. It’s one of the earliest things they teach their boys.” He shook his head, his stomach twisting and knotting on itself.

His lower lip trembled, and he closed his eyes, recalling the memory of it. Tears pooled behind his lashes. “Even here in a country that would execute them if they were found, it’s still taught. He brought me downstairs one night. It was dark and storming out… And he told me, ‘Son, it’s time you began to learn what it means to be a man.’” He pressed his hands over his mouth.

Amadeira held him to her, pulling his head onto her chest and cradling him close like she had a week ago after her first ball. “Leo… Listen, he can’t hurt you anymore.”

He was shaking now. Gods above, I can’t… I can’t even make myself tell the whole thing. He let Amadeira pull him down on his side, facing her on the bed, and he didn’t resist when she embraced him again.

“If it’s too painful, you can stop…” Her tears joined his, hot on his chest as she pressed close to him. “I can’t bear seeing you hurt like this. You’re supposed to be a strong, stubborn clodpole. And it’s okay… It’s okay to hurt and not to be strong all the time. But…” Her breath hitched, and she stopped rambling for a moment. Then she whispered, “But I don’t want you to hurt. If I could, I’d take it away.”

He sucked in a breath and wrapped his arms around her too. “My father began with beating my mother. I knew something was wrong before that night because I used to hear her cries. But I didn’t understand. When I saw him hit her… I just…”

Amadeira’s small frame stiffened against him. “He hit Anne? How could he?”

“It’s normal amongst the Ishtralians. Just visit Aleshtain, and you’ll see. They do far worse, and they’d see it done in Argos too.” Leo gritted his teeth. “It’s best we stay as far from the cult as possible.”

“What happened to you? Did he ever hit you?”

“Sometimes. But usually, he just punished my mother instead. That night, I didn’t understand everything I saw. I do now. I ran before the worst of it, but I’ll never forget what I saw.” He closed his eyes and tried to calm his breathing. “He didn’t stop at beating her…” Leo cut off in a guttural whimper.

Amadeira’s fingers ran through his hair, and she shifted. “Leo, that wasn’t your fault.”

He shook his head, keeping his eyes shut. “I didn’t stop him.”

“You were six.”

“I didn’t stop him when I got older either.” Leo’s jaw clenched tighter, as if his subconscious mind was trying to hold back the information.

“You weren’t to blame.” Her hands cupped his jaw. “Leo, look at me.”

He opened his eyes, tears slipping down his cheeks to spill over her hands.

“You were a child. You couldn’t have stopped him. But you did eventually, didn’t you? Because he’s not here anymore. I hear you telling Anne that when she’s having one of her episodes.” She rubbed her thumb across the stubble on his jaw.

He closed his eyes again and swallowed. “I killed him. The first time I lost control of my power was that night at six. It manifested during the night while I stayed out in the cold, freezing and starving because my own father locked me out for not being strong enough to watch everything. Before that, I was one of the UnInherents… Powerless, unlike my father.”

Resting his forehead against Amadeira’s, he drew strength from her silent presence. “I drew the life force from smaller animals in the forests and flung the shadows out to keep the predators at bay. I had no idea what I was doing. The second time I lost control was the night I killed him in those same forests. That time, I knew what I was doing, but I didn’t care.”

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Thank you for returning for this week’s workshop. We’re glad you’re here.

You have shared the perfect example of an info dump. It comes across like a character outline that an author might create to build a character’s backstory. Most readers will see this and likely skim over it, probably missing most of what is conveyed.

One method for enticing your readers into sticking with a long, dense passage like this is to include humor. Even if the empathic space alien doesn’t have a sense of humor themselves, they can relay the information in a tongue-in-cheek way that will amuse the reader.

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Dancing has always brought joy to me. Whenever I put on my dance shoes and plug in my earbuds, I feel free. Whenever I’m dancing, it’s seems as if all of life’s problems disappear for a while. I dance when I’m happy, sad, mad or any other emotion. I’ve been dancing since I was two and a half.

I think it represents an info dump because it gives the reader an insight into Maddie’s life. I don’t know if that’s good enough

@neverfakeit @SallyMason1

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It’s great to see you back for our Active Storytelling workshop. :slightly_smiling_face:

This passage feels like a prologue to me. And it’s a pretty good one, with action and character development. It just needs a few tweaks to smooth some rough edges, which I expect you’ll do during your revisions.

Thanks for sharing.

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