Eliminating Infodumps in Willow Prologue

This week, instead of starting a new chapter of Willow, I’ve decided to rewrite my prologue. This will be the third rewrite of the beginning of my book, but I think I’ve figured out how to write a strong opening without using so much infodumping. Prologues are actually debatable in the writing universe. Some people feel they’re unnecessary, as many amateurs use the prologue as a way to infodump stuff that could be shown rather than told.

What is an infodump? Infodumping is a term where you take a break from the narrative to present facts about something in a story. Here, I’ll show you. This is taken from the first draft of the prologue and it describes a Dyrian named Tal. I had wanted to show how Tal differed from the people he lived among:

Tall, graceful, and spry, their skin black as a moonless night, the Dyrians’ interest leaned more towards paintings and the arts. Their most prized and recognizable feature was a long, white, silky lock of hair that curled amidst their otherwise wiry hair. This lock, the coulious, had a very special meaning in Dyrian folklore, for it was said to be a symbol of it’s wearer’s soul, his personality and spirit. It was revered highly among the Dyrians, who would often offer single threads of their coulious to each other as gifts from their souls.

Now imagine several paragraphs like that lumped together all throughout the chapter. When I first wrote that, I wanted to show that although Dyrians are similar to Africans in their color and culture, there was one thing that set them apart, and that would be the coulious. The problem in this is that the action of the story halts so we can get an anthropology lesson. Not good when you want to draw people into your story. You don’t want them to get bored right away.

When I rewrote it the second time, I broke up the above information and wove it into the story rather than dumping it all at once:

“True, but you have an excuse. Do you see me with a wife, two children, and a third on the way? And I’ve yet to reach my twenty-third year!” Tal squatted beside the hearth and rubbed his hands. The flickering light caught the only other brightness upon him–his coulious, a white, silky lock of hair planted amidst his otherwise black moss-wiry hair. Tal’s in particular was long enough to be braided down the left side of his face.

Better. We learn about who Tal is in bits and pieces. Here’s a section further down.

Diosk remained at the door a heartbeat longer before he closed it. He then examined the object in his hand and saw that it was a willow twig, its leaves still attached, twisted cunningly into a small heart. Intertwined among the leaves were three strands of silky white hair. “He bound this with hairs from his coulious,” he muttered, awestruck. He had never known Tal to take hairs from his coulious, not unless it was for something very, very serious. It was almost as if Tal had willingly given part of his soul to Diosk. He stroked the hair lightly, feeling suddenly humbled.

And here, we learn the importance of the coulious. It’s from the POV of Diosk, but here, it’s much more meaningful rather than us being just told that the coulious is highly honored among Dyrians.

Last week, I got an idea to get rid of all the infodumps in the prologue so it would be more action packed. After outlining it a bit, I realized that I’d better just sit down and write it out rather than wait until the entire book is done. So that’s my goal for this week: to rewrite the prologue to make it stronger, to get rid of all those infodumps so I can weave them more into the story. I want to reveal facts slowly to the reader, let them discover and experience the world of Dormis along with the characters.

You, on the other hand, do have to wait until the book’s finished to see it. Give me time. I’m working as fast as I can. 🙂

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