Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Infodumps: The Fact Sheet

Now, I know the words 'infodump' and 'fact sheet' are scary, but stay with me at least for a little while. These ugly babies need to be dealt with wether you like it or not, so let's get started.

What is an infodump?
An infodump is a chunk of text where the author attempts to explain/justify their plot developments through long passages of rationalisation. These will often contain overly complex scientific or supernatural phenomena which strain the boundaries of plausability. They should not happen.

Why shouldn't it happen?
There are a couple of reasons why infodumps should not exist. The first is that if you have a plausible and well crafted plot line, there should be no need for infodumps. If you are adding infodumps it may be a sign that you are trying to push the plot in a direction it shouldn't go. The next is that there are really simple things you can do to avoid the need for an infodump, as explained below.

What can I do about it?
  1. Show don't tell. This is the simplest and most straightforward way of avoiding an infodump. If there's something you want to explain about an event, write a flashback or a diary extract or something.
  2. Your characters should not be know-it-alls. What this means is that if there is a concept you want to explain, have you characters discover said concept instead of having it handed to them on a platter by an all-knowing being or having the characters explain it to the readers. Not only will your readers understand the concept better than with an infodump, but your characters get to feel smug about having found something out. Double win!
  3. Let the story go where it will. If there's a concept earlier in the book which doesn't fit with what you're writing now, either bin it or write something which fits with what you already have. That way you don't need any infodumps to fix your convoluted plotline, and you aren't sending your readers to sleep.
The worst kind of infodump.
This is so annoying it needs a section all on its own. There is a certain kind of infodump which trumps all others. For the sake of categorisation, I'm calling it the series infodump. It's that block of text you get at the beginning (and sometimes throughout) the continuation of a series of books, explaining the events which happened previously. It's often written as such a short synopsis of what happened in previous novels as to be no use whatsoever to the person reading.

How to fix it? Screw the people who haven't read the last book, and I mean that seriously. If they didn't put the time or effort in to do so, they cannot expect you to sum it all up in a few paragraphs. Think of it as tuning in half way through a conversation. You may miss some things, but you'll pick up on stuff fairly quickly. By all means refer to events in previous novels, but do not go out of your way to explain them. If they want to know what happened, they can just read the book they skipped.

Now I hope you take at least some of that on board. There is absolutely no reason for an infodump, and I hope never to see one again. Unfortunately that probably won't be the case. Even the best writers end up with infodumps. Take Vampire Academy, for example. The constant restatement of events (the series infodump) turns an otherwise thoroughly enjoyable series into a cringe-fest worthy of a sit-com. And that, my friends, is nothing if not a damn shame.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

NaNoWriMo Wristers: Knitting Pattern

Hey there, I thought it was time for another post. This time something I knitted for my sister for christmas. I still need to make myself a pair, but for the moment may I present: NaNoWristers! These are the perfect way to show of your proud NaNo win (or participation) on your wrist.

Pretty cool huh? And not that difficult if you know how to double knit.

One ball fingering weight yarn in purple
One ball fingering weight yarn in white
(or you can mix it up, whatever colour you like)

One set double pointed needles or a circular needle.
Extra dpns for binding off.

A small amount of scrap yarn.

Gauge is not imporant, just make sure it's small.

Using this method, cast on 39 pairs of stitches in the round, then knit one more row. If you don't like that cast on, simply cast on and knit three rows in the round. Make sure your colours are the right way around, remember that the reverse side will show mirror writing.

Begin knitting the pattern using the charts below. Since I am a dpn user I like to draw a line on my chart where each needle starts and ends. This helps me to keep track of my work. Once you've finished knitting the chart, knit three more rows.

Take a strand of the main 'background' colour you are using, and cut it leaving an end at least three times the length of your wrister. Using extra dpns, divide your stitches ont two needles, separating your colours. Then, graft your stitches together.  Knitty has a wonderful page on it here. You're done, rejoice. Now you just need to make a second one.

You can mix and match these charts as much as you like, which is why I have included charts for the numbers 0-9. These can be squished up further if necessary. Note the space at the end of each chart. This is there so that the words don't run into one another. Whatever you do, don't forget the space!

That's all for now! Happy knitting.