Creative writing is both an art and a science. Most online help focuses on the science of it, because science is definable, quantifiable, measurable… you know, easier. So you’ll see a lot of scientific formulas for good writing on the webz, sometimes taken to the extreme as in the case of the “was” witch hunt. You hardly ever see the art side broken down and analyzed… it’s just a bit harder to define art.
Attention, small yet loyal fanbase, I am about to reveal one of the most powerful tools in a creative writer’s arsenal. I guarantee you’ve never heard of it because I’ve coined the term myself, but nevertheless it’s there, in virtually all powerful works of fiction. I don’t know if it’s the perfect term for what I’m talking about, but I like it. I call it infoglossing.
The reason you don’t see this function of creative writing addressed is because when we happen across infogloss I think a reader is generally too busy appreciating the fact they were moved by words to look at why. It’s that subtle yet powerful. The first time I became truly cognizant of it was in a poem, Pinero’s “Seeking the Cause”. This is the line:
“his body was found all over town… riddled with the police bullets his tax dollars bought”
The second time I became aware of infogloss was while reading a literary book called “Candlemoth“. Forgive me ahead of time, because I know I’m about to screw up the exact wording, but the protagonist said something akin to this of the Vietnam War and the draft he was dodging:
“Someone out there was reaping children.”
In the first example, we all know police equipment’s paid for with tax dollars. Here the information we don’t know until we read it (that the guy was shot by the police) is presented with information we could extrapolate (he indirectly paid for the bullets that killed him). Just because we can extrapolate this information doesn’t necessarily mean we will, hence reading this nugget that we already inherently know presents a keen analysis of the situation we might have missed as we continued on with the poem.
The second example stood out to me because most everyone knows the Vietnam war had a horrible death toll, coupled with a draft that ensured many of those deaths were youths. The author here equated these facts to a macabre harvest (youthful deaths in Vietnam) orchestrated by a sinister individual (the government through its draft).
Infodumping and its sexier sister Incluing are all about presenting a reader with information he or she doesn’t know. Infoglossing is decidedly different. Infoglossing is presenting information the reader already knows (or could know through extrapolation) in an impactful manner.
I know, what the hell is “impactful manner”? Well, that’s where the art of infoglossing starts to take over and its a matter of subjective taste. One person may find taking a bedazzler to a jean jacket to be horribly gaudy while another may love the punchy whimsy of the glittering plastic jewels. Likewise, a guy eating at a restaurant may hate garnish cause it’s getting in the way of his meal while someone else appreciates the presentation. What’s impactful to you may not be impactful to another. Furthermore the type of impact can be varied. The impact of the line in Seeking the Cause was the irony of the man’s demise. Candlemoth’s impact lay in the protagonist’s succinct assessment of the world events that swirled around him.
These are just two examples. The impact could be anything really–you could do what these examples did or you could explore the motivation of a character (see Ahab’s motivation for hunting down Moby Dick in his character segment), express an epiphany of human nature or revelation about the future state of humanity. Anything.
What you infogloss is up to you, a matter of your taste. How do you do it? Sometimes these nuggets are there before you even start the story, those little tidbits you thought about or turns of phrase that inspired your story to begin with. Those take care of themselves. But oftentimes, stories come from other places, dreams, fragments, a statement you misheard, all those random sources that don’t have the benefit of pre-glossed info. For those stories, before you even think about the gloss, finish writing the story. Once you’re done and you’ve given it ample time to cool, reread it. Analyze it like you would a classic story or novel, similar to how you did back in English class. See the characters and how their situations, their motivations, and their actions impact their world, or how their world impacts them and what that means for us in our world. Where are places that stating information the reader already knows or could know if they thought it through be presented in a way that drives home a point? That’s where you put your infogloss.
Finally, what do you say when you discover a place where you can apply some infogloss? That’s truly the art of it, and the science of this article is bereft of means to explain. But when you think about all your favorite passages in literature, chances are some of them will qualify as infogloss. So what do you put in your own writing, something akin to those small, meaningful shards from your favorite works that moved you in such a powerful, profound way?
Put you into it.