3 Fiction-Writing Terms: Data Dump, Filter Word, Head Hopping

While some of us are pushing through the last week of Nanowrimo, noses to our keyboards, an editing-monster looms in our future, packing on problems like a glutton.

Kathy Wagoner wrote a great post clarifying three different writing terms that carry a lot of unwanted calories. These are often newbie problems, and I’ll confess that they gave my early writing serious indigestion. The good news is that after fixing them thousands of times (literally), I do a better job of avoiding them in the first place.

Are these important? Yes. All three of these can knock a reader out of the book or reduce a reader’s engagement by distancing them from the characters and story. For me, head-hopping will usually result in an unfinished read.

Even after years of vigilance, I still have to put my monster on the editing treadmill to trim away the fat and give my writing more muscle. Kathy did a thorough job of explaining the terms and providing examples. It’s worth clicking over for a look. πŸ™‚

via 3 Fiction Writing Terms: Data Dump, Filter Word, Head Hopping

95 thoughts on “3 Fiction-Writing Terms: Data Dump, Filter Word, Head Hopping

  1. So much to learn, Diana! Thanks for sharing – I left a comment on KL Wagner’s blog.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Khaya Ronkainen says:

    Great reminders, Diana. Running back to my manuscript to recheck, which of the three sins I’ve committed. Writing a book is lots of work…*sigh* πŸ˜€

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I was aware of all three concepts , but I only knew Data dump by name/
    Thanks for sharing this

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Teri Polen says:

    I’m going to win NaNo, but the thought of allllll the editing ahead of me is daunting. I’m giving myself at least a week off before diving in. Thanks for sharing this, Diana!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I can relate to the editing groan, Teri. The clean-up is the major downside of vomit-writing… which NaNo seems to require. Ha ha. I usually edit as I go, so this process always feels incredibly messy. But YAY, you won, and that’s a lot of words! Enjoy the week and then start editing. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Thanks so much for sharing, Diana! πŸ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Jay says:

    I wish someone had explained data dumping to Tolstoy. There’s so much nonsense about agriculture in there! We don’t care, Leo, get on with it!

    Liked by 4 people

  7. Jina Bazzar says:

    Hmmm, i just read Kathy’s post. Head hopping is something i’ve never heard before, but data dumping and filters… if only i could lose weight while i’m working them off.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Head hopping in first person is really rare, so you’re good on that one, Jina. I enjoyed your books so much that I didn’t notice the other two, but it’s always good to be vigilant. I still have to scour my books for filter words. They are so sneaky! Thanks for stopping by. I hope you’re getting lots of writing done!

      Liked by 2 people

      • Jina Bazzar says:

        Do you look for data dump and filters as a seperate process?

        Liked by 2 people

        • To eliminate filter words I do an entire editing pass. I look every single one of them up in my document and see if I can delete them. If your interested here they are: knew, thought, suspected, remembered, believed, understood, imagined, doubted, supposed, realized, wondered, guessed, hoped, wished, watched, saw, observed, felt, smelled, tasted, heard… (Now you’re probably sorry you asked!) Ha ha. And, of course, we can’t get rid of all of them, but it’s good to cut down on them. πŸ™‚ Happy Writing!

          Liked by 3 people

          • Jina Bazzar says:

            UGH! I’m really sorry i asked. I’ll copy those so i don’t forget… or maybe i shouldn’t.
            Thanks!

            Liked by 2 people

            • I figured you’d be un-delighted. Ha ha. They’re good to be aware of, and even if you only cut a few here and there, you’re writing will improve. To be honest, Jina, I didn’t notice much of this in your writing, so don’t stress. πŸ™‚

              Liked by 2 people

              • Jina Bazzar says:

                Thanks! But i’d attribute that to the person who did the proofreading and editing…. i was horrified when i realized she had all the -ly words (and so many others) marked for delete. It’s perplexing when you believe your work is as best as you can make and then someone comes and points out so many mistakes. Still, once i was over my illeteracy,

                Liked by 2 people

                • I can totally relate, Jina. And seeing our writing through an editor’s eyes is a great learning experience. Unless someone points out our weaknesses, we often don’t see them. It sounds like you had a wonderful editor. πŸ™‚

                  Liked by 2 people

  8. Yeah, these three are an unholy trifecta to plague early writing. I once had a guy instruct me to make sure I read all the way through his prologue (I couldn’t–I gave up after three pages of deadly dull infodump). And most people find head-hopping distracting–I do to the point that I close the book. And filters have their place (I use them to slowly zoom in and out on the main character), but it’s always worth checking to see if you’ll even miss a filter if it’s cut. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

    • Agree with your comment 100%, Cathleen. Sometimes filter words are necessary, but they’re worth taking a look at and cutting when we can. The rest… are deadly. I too have little tolerance for head hopping as it pops me right out of the story. And I was guilty of all three at the beginning. Live and learn. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 2 people

  9. Almost Iowa says:

    I first read about data-dumping back on June 17 of 1972, a cold and wet day in an otherwise hot, dry summer. It was the day, five men were arrested for breaking into the DNC headquarters at the Watergate complex in Washington DC. Though those events have no bearing on this comment, I thought I would mention it anyway.

    Let me tell you how all of that made me feel. It felt horrible.

    I do not know what the burglars were thinking…but let’s try to suppose….

    Sorry, I couldn’t resist. Kathy’s article was excellent and a great reminder to avoid bad habit that are easy to fall back into.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I wasn’t old enough to understand what a horrible leader Nixon was. I’ve actually learned a lot more about that time based on what’s happening now. I guess it gives me hope that we’ll survive this one too. Yeah, the writer kind of data-dumping isn’t as bad as burglary, but it also much more boring. Better to limit our transgressions, or at least break them up and spread them around. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 3 people

  10. This is a great post on those three gremlins! Great reminders of what to look for (those darn filter words!!). Now, back to the keyboard… have a great week, Diana!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for stopping by, Julie. I’m with you on those filter words. The other two are pretty easy to avoid once we get a handle on them, but those filter words are another story! Ugh. They are so sneaky. You’re doing great btw with Nano. Keep it up!

      Liked by 2 people

  11. ESP says:

    good tips, the newbies get carried away beyond redemption πŸ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Anneberly says:

    I am not going to hit the 50,000 word count. Other writing assignments have ended up taken priority over the novel that I’m writing for the challenge. What I’m excited about is that I have started a novel that I have wanted to start for awhile, and I have more words than I would if I wasn’t doing this challenge.

    Liked by 2 people

    • You have a great attitude! And I think Nano is actually more about giving us a push to get writing than it is about word count. I do several self imposed Nano’s every year when the time is right. Keep up the work on your novel! Happy Writing!

      Liked by 2 people

  13. rijanjks says:

    This is a great share, Diana! We all need these reminders and refreshers!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I liked Kathy’s post because it was so clear, and the examples help to clarify the points. These steps are on a long checklist of editing to-do’s that I follow when I get to that point. Tedious work but worth it. Thanks for the visit, Jan, and Happy Writing!

      Liked by 2 people

  14. I really dislike head hopping. When I complain about it, the writer invariably says they’re using third person omniscient. Which always leaves me feeling like I’m standing near a crowd listening to their thoughts without being involved. Sigh.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I have the same experience, Jacqui. Omniscient is very difficult to write well and creating distance between the reader and characters is risky. There are specific story structures where it’s appropriate, and I’ve read some great omniscient stories, but I wouldn’t attempt to write one. Thanks for sharing your experience, and Happy Writing!

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Thanks for sharing this, definitely something to add to my editing checklist as I work towards submitting my creative assignments πŸ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

    • In my experience, Louise, these will rear up and slap an editor in the face, so best kept to a minimum. I still battle routinely with filter words because they just love to sneak in there. I’m glad you found this helpful. Happy Writing!

      Liked by 2 people

  16. acflory says:

    My bug bear: ‘just’. My least favourite four letter word yet it keeps sneaking into my writing. 😦

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Thanks, Diana for the thorough explanations of these writing problems and the remedies. πŸ™‚ — Suzanne

    Liked by 2 people

  18. Dawn D says:

    Something interesting for me to read as I am considering more and more seriously writing a novel.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Oh good for you, Dawn. These are good ones to keep in mind. And of course, there is a lot of valuable advice in blogland. Write your story in whatever way works for you and don’t worry to much about editing stuff until later. It’s important to get the story out, explore your own style, and find your unique voice as an author. The rest will come together. Thanks for the visit and Happy Writing!

      Liked by 2 people

      • Dawn D says:

        Yes, I’m aware of the need to let the story out. I participated in my first writing contest (well, second if you count the Halloween story!). A short story. The end goal was 3,000 signs. The story poured out of me, it had been brewing for a week. 5,500 signs. Almost twice what I was allowed. But it was interesting to have to cut it down to the bare minimum, to find what was necessary to the story, what was important to me. Now… a few weeks to wait to know the results. But participating already was a good start. It means I am starting to consider myself a writer, and that can only be a good thing!

        Liked by 2 people

  19. dgkaye says:

    Great share Diana. We live and hopefully learn. Head hopping drives me mad! πŸ™‚ Peeves. lol. ❀

    Liked by 2 people

  20. Thanks, Diana. πŸ™‚ Happy writing, my friend!

    Liked by 2 people

  21. Thanks for this, Diana. Head hopping has the same effect on me. It has to be done carefully, and even then… not my favorite thing at all.
    Data dump — I get what that would be, even though I am not used to seeing the term used in regard to writing. Yes, something else that has to be handled with care. But filter word… I need to click over and learn what that is.
    I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Now go and WriMo-mo-mo!
    Hugs on the wing.

    Liked by 2 people

  22. C.E.Robinson says:

    Thanks, Diana! I needed this post reminder! Editing again now! Christine

    Liked by 2 people

    • I have to incorporate these into every editing pass, Christine. They seem to make a big difference. Thanks for reading and Happy Editing. I hope you have a wonderful weekend and holiday season. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 2 people

      • C.E.Robinson says:

        Diana, the list goes on and on, doesn’t it? No passive words, show don’t tell, etc! I’m writing a historical fiction book and what a challenge to get the history in without it being an info dump! Happy Holidays to you too! Christine

        Liked by 2 people

        • Oh, I can imagine! It’s probably similar to world building in speculative fiction. We have to smash it into small parts and slide it in here and there. And trust our readers to fill in the gaps too. Yes, the list goes on and on. And then the rules aren’t hard and fast either. There are always exceptions!

          Liked by 2 people

  23. Great post, Diana- those darn info dumps, lol.
    Hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving ❀

    Liked by 2 people

  24. Great information here, Diana. Thanks so much for sharing. Good luck with the final NaNo push!

    Liked by 2 people

  25. Thank you for sharing Diana, great advice as always! Some great pointers too. ❀

    Liked by 2 people

  26. Thank you so much for sharing, Diana! I hope it’ll come in handy to all my NaNoWriMo friends πŸ™‚ ❀
    Glad to hear you don't have to deal with these so much anymore! That's what happens when you practice practice practice πŸ˜‰

    Liked by 2 people

  27. C.J. Stuart says:

    Thanks. Great info. U might also like a bk called, rivet your reader with intense point of view. I loved it. Quick short read.

    Liked by 2 people

  28. balroop2013 says:

    I like your “editing monster” and “unwanted calories”…recently I have read a badly edited book and can’t agree less with you Diana. Only a monster can edit well that’s why we need a professional one. Thanks for sharing this post. Happy writing dear friend.

    Liked by 2 people

  29. Thanks for sharing the informational post, Diana. I can’t forget editing and revising my first NaNoWriMo story before I knew what I was doing. I’ve since learned to draft my story correctly from the beginning, but others have to do what works for them. Happy NaNoWriMo writing.

    Liked by 2 people

  30. Annika Perry says:

    Great advice here, Diana and thank you for sharing Kathy’s post (where she quoted you!) I find too much data deadens a book for me … often just as you’re getting into the story. You can understand the writer is keen to share their hard-learned research but they don’t seem to realise the fictional story becomes buried in the mass of mostly irrelevant information.

    Hope the writing is going well- only a week to go … but guess you knew that! Happy Weekend! xx

    Liked by 2 people

    • I can often tolerate little data dumps, though I might skim them, Annika. And I have given up on books that seem to be one long data dump. The world building might be amazing, but it can really bog down a story. And of course, I think these are great tips because I used to do them all! LOL. Happy Writing!

      Liked by 2 people

  31. I’ve never heard of these terms, but will explore. Thanks for the share Diana.

    Liked by 2 people

  32. KL Wagoner says:

    Thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 2 people

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