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TheEarCollector
July 3rd, 2005, 12:04 PM
How do you all, as writers of scifi and fantasy, handle the infodump? I HAS to be woven into the text at some point, but other authors go as far as to include appendixes explaining everything in detail.

How do you weave everything into the story without getting bogged down, or are some facts just so technical that you lump them together at the end?

kater
July 3rd, 2005, 05:41 PM
It depends on the genre of the piece your writing. I think fantasy is almost pure storytelling and so you can drip your information in about the world and characters at a decent pace. With sf there can be a lot of concepts, which make the material very dense and tough to get into - first time I read Nights Dawn it took me a while to grasp everything. Personally I like to write fantasy pieces so the information you need to provide the reader with is almost all there by halfway, so the reader has a map of what's been and who they are empathising with and then you can hit them with a pacier, leaner second half. With sf I try and add bits for the whole story, not the essential bits obviously but the less consequential stuff so the world is constantly filling out and becoming a clearer picture. In your first trip into an alien world/environment you simply won't pick up on what everything is and does. As Holbrook mentioned in another thread, this is the character's world not the reader's, so for them to explain what an 'emotion link' or the 'shashaard horde' are in the middle of a discussion is a bit absurd. Saying that it is a tough balance if you don't want to lose your reader.

FriedEyeball
July 3rd, 2005, 09:38 PM
I remember when I first read Neuromancer, I couldn't understand, exactly, where the "Spindle" was. I thought it might be like a floating city, but that didn't make sense. From what I remember, Gibson just let the reader figure it out for herself. Or I'm just really thick.

- Rozz

TheEarCollector
July 4th, 2005, 01:52 AM
Neuromancer was pretty dense in the first chapter... but I think Gibson worked through it fell.

Holbrook
July 4th, 2005, 02:31 AM
I feel you have to find a balance between informing your reader and keeping the story moving. It is hard when you want to "explain" a bit about what/where/how in the story. I was told a long time ago that new writers fall into the trap of wanting to explain everything. It's only with practice and thought you learn when to "cut off" the flow of information.

I was also told that placing too much information too soon ruins the journey for the reader. Ask yourself at the end of the story, does this tell the reader what I wanted them to know about the characters/world I have created.

This is an example how I try and solve this problem, first draft so it might stink in places ;)

##

Mathew walked across the cobbles of the factory yard just before dawn. He pulled his jacket tighter round him to block out the damp chill of the late autumn day. Ahead of him lay hell. The large mill of the workhouse jail factory overshadowed all its array of attendant buildings. The seven storey building with it long windows angled to catch all the natural light it could was a many eyed monster that ate men, women and children. It fed on their strength and drank of their souls.

He was not alone in his journey. Other shapes stumbled through the growing light of day. The women with their heads wrapped in shawls, the ends of which were tucked into their belts, walked with their eyes down, as if trying to draw strength from the very ground, children blurry-eyed, their narrow pinched faces old and worn before their time. Men stooped-backed carrying a burden that only the dregs of their self worth kept from crushing them. The clatter of metal shod clogs curled round the faint murmured greetings as each figure filed into the building.

Mathew climbed the stairs to the third landing. Here we would spend the day in the mule spinning room. The large spinning machines, the mules as they were called, lined either side of the large expanse of the floor. Each had over two hundred spindles. When the machines has traversed to their full extent, pulling the thread off the rovings containing the softly-wound cotton which was waiting to be spun, there was a gap of some four man’s paces between the two machines. It was here for the last thirty seven days Mathew had worked.

It was hot in the room, even now in late autumn. The floor was discoloured and slick with oil, which had fallen from the spindles as they were oiled in the morning and evening. The air was thick with motes of cotton and the noise once the machines were running made it impossible to speak. Mathew had quickly learned to lip read.

Mathew muttered greetings to his fellow workers as he picked up the oil can by the machine he was going to work. As he oiled the spindles the lamps were turned up to compensate for the lack of natural light at this season This added to the stink in the air; stale sweat, oil and the pasty smell of raw cotton thread.

The four guards assigned to this floor took up their station, two at either end of the long room. The senior one was joined for a few moments by the foreman and the spinners in charge of the machines; these men were the most highly trained in the industry. The large machines were in their charge. The spinner in charge of the machine Mathew worked on was called Robert.
Robert had worked in the industry since he was a lad, he was proud of his skill. Even here in the workhouse jail the man held on to that pride. Robert was a fair man, more so than others especially the foreman. Mathew considered it to be the one piece of luck he had had since he came here, being put on Robert’s machine.

“Right, folks, let’s be getting started eh...” Robert said as he walked down the wooden floor to his machine. Besides Mathew there was Sally, she too worked as a big piecer, repairing the broken threads to the spindles, replacing the cylindrical packages of rovings on the machine sweeping, oiling and general maintenance under Robert’s sharp eye.

The two adults were not the only members of Robert’s crew. Two small lads, Albert and Charlie worked as scavengers. The lads crawled under the threads as the mule’ carriage clattered forward drawing the thread out. They swept away the cotton fluff and fragments, keeping the machinery free from obstructions. They also took their turn in repairing broken threads in places the larger hands could not reach.

“Aye," Mathew replied and gave a slow wink at the two lads. Albert nudged Charlie’s ribs and the lad giggled. A groan above their heads marked the first movement of the large long metal drive shaft from which a set of belts attached to each machine hung. The groan increased to a whine as the speed built up. Robert engaged the machine’s drive and called over the rising noise. “I’m going to have a draw.” Sally nodded and took up station on her length of the machine, Mathew did the same. The mule kicked into action the narrow, sharp rimmed wheels at either end and in the middle ran its carriage out with a rattling din.

The cream thread spun its way onto the spindles. Robert stopped the machine and Mathew cracked his knuckles and repaired his first thread of the day. Robert checked the machine, then shouted, “Right here we go.” From now on the machine would run constantly unless the creels containing the rovings needed replacing. Each would spell the other while they ate at the machine’s side. It was back breaking and dangerous work, none more so than for the two young boys as they lay pressed to the oil-smeared floor as the carriage trundled over their heads.

TheEarCollector
July 4th, 2005, 11:02 AM
Part of my problem isn't that I want to give too much though, it's that apparently I give too little to keep the story moving.
I am very much a dynamic story writer... My plots are always moving forwards, sometimes pretty fast, so I opt not to throw in lots of descriptions of characters or even environments if they aren't important. I get a lot of criticism on needing to give more info/description.

Expendable
July 4th, 2005, 10:25 PM
Part of my problem isn't that I want to give too much though, it's that apparently I give too little to keep the story moving.
I am very much a dynamic story writer... My plots are always moving forwards, sometimes pretty fast, so I opt not to throw in lots of descriptions of characters or even environments if they aren't important. I get a lot of criticism on needing to give more info/description.
The more unfamiliar the enviroment for the reader, the more you have to say. Fantasy actually is easier for people to grasp so you can skimp on some details - but science fiction demands more.

MrBF1V3
July 5th, 2005, 02:13 AM
How do you all, as writers of scifi and fantasy, handle the infodump? I HAS to be woven into the text at some point, but other authors go as far as to include appendixes explaining everything in detail.

I have a lot more information about setting, characters and situations than ever gets into my stories, if they don't involve somehow in the story they are relegated to the status of fictitious trivia--I can't think of a good reason to add them in an appendix.

I tend to infodump in the first few paragraphs mixed with setting the scene, then as needed elsewhere. Sometimes I find I have to go back and add more, but sometimes it is great to let the reader use their imagination. When you figure out how to do just the right amount, let me know. I usually need outside input.

B5

BTW-One could always do a Mitchner; explain everything that happens in the setting in question, starting from the beginning of time. Though I think not many could get by with that.

TheEarCollector
July 5th, 2005, 01:25 PM
I'm not familiar with Mitchner, he goes through the entire history of the setting up front?

MrBF1V3
July 6th, 2005, 01:09 AM
Oops, pardon my mispelling. I was refering to James A. Michener. If I remember right, his novel Centennial starts in the Precambrian era. In the realm of infodumps, this man is an artist. Which illustrates just another of the many many approaches to the problem of infodumping.

B5