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Bardos
February 10th, 2002, 08:41 PM
You should cut down your paragraphs into smaller ones so easier to read. And telling the reader everything that's going on the head of the character is too much info-dump (including the paragraph in parentheses). Don't worry, that's normally the main problem of writers: telling the reader without info-dumping.

--Originaly posted by estrangehero in another topic...

...but a find it very interesting to start a real discussion here! http://www.sffworld.com/ubb/smile.gif

So, how do you handle it --info-dumping?

And I'll start the wheel rolling. To tell the truth, I didn't have this problem: giving too much info. My problem, in my begining days, was not giving too much info. So, even now, that I do give info in my stories, I don't do it the info dumping way; e.g., a character thinking for 6 pages, telling us all about the city they live in. I usually don't write about something untill it has an importance to the story. E.g., if there is a legend that the city was built by Cyclops, I'm not going to tell it from the begining but only when the occasion arrives. This has it's draw-backs, thought: A race I thought up, was in danger of seeming shallow to some, because the main characters of the story, at that momment, where humans, and the new race was discribed only by their PoV --actually, members of that race where trying to kill the humans. Later, of course, much more are revialed as the story progresses, but in the begining you could think they where a bit shallow.

All in all (to end this somewhere http://www.sffworld.com/ubb/smile.gif), I pass information to the reader as it appears in the story. Characters are not thinking but their imediate problems, and only discussing them also.

How do you do it? And what, do you think, are the merits and draw-backs of your ways?

Asraloth
February 12th, 2002, 01:27 PM
yeah, bardos, i pretty much do it the same way.

one of the best pieces of advice on infodumps came from sara douglass' site; she said something to the effect of "make your readers work." ie, don't spill out everything at once, fed them little snippets, let them fill in the blanks. i think it makes for more mystery and intrigue. if the reader know everything, how can they be held captive by the story?

but, every writer is guilty of infodumps, even the greats; tolkien, my god i dreaded slogging through those long articles of history in the narrative, i can't tell you how many times i screamed at gandalf to shut up. even GRRM does it in Game of Thrones, telling us all the bannermen of so and so etc, although he does it a little more subtler, and makes it relevant to the story.

i don't think infodumps are justified, but when a lot of information has signifiacnt bearing on the story, i suppose it is needed sometimes, but not in excess.

but, in my writing i have been taking sara douglass' advice, it really helps.

nicba
February 13th, 2002, 01:46 AM
But it can also work the other way around.

A story with only very little information runs the risk of confusing the reader. And Bardos's way, only revealing stuff when it is relevant, can potentially lead to deus ex machina-like scenes, if handled clumsily. For example, imagine the main character of a story in a thight spot suddenly revealing some previously unheard of and unsuspected ability or possesion to save himself. The ability (or possesion, or whatever) wasn't really relevant until the scene where it was used, but still an earlier exposure would have been much prefered.

So I think that, in some situations, info-dumping is unavoidable, a necessary part of the storytelling. The trick is to handle it gracefully and subtly, and not to bore the reader to sleep. I would very much like to know how to do that http://www.sffworld.com/ubb/smile.gif.

estranghero
February 14th, 2002, 03:32 PM
Well, my question is this:

It's all very well to avoid info-dumping when reading novel-length stories since you have all that time to develop all the pertinent details of your tale.

But what about short stories, where you don't have that luxury? I agree with nicba that "...A story with only very little information runs the risk of confusing the reader." More so if you have a limit of so-and-so number of pages.

Asraloth
February 14th, 2002, 05:38 PM
^^^you have a point there, but i think the term info-dumping when talked about by writers, actually refers to "blatant" info-dumping. get it in subtly, without the reader knowing you did it, but still getting the information you need across.

i think info-dumping is needed for everything, its just that blantancy that has to be avoided.

Alucard
February 14th, 2002, 06:56 PM
The trick with giving information is to make sure it feels like part of the story.

I consider info-dumping to be handled poorly if there is a part of the sory where it feels like the narrator hit the pause button, used a few pages to explain some things, then went back to telling the story. Really hurts the flow. Or, when done with dialogue....and it suddenly feels like the characters are talking to you, the reader, and not to each other. Which can make the story less believable.

To do it well, I think it needs to be sewn in as discreetly and logically as possible. For example: you may have a character's train of thought lead into important information, but diguise it by having the character either remind himself of the information or trying to work out a problem where that knowledge would be helpful (or any other way you can come up with). Or, if characters are speaking to one another about something that the reader is oblivious to, have them speak to each other naturally, but in between dialogue use small bits of narration to clue the reader in. This way, you will give it to the reader in pieces, which is much easier to digest than just a page or two facts.

Really, there are many many ways of sliding the information in, and I find it's best to go ahead and write, and wherever you see the best spot, go ahead and add it. But it's not an easy thing to plan, and the few times I have tried, I ended up throwing my plans out the window because I had a better idea once I got there. So I think it's something thats easiest to play by ear.