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choppy
June 1st, 2004, 03:27 PM
I think I have a fear - infodumpaphobia.

One mistake that many beginning authors make is to get so excited about the world they have constructed they assault the reader with all sorts of needless details about it - preventing the story from really getting started quickly.

This is something I try deserately to avoid. But lately I'm finding that a lot of published material starts out with more information about the world than I would have believed accptable.

This leads me to the question - do you find yourself having to limit the amount of (world) information that you toss out in say the first chapter? I'm starting to believe that I've taken this little piece of advice to an extreme and with some of my work, included so little detail that the reader is left wondering just where the whole story it taking place.

Thoughts?

pcarney
June 1st, 2004, 04:10 PM
When I first start a story, I find I'm looking more for a hook than anything else. I generally like the idea of giving out information when it is needed, and as naturally as possible- that is I hate in stories when a character expounds on a subject everyone else in the room would already know about.
"Ah yes, the nasty Thresh of Eastern Zimboboo. They have been a threat for years now, constantly harrassing out border guards and peeing in our pools."
I'm being silly, but you see what I mean.

On the other hand (and there always seems to be another hand with writing), I hate getting thrown into a story without any information about what characters are talking about. For example, I really like Sean McMillan's worlds, but I find I'm confused about the facets of that world for large portions of the book. Then, at some point I find I say "Oh, that's what ABC is". Of course, this could just be because I ain't the brightest bulb on the tree (gasp!), or it could be that he isn't giving out enough information.

Jamza1986
June 1st, 2004, 05:16 PM
I think that used properly, including a lot of details about the world is a good thing. Over explaination can get in the way of the story, and the hidden details can draw you into a world that seems a lot deeper and bigger than one where you are spoon fed information.

There is also a style where most world information is withheld. For example, fantasy a la Robin Hobb. I don't like the fact that the world is simple in it, but I adore the characters

ironchef texmex
June 1st, 2004, 08:47 PM
Choppy, I'm having an old person moment right now and I can't remember if you write fantasy or sci/fi. Both? The question is important because this is one of the major distinctions between the two styles.

Managing the rate at which you "fill the reader in" is very important to Sci/fi. Keeping the reader in the dark can be an excellent tool for building suspense and curiosity on the part of the reader. The author has the freedom to fill in details a piece at a time while developing characters and plot.

This is very difficult to do in fantasy. The reason is simple. A fantasy world is usually far more complex (and remember, this is from someone who writes Sci/fi). Now I'm not saying that worldbuilding is easier in Sci/fi. It's not. It's much harder because Sci/fi writers don't have the historical building blocks that fantasy writers have. But fantasy worlds will usually have more layers to them then their Sci/fi counterparts.

A good example is the piece of writing submitted by Meriadoc44. He starts in a temple and ends up at a murder scene. Very few fantasy writers could cover that distance in less than a page. Most would use several pages. They would describe the God that the temple was dedicated to, they might give some history of the region, they would probably go into some detail about the look of the murder victim (does he look like a merchant, a peasant, an official). Fantasy world's are expected to have the kind of extreme regionalization that our own world had before airplanes and telephones began to homogonize things. Wait till chapter 15 to explain the various institutions and entities and leave the reader utterly confused.

On the other hand - if we are talking Sci/fi - too much info before the reader has an emotional investment and reader gives up (the reason that most people these days wouldn't enjoy a Jules Verne novel).

Holbrook
June 2nd, 2004, 05:50 AM
Info dumps. I hate them! I try not to use them or use my characters to convey then info or space them out or keep them "in keeping" with the story at that point.

I dislike it when you reach a point in a story and a writer launches into explaining everything. Why such and such is like so and the character's great Aunt fanny kept bees etc....etc... It often has no point to it... no reason at all. It also slows the story and I find my self wondering why at that point?

This is an info dump I have used and I think it is one of the biggest I have ever written, yes the tense is wrong in part of it and wants re-doing *g*


So Stephen you have made a promise and one has been made to you?

“You also step so far out of line of your existence then?” My thoughts addressed that which had ridden the wind that had caressed Stephen’s cheek. The Elementals snapped at me, their soft tendrils echoing their annoyance that I am now aware of them placing themselves on the game board.

“You haven’t answered me,” my thoughts hammered again at them.
“No choice have we; none. The enemy moves; eating at all that grows and creates.” Words coated in the four colours of earth, air, fire and water surrounded me.

“Then like I, my brother husband and sister wife, you rely on the deeds of men to undo the deeds of men?” My thoughts were brittle, painful for me to think and for they to hear.

But anon, here I must leave. Other choices will be made this day in another places, there I must be to listen. First south, morning still in the City of Volesford, aye, the city that lay on the ford on the mighty River Vole. If the land of Haflen had no anointed King, it did have a Queen; this city. Largest of all the great Guild run cities, see, there it sits, embedded deep in the tight oxbow of the River Vole.

Autumn’s distinctive colour has painted the trees on the city’s edge with the same shades that lives within its blast furnaces. The air of the western quarter is thick with the tang of ore and charcoal smoke. Narrow soot grimed streets ring to the sound of metal hitting metal. Gold, tin, silver, iron and copper miners have carved out of the Gfwyrdd Mountains and sent down river to be worked in alleys and streets of the smith’s warren.

In Mark Street the gold smiths, with deft fingers, teased the valuable yellow metal into objects of beauty and adornment. Copper smelters at the end of the Tuck, muttered oaths and sweated, as they poured the bright metal out to cool in the bright early morning air. The sound of tin hammers rapped around Clover End, deafening master and apprentice alike. In the large workings in Tap Street, the master sword smith smiled in amusement, as he watches the men complete the rekindling of the hearths.

This is achieved swiftly; for this morning more than one blade would be baptised in the quenching baths. The country was at war and swords were a currency all there own.

But the mighty metal workers’ guild was not the only one that plied their trade in the city. Weavers of cloth, clay potters, glass workers and many more worked and lived within the city’s sandstone walls. Merchants also traded, in wares from far-flung countries. Mountains of silks, spices and carved mother of pearl travelled up from the southern sea on brightly painted river barges.

Fine wools, ivory and gems came over the plains from the east. And from the north came furs and the fine metal craft of the Gweithiwr Haearn clan. These were carried on mottled pony-back over the high pass. Dark skinned traders in rare oils and perfumes bartered the contents of caravans, which had crossed the perilous Penglog Desert, in ill-lit reed strewn rooms far from their tented villages.

Volesford was considered by many to be the greatest of the free guild cities. The metropolis was said to stand above the petty strife and politics of the Kingdom. It was also said by many a wag; only a fool thought the King ruled Volesford. Aye only a fool, but the fool would soon be the wisest of all.

But to my business here; another cusp that all pass through; that of boy to man, girl to woman, important to them; and important to me. I would witness the beginning of two such events this bright autumn day.

KatG
June 2nd, 2004, 11:29 AM
I think I have a fear - infodumpaphobia.

One mistake that many beginning authors make is to get so excited about the world they have constructed they assault the reader with all sorts of needless details about it - preventing the story from really getting started quickly.

This is something I try deserately to avoid. But lately I'm finding that a lot of published material starts out with more information about the world than I would have believed accptable.

You're confusing world-building disease with info dumps. They aren't the same thing.

World-building disease is when the writer is unsuccessful in using the created world effectively in the story. Whether a novel suffers from world-building disease tends to be a matter of opinion of style. The publisher of a published work certainly didn't feel the writer suffered from the disease and fans of the work don't either, but other readers may feel the writer didn't pull it off, or sometimes overdoes the detail. Regardless, there is no standard of weights and measures that dictates how much world info a writer can have and how the writer must convey it. It's a stylistic choice of the author's.

An info dump is the derogatory name given to a block of exposition, within or without a scene, from a character's pov or not, or block of dialogue in which factual information is conveyed about setting, characters, plot, etc. All writers use info dumps of one sort or another, to one extent or another. But they don't call them info dumps because there are many people running around the writing world screaming that info dumps are evil and awful and must never, ever be used, because some writers have used them awkwardly in the past. I've never quite understood the logic there, but it seems to be very important to these people to eradicate them from all fiction writing on Earth.

Unfortunately for them, it ain't gonna happen. But that doesn't mean that you have to use large info dumps yourself either. In some kinds of fantasy and science fiction, detailed setting is fairly vital to the story. While that may make leaving out info dumps difficult, it certainly isn't impossible. No one is forcing you to open your story with a long pan shot of the scenery before moving into the story action and main characters. No one forces you to start with immediate action either. (Well there are the "start with action" fanatics, but they are quite mild compared to the no info dumps and no adverb people and will probably leave you alone.)

If you think you may have too little descriptive and informative detail, you may very well have that problem, making it hard for the readers to visualize the story and characters in the way that you want them to do. Getting readers to read specifically for this issue may help. Quite often, a writer has elements worked out in his head, but didn't get it down on the page, but can't see that it is missing because he knows that info. Another pair of eyes which ask, "Why does Gorn want to be a wizard anyway?" can sometimes help you discover the holes.

choppy
June 2nd, 2004, 03:19 PM
Thanks for the responses guys. That point about world-building disease makes a lot of sense.

I'm starting to think that what might work (for me anyway), is to simply not worry about it - write it all down for the first draft - and then cut out what works and what doesn't work during my first edit.

Ironchef TexMex - I get a lot of those old person moments myself - and I'm only 29. Generally I mix it up. I write both science fiction and fantasy although lately I've been focussing on the SF side. (You know how they say you're not supposed to write a western and call it Sci-Fi? I believe I'm doing exactly what I'm not supposed to do.)

ironchef texmex
June 2nd, 2004, 04:12 PM
Ironchef TexMex - I get a lot of those old person moments myself - and I'm only 29. Generally I mix it up. I write both science fiction and fantasy although lately I've been focussing on the SF side. (You know how they say you're not supposed to write a western and call it Sci-Fi? I believe I'm doing exactly what I'm not supposed to do.)

Then forget world building, you've got real problems! Listen closely. If you hear scratching outside of your window at night that's probably a certain Sci/fi master risen from the dead (I don't want to say the name - bad karma - so I'll cleverly disguise it by just saying that it rhymes with spaz-i-mov). I know it'll be difficult to decipher, so good luck.

I'd recommend that you do just what you said: blaze through the book then worry about detail on the rewrite. Keep in mind that if it's Sci/fi, atmosphere is often more about setting a mood than actually giving the reader a mental picture. Many Sci/fi writers like to leave a good deal of space for the reader to insert their own mental ideas. And if you ever start getting down on yourself and feeling like your work is falling below some unwritten absolute, pick up a Phillip K. Dick book. Some of his are positively bare. Still good though.

And if you do have a run in with the undead version of a former Chemistry prof turned author remember, fire and acid. Also, books with fully developed characters work just like crosses. ;)

JRMurdock
June 2nd, 2004, 09:14 PM
I'm guilty of info dumping. What I do with Info dumps (Those large bulky paragraphs that suck the life and speed out of my work) is I throw them in during the first draft. I TRY to make them stand out. Once I do the sencond run through, I TRY to find a spot to more easily explain or work the details into that portion of the story. When you're writing about Gnomes and you want them to be different than any gnomes anyone has ever seen and it's the main character in your story, you need to info dump. How? Describe the character and why his nose is so big, why his eyes are so large, etc. This makes the info dump feel more like description and less work on the reader.

But there are times where a block of info does the trick as long as it doesn't prattle on for 10-15 pages. It has to do something to improve the story. I'm not much of a world builder (meaning I don't build up my own religion, my own calendar, my own dual sun system). I instead put the characters into the world and move them around. If they don't see it, it must not be that important. If they do see it, I'm probably going to work it into a plot twist in that or a later book (as I have plotted out my series).

Don't knock info dumps. In first drafts I feel they're invaluable. In second drafts, they should have their lines smoothed and by your final draft, blend perfectly into your canvas.

That's my opinion. :)