Good morning everyone!
One thing I love about writing is how we can create anything we can think of. I mean, how awesome is it that entire worlds, ecosystems, people, and sciences are created with a thought?
There’s just one problem: Info dumping.
What is info dumping?
Basically, it’s dumping tons of information into our readers’ laps. Think of it as someone setting a twenty pound bad of laundry (or anything) in your lap while you’re trying to concentrate on something.
Not fun, am I right?
Now, don’t get me wrong, info dumping isn’t necessarily a bad thing. For me, it depends on how much energy we inject into it that makes it good or bad. There are two ways to handle it.
The first is to share the world’s history we’ve created in huge chunks at a time. Sometimes, we can extend this into a couple of chapters. It’s so easy to do, it’s scary. As a group, we love to share information, especially things we don’t think anyone else knows or we just want to share. How many times have we gone on tangents, bending a friend or a stranger’s ear when asked a question about something we love? I know I’ve done it more times than I care to think about, and I’ve gotten my share of “Will you shut up already?” looks. Lol
In a way, this method reminds me of writing reports in school where the teachers wanted the facts and nothing but the facts. That may be why it’s so easy for us to fall into the habit and the robotic feel reading these often cause. I’m sure there are plenty of other reasons. These are just the one’s I’m familiar with.
The biggest problem with this is, while we may find the information fascinating, not everyone else will. A great example of this is from one of Tom Clancy’s books (I can’t remember which one), where he spent nine pages describing the mechanics of a nuclear bomb explosion from detonation to the final boom. I’m a huge fan of his Jack Ryan universe, but sometimes he got too technical. I like to refer to this as reading stereo instructions, and we all know how much fun reading the directions are.
As I mentioned earlier, there’s nothing really wrong with this method as long as it’s what we think will work best for our stories. The question is, if we don’t want to use this method, how do we avoid it?
That brings us to the second method, and my personal favorite, of having our readers explore the world with our characters. While this can be difficult at times, it can also be pretty easy once we become used to it. One of the best tricks I’ve found is to imagine walking with our characters as though we’ve always belonged there. As our characters come across towns, laws, and people, it opens the doors to other back stories that we can use to flesh out our world.
Think of it like this: Our character comes across a one-eyed man with a scar along the side of his face. Now think of how and why he has the scar. Was it in a street fight? A war? An accident?
See how easy and fun that can be? If it’s fun for us, it’ll probably be fun for our readers.
The main difference between the two methods is by diving right into the story, we bring our readers along and add immediate energy into our story. What more can we ask for than that?
In the end, it comes down to which method we feel works better for our stories. As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Which method do you prefer? Is there another trick you use to avoid or use info dumping?
Until next time, my friends. Let your imagination fly!