Updated: Nov 13
Today we are going to talk a little about the info-dump. Many to the power of infinity authors commit this heinous writing act.
Let's go over some of the main kinds of info-dumps that you are going to avoid like good little students.
A big problem in the fantasy and SF genres. This is where the author has decided to commit pages upon pages to their world's back story. They ramble on endlessly about old kings and great battles.
Now, this is not necessarily a problem if those things are integral to the plot, but even then, there is a better way of going about giving the information to the readers than in a long history text-like manner.
Fantasy/SF writers like to emulate the classic authors and write hefty prologues, but there really is little place for this in the modern age. Don't get me wrong, some people can and will do this beautifully, chances are you are not one of them. Sorry.
A good rule of thumb to follow is this: If it has nothing to do with the plot and current story, it doesn't need to be there. If it does, then try to add it as you go. Readers like information to be revealed to them as they read along. No one wants to do a bunch of work right at the beginning just to understand the premise.
The 'Look How Smart I Am'
This kind of info-dump really encompasses the term.
To write your novel, you have done a ton of research, and you've learned some super interesting things along the way! And now, all you want to do is share that new knowledge with the rest of the world.
These authors overflow their pages with technical jargon, meaningless explanations of scientific or social issues, or just plain use their novel as a platform to spout their personal opinions on matters that have absolutely nothing to do with their story's plot.
By no means is this EVER okay.
Reason one: It bores the hell out of your readers.
Reason two: It can alienate your readers because it's so clear you're trying to 'educate' them.
Reason three: It will keep you from ever getting published.
Many famous authors do this. It might not be considered an info-dump per se, but it is a distant cousin. This one is where the authors go on...and on...and on, and on and on, and on...about something that has nothing to do with the plot at all. Stephen King is bad for this, to the point where I can barely get through some of his books (just my opinion. Calm down King fans).
This is something we all do, and it is easily rectified through the rewrite process and hiring a good developmental editor/manuscript critic who is competent at their job.
Again, if it has nothing to do with the plot, get it outta there.
The 'You Just Had to Be There'
This is another distant, distant cousin of the info-dump.
The problem occurs when the author glosses over an important part of the plot. Instead of making a scene (or scenes) where the character comes to a realization, finds out something vital, or really does anything that drives the plot forward, they instead tell us about it in a number of paragraphs to 'catch the reader up.'
This one gets similar advice to the others. If it's important to the plot, get it IN there!
Some authors write scenes to the opposite effect. They will have entire scenes, or even chapters, dedicated to things that do not have any importance whatsoever. If you're writing a novel that involves a great deal of travel, and you have three chapters about the journey where nothing important to the plot happens until they reach their destination, you have fallen into this trap. Turn around; you've reached the "No publishing beyond this point sign."
Remember to show don't tell! (The important stuff that is.)