1. richardclayton53
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    richardclayton53 Member

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    Are Info Dumps ever acceptable?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by richardclayton53, Apr 29, 2013.

    Hi guys

    Just a quick question to get your feedback on info dumps in novels. I have always been of the opinion that these were bad, that it was always the old maxim "show, dont tell" but recently i feel i need to give the reader a whole chunk of information about the town where my story is set, and dont really know the best way.

    I toyed with the idea of just drip feeding small bits of info throughout the narrative, but i'm not sure. At the moment i have the main character bored one morning as his mother sleeps off a few too many the previous evening, and he surfs the internet and googles the town they have ended up in, with a brief snippet of what he found.

    If anyone is interested i could paste up the section i'm talking about. But wanted to hear peoples reactions to info dumps, and are they ever acceptable?

    Thanks guys! :)
     
  2. idle
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    idle Active Member

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    I'm just reading Zoo City by Lauren Beukes and she dealt with info dumps in an insteresting way: instead of feeding the reader with the facts, she inserted (as separate chapters) "documents" - an article on something, a description of a film (like from IMDB), an interview with a musician. They don't exactly explain "how the world works" but give you the idea. Realistic and not boring.
     
  3. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    I would say that they are, and sometimes they are necessary. The key, however, is in disguising it so that it doesn't appear that it's an info dump. If it's immediately recognized as an info dump, it's wrong (and therefore, not acceptable).

    There is a difference between sharing the journey of a character who needs to find out something - such as you describe with your character finding out something on the internet that he did not know, versus the characters telling us something that they already know, but the reader does not. That's unnatural and strange. You need some valid reason for a character to say something that he already knows.
     
  4. Ian J.
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    Ian J. Active Member

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    I can see why they're not liked, but sometimes they are useful to impart information that readers 'need' to know. So the information helps understand the story but the sub-story of how that information comes about is perhaps, in itself, boring. What I would do as a writer is condense the information as succinctly as possible into a section that gets out of the way as quickly as possible so the reader can get on with the 'meat' of the story.

    But if, as a writer, you can find a way to avoid the info dump then try and do so.
     
  5. Thornesque
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    Thornesque Contributing Member

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    We recently had a similar thread to this, and someone made a very good point:

    It's not an info-dump if the information is necessary, and the reader manages to be entertained/interested in what was being said during the relaying of the information. So the answer is: yes, you can relay crucial information in a nice and neat way and it will be acceptable. However, info-dumping, by definition, cannot be done well.
     
  6. richardclayton53
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    richardclayton53 Member

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    Thanks guys, much help from you all as usual! I agree that if its done in such a way as to keep the reader engrossed in the story it shouldnt really matter! :)
     
  7. Gallowglass
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    Gallowglass Contributing Member Contributor

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    I've taken a similar tack. Whenever the readers need to know something, one of the characters thumbs through old broadsheets or video reels which give them the jist of things. It doesn't shove the reader out of the narrative like a straight-up infodump does, and may even enhance it. Infinitely better, in my opinion.
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    An infodump is never acceptable, because excess is part of the definition of an infodump.

    If you are asking whether a large block of exposition is ever acceptable, the answer is yes. It is rarely a good idea, but that doesn't mean never. If you have to ask the qustion, you shouldn't attempt it until you have more experience under your belt.
     
  9. Ian J.
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    Ian J. Active Member

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    True, info-dumps of unnecessary information are no-no. But then arguably any words in a story that don't either tell the story or tell us something about a character that influences the story, shouldn't be in the piece.

    What's confusing is that to all intents and purposes an info-dump and a detailed exposition could look exactly the same. The only difference would be in the context of whether what was being said was necessary to the story or not.

    I think there might be a general usage of the term 'info-dump' to mean either of those, rather than just the one.
     
  10. Somnus
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    I'd be interested to know in what sense your info-dump is necessary - is there anything unique about your town that we imperatively MUST know? While our knowledge of some area-types might be largely stereotypical, we will likely take that model and apply it to an unknown location in writing. The only reason I feel an info-dump would be utterly needed (especially in a story set in our world) is when the said location differs from stereotypes so completely that we NEED to know a particular piece of information as to understand what's going on.
    When dealing in paranormal/otherworldly occurences (this isn't in your question, I know, but it bears relevance), then some background might be interesting - but if it's paranormal activity on Earth, we can learn about it at the same time as the characters (same goes for being teleported to new planets/locations (which applies to your question indirectly)), following their explorations, questions, and independent researches; if the MC is a native on an alien planet, I suppose we'll have to deal with slow 'eyedrops' of information (unless, again, there is an essential piece of the puzzle missing).
     

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