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  1. fantasy girl
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    fantasy girl Contributing Member

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    avoiding the dreaded info-dump

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by fantasy girl, Jun 23, 2009.

    In the second chapter of my novel, I need to tell the reader some backstory about the MC to set the foundations about why he is so protective over his family. The thing is, I don't know how to do this without info-dumping. I have thought about the MC maby telling his closest friend about it or something because it is all getting to much for him, but I want some other choices. Can anyone help me. All ideas are wecome.
     
  2. Gallowglass
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    Gallowglass Contributing Member Contributor

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    Let readers get the impression through dialogue. Don't tell them anything too blatantly unless the circumstances are perfect. Give them hints and clues every now and then. Trust your readers, they're intelligent - they've bought your book! ;)

    (or have at least been intelligent enough to accept a bribe to read it jk)
     
  3. fantasy girl
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    fantasy girl Contributing Member

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    thanks, what i was going to do was have the MC breake down infront of his friend or something after saying nothing is wrong for weeks, and have him tell his friend in a convo or something, is this a good idea?
     
  4. SingToMeMuse
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    I had this with one of my characters too, his father is paranoid about his sons oneday overpowering him so he constantly beats them down (sometimes physically) it's very important for the reader to know for the big climax in the end. I tried to put it as a small flashback in the first chapter. People told me it kind of slowed it down. So I found a way to show his fear of his father by creating a chapter where his father attacks his younger brother, I was able to convey all the horror, rage, and helplessness of the character in this moment, plus make a very intense moment with my hero and heroine when she is stunned that he did nothing to help.

    See if there is someway you can't weave your backstory into the novel like that. I think him telling a friend about it could possibly work or maybe he could discuss his past experiance with his wife maybe? Telling her how it haunts him to think if anything ever happened to her (thier children?) I don't know how your novel plays out but this could be told when things are getting a little more intense as a way to simmer things down a bit but also raise the stakes at the same time.
     
  5. Gallowglass
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    Gallowglass Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's a good idea. Sometimes I have to explain things to my readers by getting my characters involved in arguments (it always helps to have a firebrand in your character's retinue, just to keep the story interesting ;)) which explain the situation. I suppose other dramatic scenes would also work, although as I rarely use them I wouldn't know too much about them (drama is my speciality, but it's never too obvious in what I write...).
     
  6. fantasy girl
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    fantasy girl Contributing Member

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    I would talk to his wife but the MC is only 13, but maybe his girlfriend would work!
     
  7. Scribe Rewan
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    Scribe Rewan Contributing Member

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    Are there events later in the chapter or in the next chapter or two that the reader would not be able to understand/ not enjoy if they did not know the whole backstory? SingToMeMuse's point about weaving the backstory in throughout the novel is a good one - I've actually discovered after a long time of info dumping backstory myself that what I thought the reader needed to know they didn't. Now when I write backstory I deliberatley write less than I think the reader needs to know. This way it gives them an insight into the character, but not a complex psychological profile, as it were, plus it keeps them guessing.

    It's hard to say without knowing exactly what info needs to be conveyed, and how it affects later events/ reader perception, but I think that whilst finding a subtle way to lead into a massive section of backstory is good, sprinkling it throughout is a lot more effective. Dunno, maybe I'm talking rubbish though :p
     
  8. fantasy girl
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    fantasy girl Contributing Member

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    once i have written it i will post it on the thread with the first cha[pter and you can have a look!
     
  9. seta
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    seta Contributing Member

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    Instead of info-dumping about my character's history, I only allude to it in conversation.

    It occurs to me that readers may actually be insulted if you spell it out for them.
     
  10. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Why? What would happen if the reader only sees his overprotectiveness without knowing where it comes from?

    The question isn't how to disguise an infodump to make it easy to swallow. That't like burying a heartworm pill in hamburger to feed it to your dog. No matter how you disguise it, ol' Rusty will still gently deposit the pill at yoru feet after the meat is gone.

    The first thing is to seriously question whether the reader wants or needs to know it to begin with. If you're really honest with yourself, the answer will very often be no.

    If you are convinced that the reafer really MUST know te background, start whittling away at it. Exactly what in the background does the reader need to know, and why? Does the reader need it right this moment, or can you leave it as an unanswered question for a while? It is not a bad thing at all to make the reader wait for answers!

    Again, however, first be sure the reader cannot get by without knowing.
     
  11. fantasy girl
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    fantasy girl Contributing Member

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    Cogito: IMO this information does need to be told now as in the next few chapters the MC has an accident and because of that keeps slippin in and out of conciousness, he can hear everything that is going on around him and all that but can do nothing about it. the thing is he hears the docors say they are going to put him into an artificial coma fpr his own saftey but he really doesn't want to as 'needs' to be there for his mum as she is in a bad relationship with her boyfriend. the thing i don't want to do is tell the reader then as i want them to already know about the relation ship so they can sympithise with him more.
     

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