1. Joran Selemis
    Offline

    Joran Selemis Member

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2009
    Messages:
    80
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Sydney, Australia

    Incidental Infodump

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Joran Selemis, Sep 21, 2009.

    So let's say you had a fantasy/sci-fi story (since they're the only ones I know which rely heavily on infodumps) and you wanted to tell the reader what has happened so far (the infodump, for those of you who are not familiar with the term) but you want to do it in a sneaky way. Could any of you give advice on, say, the character finding the information piece by piece and the reader having to piece it all together? Because this is an idea I'm toying with.

    Example: "The wind blew dirt and small stones across the street. To the side, the rustle of a newspaper boldly proclaiming 'Council disbands' sounded more ominous than it was, and made the boy want to get home quickly."

    This is just a rough outline, but you get the idea. The story would be littered with upwards of twenty of these. Any feedback? Advice? Comments? Or maybe you just plain hate the idea; that's good too.
     
  2. arron89
    Offline

    arron89 Banned

    Joined:
    Oct 10, 2008
    Messages:
    2,460
    Likes Received:
    91
    Location:
    Auckland
    For a start, telling the reader what has happened so far is not necesasrily an info-dump. Exposition is a necessary part of fiction (generally). The "info-dump" only exists where the information is being told in a boring way. A good writer can write pages and pages of pure exositon and it won't necessarily be a "dump" - a poor writer can make an info-dump out of a few sentences.

    If you plan on scattering details throughout the novel, which is probably a good idea, then the example you give is probably decent. Although, you need to make sure that what you are showing the reader when you do this are things that they need to know, or will build on their understanding of the world. Contrary to some people's beliefs, I don't need to know the entire history and culture of a society to be able to experience it, so be careful that you don't fall into te trap of wanting to show the reader all of the world you've created when all they really need to see is a tiny bit of it.
    And don't enumerate them arbitrarily. If you set out with a target of 20 info-drops, you'll either constrain yourself with too few, or burden yourself with too many.
     
  3. Joran Selemis
    Offline

    Joran Selemis Member

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2009
    Messages:
    80
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Sydney, Australia
    Yes the whole point of scattering them throughout the story is to make the reader relate more closely with the characters, since even they don't know what has happened to their world. And I gave the number 20 just so people didn't think there would only be three in the whole thing or one in each sentence, but clearly you didn't.

    Thanks for the advice.
     
  4. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    Providing revealing details about the story or the charactrers is called exposition, and is an important component of good storytelling. Infodumping is providing more information than the reader is prepared to make use of. It need not be a lot of information. A single sentence that a character has an ex-wifer in Vegas, where she is raising a daughter he has yet to actually meet, is an infodump if it occurs before it has any relevance to the story. You could argue that it is relevant to understanding the character, but it will be far more relevant when you reach a point in the story that the character's estrangement from his wife, or having a daughter he doesn't have a irelationship with, actually means something.

    The most common and abhorred version of the infodump is the background prologue. It feeds information the reader has no reason to care about, and no way to relate it to the story. The same information sprinkled later in the story can provide "Ah hah!" moments. Understanding why the infodump is so despised is key to how to provide the same nuggets of information in a more effective way.

    As described, I can't say whewther your idea avoids the infodump pain or not. The key is to make the information that is revealed relate to something in the story that is already know, especially a hanging question. (Why is he so emotionally moved by a runaway child? Oh, he can relate because he has a mystery daughter of his own, and it aches that he doesn't know her better)
     
  5. architectus
    Offline

    architectus Banned

    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2008
    Messages:
    1,796
    Likes Received:
    14
    Location:
    Ca
    If it is a mystery, you probably need to share what seems like irrelevant information.

    The example sentence you gave is a lot of China Meivelle's Perdidio Street Station. He does this sort of thing a lot. I think you are world building in the way he does, so I don't see a problem with it.
     
  6. ManhattanMss
    Offline

    ManhattanMss Contributing Member

    Joined:
    May 14, 2009
    Messages:
    626
    Likes Received:
    14
    If this is an example of what you're calling an infodump, by all means, bring 'em on! It's interesting and foreboding and suggestive and all the things a tidbit oughta bit, in my view.
     
  7. Carthonn
    Offline

    Carthonn Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 13, 2008
    Messages:
    407
    Likes Received:
    32
    "Every sentence must do one of two things — reveal character or advance the action."
     
  8. arron89
    Offline

    arron89 Banned

    Joined:
    Oct 10, 2008
    Messages:
    2,460
    Likes Received:
    91
    Location:
    Auckland
    ^ NOOOOOOOO

    Sorry, it just really REALLY annoys me when I see this. Writing doesn't have to be that Utilitarian. Is it a good idea to veer away from your plot or your characters for extended periods of time? No, probably not. But short digressions here and there are perfectly fine, and, in a lot of cases, really add to the strecgth of a work. If every sentence was simply a function of the story, it would be boring. Writing is an art form--if you choose to be abolsutely minimal and functional, that's okay, and if you choose to be wordy and extravagent, that's okay too.

    Personally, I feel that any story writte like that (not that I've ever read one--in fact, I dont believe they could possbily exist) would be terrible.
     
  9. HorusEye
    Offline

    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2009
    Messages:
    1,215
    Likes Received:
    48
    Location:
    Denmark
    Things don't have to be 100% direct in order to reveal character or plot. Try looking at some of the things you feel add to a story but aren't either advancing the plot or revealing character, and you might see that they actually do that, in some subtle and indirect way. Someone here referred to when Gandalf tells Frodo about the One Ring as being an interesting kind of infodump, but notice that scene actually reveals both character and plot and is not an infodump at all. Even things like having your MC go on and on about how much he loved his mothers pancakes as a child, reveals character. Dry history lessons, on the other hand, if not critical to the plot, will most likely be considered infodumps.
     
  10. Carthonn
    Offline

    Carthonn Active Member

    Joined:
    Aug 13, 2008
    Messages:
    407
    Likes Received:
    32
    Some of the best novels I've read adhered to it.
     
  11. arron89
    Offline

    arron89 Banned

    Joined:
    Oct 10, 2008
    Messages:
    2,460
    Likes Received:
    91
    Location:
    Auckland
    ^ Like what? I'd love to read them...
     

Share This Page