1. Youniquee
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    Youniquee (◡‿◡✿) Contributor

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    Info dumping?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Youniquee, Dec 10, 2010.

    Newbie = Asks to many questions.

    I'm writing my novel at the moment and I just want to know if this is an example of an info dump:
    She looked down at her fists. Alexis wanted to know but no matter how hard she looked within her memories, only pictures of her adoptive family filled her. Their laughs and smiles- they were good to her and she wouldn’t trade them for the world but she wanted to know the truth. So many times had she hoped it wasn’t because she failed to be good enough. She fingered the necklace through the cloth of her t-shirt. It was the only proof of her existence in those missing years.

    If it is, how do I avoid info dumps..hmm I seem bad at it.
    And by the way, this only a first draft so it will be improved. Forget the SPAG and the flow of my words for now ^^;
    Thanks :)
     
  2. SashaMerideth
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    SashaMerideth Contributing Member

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    That's more characterization than infodump to me. It would get info-dumpy if you started talking more about the adoptive family, names, hair color, TV watching preferences...
     
  3. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I agree. I do not think that qualifies as an 'info dump.'
     
  4. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    Doesn't seem like an info dump to me, and I am thinking I see a lot of those in contemporary fiction. xD
     
  5. FrankABlissett
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    FrankABlissett Active Member

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    Nowhere near an info-dump.

    An info dump can be summarized as "before we get back to the story itself I have a whole bunch of information that I'd really, really like to tell you - so I'll stop the story a while to tell you."

    We all know people (and may be ourselves the sort) who start telling a quick story, but veer off into back stories and "first you need to know"s. A cute, or funny or poignant story gets bogged down in "ugh! maybe I can fake getting a cell phone call" land.

    If you do find that a passage is way too bogged down explaining, either trim it back, or turn it into its own story.

    -Frank
     
  6. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I don't even think that would qualify as an info dump (other than the TV watching preferences, if not relevant to the story). It depends on how much of your characters you think the reader should know. To me, an info-dump is a long passage of background information that doesn't relate directly to the story.
     
  7. goldhawk
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    goldhawk Senior Member

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    If it's one paragraph, you can get away with it. But I have a question. Is her hunt for the truth a major part of the story? If so, you may want to consider making her more active in expressing her feelings. I hate to say it, but to me, it seems you are telling, not showing.
     
  8. Youniquee
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    Youniquee (◡‿◡✿) Contributor

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    Nope, it's minor. Something else is :)
    Well, I wanted a balance in between telling and showing.
    I don't want to do to over do the showing bit.
     
  9. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    Add my vote to not info-dump. Why? Not because it's interior characterization or because it's only 1 paragraph, but because it seems to be the truth of the moment for the character. It's what the character is actually going through, so by definition isn't info dump, but simply depicting a character accurately and truthfully.

    Even one sentence of information outside of the context of a character can be bad. But if you character is thinking and feeling these things, that's just good, emphatic writing.
     
  10. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    The only way to 'show' interior feelings and motivations of a character is to clumsily take a step back from them, pulling the reader outside of the character's experiences, and thus creating less empathy for/through the character.

    What would the alternative be? The character shaking her fists, twisting them at her eyes like a mime, trying to intimate the things she's feeling in that moment?

    I respect your right to have an opinion and express it, but believe (as almost always) going to the 'show, don't tell' advise isn't good in this instance, because there aren't many more elegant or effective ways of 'showing' internal emotions, thoughts and motivations than simply delivering them on the page as if we're seeing inside the very head and heart of the character.

    This ability to see inside a character is one of the only advantages fiction maintains over other mediums like movies, stage and tv... why take that away?
     
  11. Edward G
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    Edward G Banned

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    What's an info dump? In my opinion, it is an akward revealing of information.

    Every story has to reveal information. Flashbacks are often used, and I suppose one could call those an info dump. Here's an info dump, or at least the best I can do:

    "Hello, Pam," he said, his eyes not rising above her latests breast augmentation.

    "Dan; I should have known it was you, MBA, blackbelt, workaholic, left your mother in a nursing home as soon as you secured the Power of Attorney that made your signature hers. How the hell are you?"

    "Fine, so long as I get the pulled-pork sandwich I like to eat each day at the deli."

    "We have a new client, you know. Not bad since Info Dump has has only been open five days and we never advertised our company."
     
  12. popsicledeath
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    popsicledeath Banned

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    Yes.

    Info Dump is often applied to any bit of information, but imo it's only when information serves no purpose than to be information dumped in by the reader.

    So, to me, this would be info dump:

    "I'm doing fine," George said. George likes to pet kittens.


    Unless that's what George is actively thinking about or feeling in that moment, it's only purpose is the writer feels information needs to be dumped on the reader outside the context of a character, moment, or scene.

    Unless the character is literally having a flashback, then it's almost always infodump of the worst kind, because instead of just getting the information out, the writer tries to make it interesting. But interesting blocks of irrelevant text are no more relevant than uninteresting tidbits of irrelevant text.

    If a flashback or bit of information is relevant, then work it into the story in the context of the actual story. If you can't, then, well, I don't know what to say but that hundreds and thousands of other writers can, and may just end up taking your spot on a bookshelf. :/
     
  13. dizzyspell
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    dizzyspell Active Member

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    Probably the easiest way of getting it out is through character archetypes and their dialogue. A friend and I were talking about this the other day.

    You know how in fantasy, there's often the wise old man who explains everything? They're kind of an info-dump device. Of course, this can be done really badly, and it can turn out very clichéd. You can get it wrong as often as you get it right.
    But, as readers, I would say we are more open to learning about characters from 'Mr. Exposition' than from the anonymous narrator.
     
  14. HeinleinFan
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    HeinleinFan Banned

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    Rule of thumb: when explanation or information goes on for a paragraph or longer by itself, and thereby takes the reader out of the flow of the story, it's an infodump.

    You're well within the paragraph rule-of-thumb, and it seems to be a natural extension of the character's thoughts. So you should be fine.
     
  15. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    Unnatural dialogue is the worst kind of info dump. I see it all the time in movies.

    "Hello my older brother Jake! How is our mother Julia doing after her four weeks in bed with a broken hip?"

    The best rule for avoiding it: Never have a character say something to another character that they would already know. I.e. Jake bloody well knows he's the older brother.
     
  16. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    To OP my general rule of thumb is does my reader really need to know that to get the story. What you have seems fine.

    I have one of them I call him my wikkipedia character lol if someone needs to find out why to something they go to him. I made him verbose and worldly wise he is such a fun character to write.

    True but you could say 'Hey big brother.' 'Or sure little brother what ever you say.' They already know that but they may say it to each other.

    'Hey big brother - Hows Mum? Is her hip still bothering her? How long has she been down now?'

    Not the best piece of dialogue I have ever written but it is just a case of looking at it and thinking how to ask the questions. You can get the same information in that way.
     
  17. Youniquee
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    Youniquee (◡‿◡✿) Contributor

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    Thanks for the feedback everyone
    Lol at 'The old wise man' thing.
    The main characters can find out bit by bit from other characters right?
    Lets say..like the enemy?
     
  18. VM80
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    VM80 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes, of course.

    I'd be careful about 'the enemy' explaining things too much.

    Sometimes they go into long, detailed explanations, especially towards the end, which is a technique that I don't think always works.
     
  19. FrankABlissett
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    FrankABlissett Active Member

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    Don't worry too much about info-dumps in early drafts though - so long as you're willing and able to prune them down later. In that way, they become a sort of "note taking". I'll sometimes info-dump when I'm writing and suddenly get a brain full of ideas. Immediately after, though, I transfer those ideas to my "notes".

    -Frank
     
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  20. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    If you need to take notes, do so, but you shouldn't clutter up your manuscript with them. Keep a separate document or repository for notes.

    The problem with putting it in the manuscript is that it tends to bleed into the rest of the story. If you keep it separate from the start, you'll always have it in mind that it is subject to change. Backstory in particular should be kept separate, because you are likely to reshape it as your main story develops - or you should.

    I know a lot of people would rather keep the floodgates open for the initial draft, and then shovel out the slop after. Many of those same writers grow reluctant when it is time to ruthlessly carve away what they have written. A stunning description in a scene which otherwise has no place in the story is hard to throw away, but much easier if you didn't put it there in the first place.\

    In other words, if you know when you're writing it in that you will have to rip it out later, leave it out now.
     
  21. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    You're right. There's often ways around lazy and phony-sounding info dumps, if you stop assuming the reader is dim, and doesn't need the info spelled out directly. In other words, just hinting at how things fit together.
     
  22. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I have always taking the attitude that if I assume my readers are stupid that is the kind of readers I will get lol
     
  23. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm gonna stick this on my mantra board. :p
     
  24. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    IDK, it seems like you're damned if you do and damned if you don't these days. If you tell them too much, you're info dumping. If you don't tell them too much, you're leaving things too ambiguous. It's like no matter what you do, you piss off somebody. :rolleyes:
     
  25. Taylee91
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    Taylee91 Carpe Diem Contributor

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    ^Yeah, I agree. Every reader has a different taste for various elements in a story, and boy some can be real picky. I personally like less info disclosure and instead want to cut to the chase of things and see the story take off quickly.

    But if your story is good, I don't think your reader will over-bearingly mind to have more info or what not. If it's a compelling tale, they'll keep at your story and trust you as the author. That's not to say you should over-step boundaries and go on to describe about some character of yours. Just be moderate if you can.

    ^To me, this is perfect just the way it is. It actually isn't an info dump, so you don't need to worry.
     

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