1. Ged
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    Ged Senior Member

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    Is this an info dump?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Ged, Oct 6, 2009.

    First of all, hi, I'm new here :D

    I've been reading this forum for some days now, and only today did I have the courage to register. I think I'll start posting soon in other threads, but at the moment I have a question which gnaws at me. Sort of :p

    I guess it's all right if I post a small excerpt from a book, right? The rules say it's OK if it's a small quote. Hopefully it is. If not, I'll remove it.

    The question is: is that an info dump? I've read a lot about them, but I'm not so good at detecting them myself. I don't want my work to be riddled with info dumps and such.

    Personally, it doesn't bother me, at all. It's [sort of] short and interesting. What do you think?
     
  2. KP Williams
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    KP Williams Contributing Member

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    Hallo thar. Good to see a new virtual face. :rolleyes:

    Since this isn't in the right board for a critique, I won't offer advice on the text itself. I'll only say yes, I would consider that an info dump. And judging from the way the paragraph starts, it looks like it doesn't have much to do with what's actually going on. It looks like you went off on a tangent based on part of the description of the scenery. It would be like writing a story about a guy preparing to jump off of a skyscraper, and then going on to talk about the skyscraper and why it was built. It may be interesting, but it's most likely irrelevant and poorly placed.

    If you simply must talk about these bushes, don't do it while people are galloping around the countryside on horseback on what seems to be fairly urgent business. Perhaps instead you could show the effects of the plants through a character's own experiences with them.

    EDIT: Heh. I didn't realize that it was an already published novel, either. In that light, I don't feel so bad being brutally honest. If I were to find writing like this, especially with a sentence as long-winded as that opening line, in a published novel, I'd put it back on the shelf without a second thought. It just feels so unpolished. I find it hard to believe that any publisher would have given it the green light.
     
  3. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    Yes. You lost me in the first sentence, which is rather reminiscent of Bulwer-Lytton's "dark and stormy night" line. You're cramming way too much info into that sentence and it just gets worse as the paragraph continues.

    The problem here is that you start with action, and then digress to such a degree that the action is entirely forgotten.

    Try to stick with what your characters are actually doing, and keep the exposition relevant. It's an infodump because it doesn't really pertain to business at hand.

    Also, don't stretch your sentences to accomodate so many different points. A good sentence usually makes only one point.

    With all that said, I do see potential in the writing itself. . But I think you'll want to hold off on posting for a while. You'd do well to read through the review room and various threads in the general writing and SPaG forums. It won't take long to learn how to identify the most obvious goofs in your writing, and then you'll get more interesting feedback after you've done a thorough edit. Remember that you'd need to write two constructive reviews first, in any case.

    And I don't see anything wrong with your post. It's just a small quote, no biggie.:)
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I'd say it's either an infodump ur a transition. I don't know where Moorcock went next with the story. From what you show us, it looks like he lost focus on the riders who were crossing the land.

    But it may be that the riders' role is done for now, in which case it's not a bad segue for letting them fade into the distance. Now if Moorcock immediately pops back to the riders, then the berry talk is more of an infodump. It takes you out of the story just to slip in some "lecture notes." You've let your viewpoint drop.

    But it could be a smooth way to end a chapter or scene, to let the riders gallop ahead while the reader pauses to take a look around. It's both descriptive and informative, and the viewpoint dismounts at the plain while the riders disappear into the distance.
     
  5. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    Oops, I didn't even realise that was an excerpt from a book. Lol. In that case, the first sentence is terrible.:eek:
     
  6. ManhattanMss
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    ManhattanMss Contributing Member

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    I think it's a good example of the choice to inform (or "tell") the reader a bit about the setting. "Infodump" is a derogatory term for catching the reader up to speed when something more engaging would work better, with an eye toward painting a picture in some way other than just supplying details. IOW, an "infodump" reads like a shortcut of sorts. In good part, using the term "infodump" is a matter of degree (and judgement), and often it's not possible to make a good judgement out of context (like here). But I agree with you that it's very interesting, myself.
     
  7. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    I don't think it's an info dump, and if so, I like it. My favorite author, Dean Koontz does this sort of thing throughout his novel. I call it narration. It draws me into the world.

    Honestly, the first sentence is well written. It has one dependent clause, followed by a free modifier, an absolute phrase (I believe), and then a summative modifier, each flowing into the next. He gets right to the subject of the sentence, quickly followed by the verb and object. It is easy to read, follow, and understand. I believe it takes mastery to write a long and well constructed sentence like that.

    There really is only one thought in the sentence. People riding quickly on horses. Everything else is description of where they are riding. Anyway, I couldn't help but comment on it.

    Michael Moorcock is a great writer. There's a reason he won a Nebula, Bram Stoker Lifetime Achievement Award, SFWA Grand Master Award, Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame, among other hard-to-win awards.
     
  8. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you have won that many awards, you're above any rules about what to do and not do in a novel. ;)

    Said part in jest but fully in earnest. Someone who masters their medium can get away with things that beginners cannot. I think the info-dump rule is there to help beginners write more engaging stories, but once you know your tools really well you can begin to break the rules. All great writers and filmmakers I can think of will break rules time and again and it's even considered part of their style and voice.
     
  9. ManhattanMss
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    ManhattanMss Contributing Member

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    Well, not exactly. The term "infodump" is used to describe what a poor storyteller does when he realizes he forgot to write certain details into the story (or a passage that reads like that's what the author has done). Rather than going back and placing these things into the story in more interesting ways, he just creates a package of essential details and "dumps" 'em into the story when he realizes he needs to inform the reader more than he has. A really good writer wouldn't be "really good" if he used such lazy tactics.
     
  10. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, your definition of info dump differs from that of most people here, then.
    Of course, what you're describing is poor writing, but that's not the situation in all info dumps and surely not in the case above.
     
  11. ManhattanMss
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    ManhattanMss Contributing Member

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    Maybe that's because it's not an infodump, or at least it's debatable, given we don't have the context. Yes, I would not imagine the term "infodump" to be used in any way other than to describe substandard writing. It's a device used to excuse the writer's omission of details he believes the reader needs to know but doesn't because he's failed to include them elsewhere and tosses them in where it's convenient (typically, where he realizes they're missing), rather than skillfully "writing" them into the story. Maybe you could give me an example that illustrates how you're defining it--a good usage of an "infodump."

    Addendum: I just ran across a clever little story about infodumping I'll bet you'd enjoy at kith.org/journals/jed/2006/04/29/3504.html.
     
  12. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    Info dump as I understand it, and as many have described it here, is not really the sudden inclusion of critical information in a crude manner, but rather giving away information that the reader doesn't need in order to understand the plot and characters. Info dump is - in other words - over-information.

    Telling about the bushes and herbs is probably not very relevant to the story, but it adds some color to the world the characters inhabit. To some, that's an info dump, to others it would take more to qualify as that.
     

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