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  1. jonathan hernandez13
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    jonathan hernandez13 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Trying to avoid an info dump

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by jonathan hernandez13, Sep 20, 2011.

    Hello all,

    So, I am currently working on a SF novel that will require a bit of exposition. Sometimes in speculative fiction this is needed to establish a setting because some of the story involves building a world.

    The infamous info dump can be a major turn off for any reader though, and many people tune out at that point, so I may lose people as soon as I begin to drone on.

    I am at a point in the story where it is necessary to the story for me to reveal information, and I don't have the option of using other known techniques for getting around this problem.



    The major exposition sequence will take place in either the third or fourth chapter. Instead of having one chapter that's all expo I thought that maybe I can soften the blow by incorporating it into the prevous one and seperating the two parts with a (***) and line breaks.


    The MC will be in a state of deep suspended animation (like Rip Van Wrinkle). Huge amounts of time (epic Ice Age passages of time) will be taking place as he sleeps, and I need to give the reader a sense of the scope and scale.

    Not only are there geological events but interstellar events, wars, migrations, exodudes, etc.


    I could just ignore the expo and have the MC wake up many years later, and gradually reveal that he is essentially propelled to the future. I am afraid though that that approach will be too jarring. Of course, that approach may be fun for the reader, as the MC tries to put together the past it is also revealed for the reader.


    I look forward to all your advice, this is a big problem right now and almost any direction I can get is a step in the right direction.:)
     
  2. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    I reckon go halfway between.
    I don't think the majority of science fiction readers will hold exposition against you.

    I suggest you make a list of everything that goes on in between. Once complete, place a mark next to each item that can be explained or brought up later without an info dump (geological shifts can be explained simply: "Wait, where's Long Island?" "Oh, it got sunk a few years back. Now it's a canyon! HOORAY!"). Place a different mark next to things that have to be explained in the exposition. Place a third mark next to items that are completely irrelevant to the plot and don't need to be mentioned.

    If robots are around, you'll want to mention how they came about. If a war tore apart South America and turned it into the industrial capital of the world, and there's no more Amazon Rainforest, that's pretty big, but if we're not visiting South America, who cares?
    If you want to show that all the world's most powerful electronics are now made in sweat shops in Portugal, stamp "Made in Portugal." on them instead of "Made in China."

    Good luck.
     
  3. Manav
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    Manav Contributing Member

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    Jarring... yes, but in a good way. As you said, the readers will be more involved in the story, which is always a good thing. The only drawback I see is that, since it has been done many times before, readers might say 'now he is going to wake up and.... same old same old'... but you will be easily forgiven if you add a mystery factor to the plot... and you already have that mystery factor since the world your MC lives is going to change drastically... make the readers ask how? why? etc and they ain't gonna put down your book until they find those answers.


    This may be a lame thought as you might have figured it all out, but still.... who will be the viewpoint char when the MC is in suspended animation? Are you going to write the exposition in a commentory style like the way some prologues are written? If it is, then I assure you many like me will be put into sleep :)
     
  4. jonathan hernandez13
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    jonathan hernandez13 Contributing Member Contributor

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    It would all be omniscient narrative. Yes...that's what I'm afraid of :cry:

    As of now I'm hedging against even doing the damn expo, I don't know how crucial it will be and don't want to lose readers.


    Thanks for the advice guys, this is good stuff :)
     
  5. JC Emery
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    JC Emery New Member

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    I am sort of dealing with the same thing with my book. I have plans for it to span a series and while I want to set the tone and world early, I'm afraid of just dumping everything on the reader at once. But the thing is, as I've gotten so caught up in what to divulge, what not to divulge, etc etc; I'm not actually writing. Right now I'm finding the best way to get the book written is to just write the darn thing. A first draft isn't supposed to be perfect. You're going to have to red pen it anyway, so why not go with where the book takes you and once you have a completed first draft you can go back and better pick and choose what info you want divulged at what times.

    My book is also being written in omniscent 3rd, so I get it. But I think no matter how much deliberation I go through and however much worry, it likely won't matter at the end of the day anyway because I don't have the entire manuscript in front of me. It's easier to decide when things should be revealed when you're looking at it as a whole, rather than pieced up in chapters. And unfortunately, sometimes it takes a few tries to get it right.
     
  6. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I loathe this so-called "rule" that all info dumps are bad. It's an insult to intelligent readers. It's saying that readers all have attention-deficit disorder and they won't stay with you if you take a paragraph or two to explain something. Sure, you can overdo it - I remember putting aside E.E. "Doc" Smith's first Lensman book "Triplanetary" because it seemed like the entire novel was just exposition for the novels to come - but the readers you want to reach aren't stupid. They'll stay with you if you've set something up that's interesting and they want to know more about it.

    It's true that just dumping info, without first catching the reader's interest, is a bad move. No question about that. But if you've already got the reader's interest, he'll stay with you through a reasonable amount of exposition. He'll even be grateful, because it'll clear up some mysteries he may have had.

    Infodumps are not always bad. If you get the reader interested, and if you write well, than an infodump might be just what the doctor ordered.
     
  7. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Do this. Even ignoring the other problems with infodumps, if you do the exposition, the reader will know all sorts of things that the character doesn't know, which will distance them from the main character. I don't think that that distance is a good thing.

    What are the consequences of not telling the reader all that stuff? They'll have a sense of suspense and discovery as they learn it? They'll share the emotions of the main character as he figures out what's going on? They'll have lots of exciting discoveries? How could that be bad?

    ChickenFreak
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    After he wakes, he will discover the changes one or two at a time. That is the best way to present them to the reader, too.
     
  9. Reggie
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    Reggie I Like 'Em hot "N Spicy Contributor

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    Cutting off massive info dumping is not a bad idea. I can tell you right now that I read books that start off with documentary chapters before they even start the real story. Just add in smaller bits of information. Try converting most of that info dumpting into scensory description instead of telling it. At least it makes the book more readable then telling it.
     
  10. jonathan hernandez13
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    jonathan hernandez13 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Great advice guys, thanks! In my mind I have an idea of how to pull this off now. Now I can get this part out of the way and work on the following chapters. >_>
     

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