I is for infodumping

Sin #8: Information overload!

For some strange reason, a lot of ‘writers’ feel the need to infodump within the first few pages of their novels – and most won’t stop there.

It’s an easy for them to get their point across without having to waste of lot of time thinking about the structure of the plot, or using those pesky literary devices that make a great novel. It enables them to jump from interesting scene to interesting scene without having to build up that pesky tension or conflict.

It’s lazy beyond belief and quite insulting to readers.

How many times have you read a conversation between two characters discussing something people would never discuss in real life?

BOB: Morning dude, looks like another day in the old boring office! *high five*

FRED: Don’t call me dude, you know how it upsets our boss when we talk in surfer speak

BOB: Yeah and we don’t want him kicking off and shouting at us like he seems to do at least one time a week

FRED: Exactly, then we might not get those promotions we’re both after

BOB: Why are we talking like this?

FRED: I slipped us both some pills I found in a dumpster…


Why the hell would Bob and Fred need to remind each other that they are both going for promotions? Or that there boss kicks off once a week? They both know this already. They might discuss the two facts but they wouldn’t lay it out so matter of factly. It’s insulting the writer feels that we couldn’t figure it out if he laid out the information in realistic day to day conversations and situations.

When it comes to giving the reader required information, try writing down exactly what they need to know and attempt to fit it into your novel rather than cram it in with a crowbar.

Too much information can bring the reader out of the story and back into the boring real world; or just plain bore them to death! I won’t talk about one of the more recent culprits because it’s a sticky subject to *COUGH* Da Vinci Code *COUGH COUGH*, sorry about that I must be coming down with something.

The only good place for an infodump is a first draft. By all means dump away in the preliminary draft of your book. It’s a good idea to get everything down on paper and THEN begin to cut it back and put it in a sensible order. By detailing everything it becomes possible to see which parts need to be stripped back and which parts need plumping up a little bit.

But when you revise, remove these huge steaming piles of data dumps! Put them into a separate document if you want, and use them as your own reference material but whatever you do – don’t turn your MC into Mr. Exposition!


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    • CharmedLassie on April 11, 2011 at 11:06
    • Reply

    "I slipped us both some pills I found in a dumpster…" *Snort*

    You're right about dumping in the first draft and then analysing it from there. First drafts are excellent for writing down all the stuff the author needs to know – then you organise it into what the reader should actually be told and in what manner.

    I hope your cough's clearing up. Anyone would think you were covering up a negative comment… Ahem.

    • Steven Chapman on April 11, 2011 at 11:14
    • Reply

    Cheers, Lucy. I did cringe a little bit at first at the thought of carving up a big dump…*ralf*

    I wonder if the coughsult would hold up in court?

    • Sue H on April 11, 2011 at 15:13
    • Reply

    …and then there are those writers who seem to have to explain the intricacies of scientific or mechanical details! If it's important to the plot to educate the reader on how a jet engine works or atomic fusion I wish they'd keep it simple! I've noticed this more and more in Lee Child's "Reacher" series – though I love the books, I really don't see the need to get so bogged down in a CSI-style breakdown of impact velocities and trajectories as the protagonist weighs up the odds of whether to shoot or not….

    Rant over!

    Good post, though! 😉


    • Ellie on April 11, 2011 at 17:14
    • Reply

    'Why are we talking like this?'

    'Because the dude, aka the Author, wanted to make a point during this post that writers shouldn't dump lots of info in their novels.'

    'So basically the author is saying that writers shouldn't dump lots of info in their novels.'

    'Yeah. In a nutshell – authors shouldn't dump lots of info in their novels.'

    LOL. Funny post, which also carries a very important message!

    Ellie Garratt

    • ttofee on April 11, 2011 at 21:04
    • Reply

    Lol – another good post – not sure where you find the time! Almost halfway there on the challenge – keep it up 🙂

    • Deirdra Eden-Coppel on April 11, 2011 at 22:18
    • Reply

    I love your site and as I browsed your blog I decided to award you the Creative Blog Award.
    Go to http://astorybookworld.blogspot.com/p/awards.html and pick up your award.

    • Nicole on April 11, 2011 at 23:07
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    When reading books, I like things to flow nicely and would likely be annoyed if most of the important information is at the beginning because there isn't anything left to anticipate after that.

    Sending readers plunging into too much can make a book an overwhelming read and also makes me wonder…if the rest of the stuff is not important to the story, then why is it in this book? That's when I start to go "hmmm….maybe this should have been a shorter book," lol.

    The Madlab Post

    • Patricia Lynne on April 12, 2011 at 02:06
    • Reply

    FRED: I slipped us both some pills I found in a dumpster… HA!

    Good post and great advice. (popping along through the challenge.)

    • Steven Chapman on April 12, 2011 at 12:29
    • Reply

    Thanks for the comments, guys!

    • Steven Chapman on April 12, 2011 at 12:34
    • Reply

    Thank you for the creative blog award, Deirdra. Much appreciated 😀

    • CekaTB on April 15, 2011 at 19:30
    • Reply

    Dear Steven
    You're priceless, love the time and effort you've put into this challenge.On the subject of dumps, I have about 30 tons of serious EquineDump to get rid of – you got a vegetable acre or two that needs fertlising?

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