When we write a novel, we are very concerned with getting information across to our readers, be it a character’s backstory or the setting. But how much do they actually need to know? We don’t want to overload our readers or info dump. We need to keep the action moving forward so we don’t bore the reader. I have put together some articles and podcasts that discuss how not to info dump and how to get around it.
- Information Overload: Where to look for (and remove) info dumping in your novel (inkdeepediting.com)
Dropping a lot of details at once (info dumping) can really slow the pace of your story. Readers want to know what’s happening now, so long stretches of explanation can be frustrating. Readers need far less explanation than you think, and, in those instances where the information is vital for your readers to have, you are better off dripping it in rather than dumping it all at once. If you want to eliminate info dumping from your book, there are a few places it typically shows up. These are the backstory, worldbuilding, and dialogue. Look for these places in your story and see if you can remove some details or spread them around a bit more in your manuscript.
Info-dumping is when a writer inserts a bunch of information into the story at once, usually in the form of backstory, explanation, technical details, or worldbuilding. When we are rewriting, we need to solve the problem of info-dumping. Jessica Brody discusses a creative and interesting solution and introduces two new character types: the exposition character and the window character. An exposition character is a character who serves the role of giving exposition to the reader and hero. Probably because they know more about the world or situation than the hero does. Examples of these are Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series and Madeline Mackenzie in Big Little Lies. Window characters serve a slightly different function. They are a window into the hero’s thoughts and allow the hero to talk through things that they would otherwise have had to think about. This provides the writer with more opportunities and unique ways to reveal things to your reader. Examples of window characters are Robert Langdon’s sidekicks in Dan Brown’s novels, and Mummy in Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. Jessica also shares the example of a dog, Winn Dixie, in Because of Winn Dixie by Kate Di Camillo. These exposition and window characters are great devices to help you transform your necessary exposition from lumps of text into intriguing interwoven threads of the story.
This article shares tips for conveying essential information the right way. Instead of explaining it in big chunks of narrative you can show the character interacting with it in a scene, or slip the most important bits of information into the narrative and dialogue in small pieces when they’re most relevant. The three main types of info dumps are the backstory, world-building, and technical. TCK Publishing discusses each type, demonstrates with examples, and provides examples of how to weave the information in so that it isn’t an info dump.
Info dumping is a common piece of feedback for authors who include too much information in their stories. If you info dump, you will slow the pace, and worse, you’ll likely bore readers. This article from The Write Practice shares common ways writers accidentallly info dump and shares some editing questions that can help you condense your writing, leaving your reader with only necessary information that develops characters and advances the plot. The editing questions include asking yourself if you can eliminate at least ten words in every paragraph, does this detail matter? And, am I explaining something about a character or setting, or showing how the character interacts with their surroundings?
In episode 70 Editing Tips to Help You Avoid Information Overload, host Beth Barany, discusses when to stop adding ideas to your story and if it’s possible to kill your story by overworking it.
- How Can You Avoid Info Dumping? | Ep. 191 | The Merry Writer Podcast – The Merry Writer Podcast – Podcast – Podtail
Info dumping can really slow down the pace of your story, can annoy many readers, and even have them skip over chunks of your work. So, what can you do to stop info dumping? Ari and Rachel tackle this issue with some suggestions.
This episode from The Novel Writing podcast discusses overcoming the info dump and how not to bore your readers with backstory.
Taking your story and working through it bit by bit you can eliminate any unnecessary info-dumping. Your story will flow better, and your reader will thank you for it. I hope you have found this week’s column useful. As always, get in touch if there are any topics you would like me to cover.
(c) Lucy O’Callaghan