info dumps and other bodily functions.

I read an interesting statistic about how many people update their social networking whilst on the toilet. Just saying.

But what I really wanted to talk about was the dreaded moment that comes in any work of fiction where complex information must be communicated for the plot to make sense and or move forward. Yes, the info dump.

Dear lord I struggle with this, and mostly because I hate them with a passion in the books I read. No matter how well crafted they always ruin the flow of the story. A good writer just grins and bears it I guess, knowing that you'll thank them later for the much needed backstory, but at the time they are universally painful. And that's just to read. Multiply by a thousand the experience of a long winded info dump, and thats how it feels to write one.

I am trying at the moment to finish up the final edit of the final six chapters of my book. The fact that I am writing this post tells you how much I am enjoying it. I have a big load of info that is crucial to the plot and the final revelations of the novel, but I have re-written it at least ten times now and I hate it more with each revision. 

So what do you all do? Cut to third person omniscient and just rip the bandaid off? Embed it in conversation between two or more people who each know just enough to prompt the next into anther convenient reminiscence about the history of the world? Have a character muse at length about the way things are, or even worse, pick up a "history scroll" and read it to us in the words of Grombol the Wise. Sigh.

What do you do? And are there any great examples that make me a liar?


Here is the copy of my soul I uploaded to google. Come and say hello. It is fully interactive.


  1. I'm so paranoid about this that I go the other way and end up not putting enough in. I have an MS that I've put aside (for lots of reasons). I reread it recently and there seems to be a whole load of stuff randomly dumped in the second to last chapter. I like to think I only put it in there to remind me it's necessary information that needs to be spread out :-)

    That's a long winded way of telling that nope, I can't help you on this one :-)

  2. Congrats on trying to finish up the last chapters. That is always the best part! Good luck

  3. Haha never heard that people update their social networking things on the loo... it made me laugh:)

    Info dumping..hmm it is a tricky one cos you want the reader to know the information but have to be sneaky about it... I try to insert it into dialogue when the characters are talking about something else, so the reader does not even realise they are learning something new:) Well at least that's the plan.

  4. I agree T.F. That is the general plan I follow. But it still irks me every time I have run on paragraphs of exposition with only trivial action breaking them up. So then I add more action to mask the info dump even more, but that just makes everything go too long. I might post an example of what i'm talking about for a mini group critique.

    Thanks to everyone for stopping by.

  5. Mmm, I struggle with this too! I tend to info-dump at the beginning of the story, and it's hard to get the balance right between backstory and forward-pressing. (By the way, I'm in the same division as you for the Writers' Campaign.)

  6. I refuse to info dump at all. Then I hand the ms to a family member and ask them if they get figure out the backstory from what's slipped through. If they can, great. If they can't, I sift back through and slip info in where I can, without it being overwhelming. Then again, I don't write high fantasy, and there are no lengthy histories or genealogies for my characters to know, so I've got the greatest respect for anyone who can mask an info dump!

  7. I try to do what Jen said and if it's too much to slip in throughout the book I will do flashback chapters where the reader is actually taken back to the scene although I'm sure this is frowned upon. But it's more action than info-dumping. Of course I'm not published yet so that's probably crappy advice. But as I said, I try to slip everything in using small pieces here and there throughout the book. I will have to go back to some of my favorite books and re-read to take notice of how my favorite authors do it.

  8. No Lisa, that is excellent advice. My problem is I have too many beta readers. My editor says one thing, but my wife says another. And they are both in disagreement with my friend at work who tells me stuff like 'Hey man, you should Tarantino it up a bit'

    When asked what that meant, he said. 'You know, mix it up. Non linear.'

    That was back when I didn't have a book deal. Now he will never be allowed to forget this. I might even mention it at my book launch.

  9. I try - but don't always succeed - to use a combo of flashbacks and conversations to reveal important information bit by bit. It is hard, though, to know how much info is too much (read: dragging down your story) and how much you need to achieve that magical combination of informing your readers while respecting their ability to put two and two together. It certainly doesn't help, either, when all your betas disagree!

    Best of luck! :-)

  10. Hey I just passed an award to you!

  11. Hi! this is my first year on the campaign. I am looking forward to reading more of your site.

  12. The Hunger Games had a lot of backstory going on in the novel. A LOT. And yet it worked. Usually I like to weave in tidbits of info through the story and I try my hardest to avoid a massive block of it.

  13. I'm struggling with this too! It's so hard to make it sound natural!

  14. I don't know, if you're writing fully fledged epic fantasy (though not sure if your book falls into that category) you could do worse than going with the David Eddings model, which definitely fell into the, ahem "Words of Grombol the Wise" model of storytelling. That way readers who don't want to be subjected to the 'history of the world' stuff can skip it, but it's all written there if they need to go back and check something.

    As well as actual history sections he had certain characters cast as storytellers and in this guise they could inform the reader of relevant information.

    Honestly though, anything else which does fall more into the category of backstory for your actual characters, should NOT be introduced via info dump. I'm with Crystal and others who say to dribble the info in bit by bit and credit readers with some intuition.

  15. I really don't mind info dumps, in fact I even enjoy then, WHEN they have come late enough in the story that I already CARE about the characters and their dilemma.

    I think The Lord of the Rings is the perfect example. The chapters The Shadow of the Past and The Council of Elrond are HUGE info dumps but I LOVE every word. In fact, I think it was Shadows that changed the way I read books forever. I'd never read anything like it before and I've still never experienced anything like it since. It was transcendent.

    Another example of the info dump done well: the TV show Babylon 5. Every once in a while a certain character, Delenn, would need to make a speech that began with "A thousand years ago" to catch everyone else up on what was going on in the universe. And as was noted by the writer, that sort of "talking head" in movies/tv is usually DEATH. However, personally (and I know my husband agrees) I didn't mind it at all, again I enjoyed it. Probably because it comes so late in the show that you're already really invested in the characters and the story of the station. Also because Delenn is one of the best characters ever and I totally hang on her every word.

    I think though that if you're writing to the fantasy crowd, a certain amount of this is expected and even desired. The lesson I take away from the above examples? Dump the info after you've made your readers care about the characters and their struggles. And if your character is compelling and likeable enough, readers will listen to anything they say.

  16. Yuck about the networking while in the rest room. Wash those hands people. Makes you wonder about touching someone's laptop, doesn't it?

    Just dropping by to say hello to a fellow campaigner.


  17. Hi, i'm a fellow campaigner and when i have to disperse information in a book I try to break it up as much as possible. You're right that there is nothing like feeling as though you're suddenly reading a history paper.

  18. I normally try to put the info dump in the dialogues.

    Every Savage Can Reproduce

  19. I just finished reading Game of Thrones, and the book version proves that sometimes info dumping is unnecessary. If you watch the show (which you all should, it was most excellent) then you can see how the writers of the tv episodes condensed a lot of the backstory into much easier to digest chapters. I can't help but think that a novelised version of the tv show would have made an even better book than the original.

    And it ain't that the original is bad, far from it, but that I found myself skipping over the exposition chapters to get to the next bit of action. Too much stuff about the first men and forest children right at the bit when everything is happening... did nothing but slow the pace of the build up to climax.


    Anyway, i'll stop ranting now before this grows into what probably should be a post of its own. Thanks for all stopping by, hope you enjoy continuing to read my blog.


  20. Bit late to the conversation, but in my debut I strung along the characters (and the readers as well) and put my info dump in the 3rd chapter from the end, just after the climax. It seemed to make sense to me and, so far, my readers seem to agree.

  21. Ah yes. The info dump. Fantastic post.

    Fellow campaigner here, btw. Just popping in to say hello and I'll be back!

  22. This is really tough! I struggle with this SO much and my first drafts tend to have lots of info dumps.

    Honestly? Books really, really shouldn't have info dumps. It's not a good sign. Because a lot of the stuff people put in info dumps can be communicated through other ways in the story, in small details that you let out little by little.

    So I would recommend taking your info dumps, separating out each bit of information from them, and then seeing if there are any other places to insert them throughout the story.

    I bet if you do that, the info dump will be so diminished that it's no longer an info dump, just a couple details.

    Please don't put it in dialogue, though! That always makes me cringe. So awkward.


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