What’s Up With the Info Dump?
info dump (noun)
a very large amount of information supplied all at once, especially as background information in a narrative.
“the book begins with a lengthy expository info dump”
If you read as much as I do you probably have run across an information dump at some point. This especially occurs in sci-fi, fantasy, and other highly detailed worlds such as dystopian. If you have no idea what I am talking about consider yourself lucky. For those that have read a book with a large info dump, how do you manage the info? Do you write it down? Keep charts? Ignore it and power through? I personally haven’t had too many problems with info dumps. In fact, only one that I can think of off the top of my head (Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi). Of course, this is mainly in part because I do not read much sci-fi or fantasy.
As I am part of both the blogger community and the YouTube community I have heard several readers (myself included) mention the info dump in reviews. Most highlight the info dump in a negative light, as do I. However recently on Twitter one blogger posed the question What’s wrong with the info dump? Why is it seen as bad or unexpected? I can’t quote her directly because her tweet is buried somewhere in her feed but it got me thinking about my own thoughts on the matter and I thought I could share those thoughts with you today. Amber thought that readers should expect info dumps in those highly detailed books. How else were the authors supposed to immerse us in the world?
I’m not a writer by any means but two ways I could suggest is to spread it out over the course of the book or through character development. Characters change and react based on things that happen why not use that opportunity? There’s a difference between a few pages worth of information and 100 pages worth of straight information. When I feel like I am getting zero story or character development it can be challenging to push myself to continue reading, especially if it’s technical or vastly different or hard to picture. I ended up loving Under the Never Sky but it took 100 or so pages and a bit of pushing myself to get through those bits. Stories that I think have a highly detailed world, plot or characters that lack the information dump are The Winner’s Curse and The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski, and The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson. Again those are just off the top of my head.
So it’s not that I mind the information at all, I just don’t want to open a book and be slammed with every single detail within the first 100 pages. Take your time. You have 300 pages or so to reveal the inner workings of the world and characters. The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyers stands out as a book that gives a few pages of information at a time. Usually, the first few pages of each book had a bit of information which caused readers to adjust to the new story taking shape, but Meyers then brought readers directly into the story introducing characters and laying out the plot. Every few chapters there might be a few more pages of information but by that time the reader is invested in the story.
It’s all about striking a balance. Of course, my favorite thing is being able to picture what the author wrote about. I want to be immersed in their world for the time I spend reading their story, but the information dump is a sure fire way to leave me struggling and possibly even DNF’ing the book.