This is part of a series of exercises aimed to improve specific aspects of your writing.
As writers, we often feel obligated to give our readers every detail of the worlds we create for them. We want them to see things as we do, and know the history of the people and places we’ve invited them to meet.
It’s like having two wonderful friends whose greatest commonality is you. You would like those two friends to also become friends. Ideally, in your mind, the disparate friendships would somehow form a perfect triangle of camaraderie, but it can’t be forced.
No matter how much background you give, or how much you talk them up to one another, when those two people meet they are strangers starting from scratch. All the preface work before the big introduction creates a pressure for everyone involved, preventing the genuine interest you all hoped for.
In short, too much detail, especially when given all at once, is ruinous for the reader experience.
Information dumps are hard to avoid, especially in stories with worlds different from our own. For this exercise, and for all first drafts, the best thing to do is get it all out. Write out every detail as it comes to you. (You may end up with quite a few info dumps in your work.) Once it’s all down, identify the information dumps in your work, and remove them.
Once the dumps are removed, decide how the details from them can be sprinkled back in, and what details are absolutely necessary for the reader’s grasp and enjoyment of the story at hand. You may have a lot of great stuff, but certainly some of it could be put to the side for now. Perhaps those fun facts could be kept for the novel’s sequel. 🙂
Info dump example:
This information is tied to my current WIP being written for these exercises.
Giants were once caretakers of the land. Humans killed many of the land’s animal inhabitants, enraging the giants, and bringing the two species to war. After giants were slaughtered, and their numbers dwindled, the great caretakers were forced into seclusion.
Secretly returning to their purpose, the giants looked after animals long thought dead, helping species bounce back from assumed extinction. The giants are now too few, however, to contain the many flourishing creatures, and the animals roam the land, drawing the human’s attention.
Info dump dismantling example:
The first paragraph isn’t so bad. It could easily become dialogue for an educated character who knows the land’s history. The second paragraph would be better suited to show, and that’s what I intend to do.
Treating the war as ancient history, many of my main character’s have never seen a giant, and consider them almost mythical. By having creatures considered extinct begin to return, like clues to a mystery, I can lead the characters to a giant where they will learn more about their shared past.
Just by splitting apart my historical info dump, I’m actually able to build a better story. An info dump comes in many forms: descriptions of character, technology, culture, etc. In most cases, the details from these dense descriptions could be introduced in other ways. Challenge yourself to do just that. These are your worlds, and you’ll always know more about them than your readers. Consider that many of them are just fine with that, and might enjoy your story more, with less.
All the best to you. Happy writing. Come back for more exercises, and please Subscribe and follow.