Day 55/90

Hello writerly friends!

In my notes for today I have: infodumping.

I’m sure I meant to tell myself something with that. This is usually more of a first act problem but we haven’t talked about it back then. So, let’s talk about infodumping. 

Infodumping is, when the writer has so many cool ideas and so many important worldbuilding details to share, that they dump it all into several big paragraphs to give out all the information at once.

We are still in our first draft, so this is not something we have to worry about too much. But I like to make things easier for myself in the reread and I find big paragraphs of info tiring to read, therefore I like to avoid it in the first place. 

To avoid infodumping, we first have to pinpoint why we do it in the first place. As writers, we have a whole set of ideas in our minds about how the world of our story is built. We know how society, technology, magic, and everything else functions. Naturally, we assume that our readers need to know all of that too, before they can even understand our stories. 

But big blocks of information are not interesting to read. Very few people want to read the meta information before they get the story. Why learn all these rules, names, and symbols, if you don’t even know what the story is about and who the characters are? If your readers have no connection to the characters yet, they’ll probably stop reading in the middle of the big info paragraph.

As a sidenote, if you write fanfiction, you might notice that you don’t write these kind of intro meta-information paragraphs. Why? Because it’s fanfic, we assume that our readers know about this world already (we don’t have to explain the Force in Star Wars fanfic). We need a bit of that vibe for our original fiction.

How do we give our readers the necessary background information without shoving intro meta paragraphs at them? The answer: the sprinkle technique.

Sprinkle, sprinkle, sprinkle. 

You want to sprinkle in world building details, while your characters do other things. Show the characters doing things and talking about stuff and explain the world through that. 

You want your characters talk about the limits of magic while they tie their shoes. You want them to talk about how the food tastes different because of the atmospheric disturbances. You want them to hide behind a broken down car as the monsters crawl by while they fix their water distillator. 

A trick you see used often (and once you’ve seen it, you’ll notice it everywhere) is the introduction of a clueless characters. Sometimes the clueless character is even the protagonist and gets a smart sidekick who explains shit to them. Or the clueless character gets dragged into this situation and needs to catch up quickly to all these new rules wit the explanations from the protagonists. Either Clueless learns by trial and error, or someone takes them under their wing and explains things as they come up. You see how in this kind of setup, you can’t really infodump because things are moving, happening! You can only sprinkle in bits of information here and there and the reader learns along with the clueless character.

Here are some short videos that give you some more information about infodumping and tricks how to avoid it: