Writing 101: Do You Infodump?

Have you ever, in your entire lifetime, managed to overhear an incredibly important conversation between two evildoers whose words just happen to totally unravel the big mystery you've been secretly solving? No that's never happened to you? It happens in books all the time. And when it does, it usually occurs as an infodump. Lots of writers do it. Do you, too? 

Here's the Information You Need

The overheard conversation is just one example of infodumping. A much better one is the monologue, which is very frequently used for this purpose. You know how in the cheesy adventure movie the villain finally captures the hero and then the villain, instead of killing the hero, goes into a lengthy explanation of all his motives so that the hero can marvel at his cleverness? This is infodumping. It's giving the reader, or viewer as the case may be, a ton of data that explains various plot points which have occurred throughout the story.

And it is often quite tedious. Everyone likes dialogue when it's realistic, but most people don't want to read huge blocks of dialogue when it ought to be a narrative instead. Infodumping is an easy way to reveal certain facts about the plot, and some critics will say that it's too easy. In books, events should unfold naturally in order to maintain realism. When characters overhear shady conversations or have the luck of being treated to lengthy monologues, it tends to ring a little false.

But on the flip side, infodumping can be useful to you as an author. Do it well, and readers may not even notice that they're being treated to an infodump. Reveal your data in an interesting way (try to avoid the whispered-conversation cliche), and instead of a straight infodump give them the info in a more natural fashion. For example, your character has discovered an online blog that offers lots of new details about a conspiracy theory the character has been chasing. Instead of giving readers full blog posts, one right after the other, break it up with action and possibly dialogue from the character.

You don't just sit and read blog post after blog post (unless you're here at Jade's blog, obviously, where every word is just too captivating). In all likelihood you're also snacking, maybe flipping channels on the TV, checking your email, answering that text, whatever. So don't just reveal information in a gigantic chunk. Continue making your character behave naturally, and it will feel that the inforamtion is being revealed more naturally.

Most authors do infodump, from time to time. But if you can do it cleverly enough, your readers aren't even going to notice.

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