View Full Version : What is Info-Dump?

Quentin Nokov
05-27-2008, 11:08 PM
I see it used all the time on here. Is info dump like a mass load of info injected into one paragraph/monologue thing? Or is info dump like th info was terrible and needs to be thrown in the trash -- hence the dump. If I know what info dump is I'll be able to avoid using/doing it. Help?

05-27-2008, 11:15 PM
It's when the writer tells a big chunk of information about the characters, setting, or plot, that he or she feels the reader needs to know. There are usually better ways give the reader the information than just unloading it all in one large chunk. A lot of prologues (but not all) are info dumps. Quite often info dumps are backstory.

05-27-2008, 11:22 PM
The worst place for an info dump is at the beginning of a story. Itís guaranteed to put me off of wanting to reading on. I think itís a mistake a lot of beginner writers make, although I have read a fair few published works where Iíve skipped pages of mundane backstory. I think the trick is to only introduce it where and when necessary, and then itís best broken up into sections rather than have pages and pages of exposition to plough through. Having said that, people tell me I tend to underwrite my characters, so maybe I take it to the other extreme. There must be a fine balance between the two somewhere, although Iíve yet to discover it.

05-28-2008, 02:53 AM
If it is important to the story, it should go in. If it is only about you showing off how brilliant you may be, or how much research you have done, and it is not needed, it goes out. I think that after the first draft, you should cut the areas that ramble on. Not all info is "bad," and some writers have more than others. I do not think there is a fast and steady rule about info dumps.

Linda Adams
05-28-2008, 03:11 AM
Info dumps are kind of like force feeding the reader information. Imagine starting a book and you're just getting into the story when suddenly the author leaves the story for fifty pages to describe the character's backstory.

Or two characters standing around discussing something both characters would already know. I saw that in a TV show where a character walked up to another character and asked, "I don't understand this mission, sir. Could you explain it to me again?" The character asking the question was a senior non-comissioned naval officer.

Info dumps can come in any form, from dialogue, to narrative, to a dream, to a flashback to a prologue. Part of the problem is that it's really tough to get all the moving parts of the beginning to work together, and the easiest way is to explain the details in an info dump. If you do some crits in Share Your Work, you'll run across some pieces where info dumps become apparent.

Quentin Nokov
05-28-2008, 04:00 AM
Alright. I understand. My sister is reading a book by Mary Higgins Clark and she was saying how there was a lot of stuff introduced in the begining that she felt would come into the story later which got her and my mother talking about how I introduce everything gradually so apparently I might be in the clear. Lol. I probably have some info dumps somewhere. How long do info dumps usually last? I have a few explanations of why my people celebrate the holidays they do.

What about where you introduce someone gradually throughout the story then in like the middle of the book you have a whole chapter dedicated to how this character and the MC first met? In a flashback mode? Is that info dump? Or is info dump just completely narrative or dialog?

05-28-2008, 04:13 AM
Most of the time when there's an info dump-like problem in dialogue, it's two characters telling each other things that they each already know. The writer is just using the characters to convey background information.

Such as . . . (just an example):

"Remember when Susie had her problem?"

"Why yes, she had to spend six months in the mental institution, didn't she?"

"Yes, she did. That's when Jake had the affair with Bonnie."

"I remember, that caused a big spat between Susie and Jake."

"Yes, they almost broke up."

"I felt so sorry for Susie, but then . . . "

"Yes, she had been sleeping with Bobby Johnson herself."

Etc., etc. That's a poor example, but you get the idea.

05-28-2008, 04:21 AM
Info dump is when you stop the plot and reveal information (background info, back stories, technical details, etc. etc.), usually in a nice chunk such as a few paragraphs or even a whole chapter or two, that has not much to do with the current situation. The action stops dead.

The "as you know, Bob" dialogue alleycat mentioned is one of those.

Info dump is different than "exposition," however. Both reveal relevant information, but exposition is done strategically to pace the story. For example, A and B are traveling and there really isn't much happening, so we get into a bit of exposition... but it has to be done right without taking the readers out of the story completely. It can be done by clever dialogue (the "getting to know you better" part of the story).

Info dump is pretty much just clumsy, clunky exposition at the wrong time in the wrong place, disturbing the pace and yanking the readers out of the story.

05-28-2008, 04:24 AM
Jo Walton's thoughts on infodump vs. incluing (http://papersky.livejournal.com/324603.html) are extraordinarily helpful.

05-28-2008, 04:26 AM
I've gotten better at not using info dumps because it bogs the reader down and some don't really care about what a particular character did unless it's part of the story, which most times it is. But I've gotten better and given the information a little at the time.

In other words you don't want to tell your reader about your character all at once. Space it out :)

Quentin Nokov
05-28-2008, 04:26 AM
Ah. I see. I think I used to do that in my earlier writings >.< I'll have to reread some of my work to make sure I haven't done any info dump. Which I think I might have.

I have a question, in my story that I'm writing there is a celebrity that I keep introducing in several different chapters. The fan girls go on about his looks while the nerds go on about his books and then other fans talk about how he became a celebrity.

There are four characters I think in the setting. Three of the kids are explaining and going on about him to the fourth kid who has never heard of him. Then in another chapter I introduce him again and eventually I make everyone think I 'killed' him off but actually he's still alive being tortured somewhere -- <.< maybe I should see a therapist about my writings --

Anyway he's important to the second book -- but would that be considered info dump? Three characters telling the fourth about the celebrity? From what I can remember I don't think I over did it with his background, his books, nor his looks.

05-28-2008, 04:37 AM
"Remember when Susie had her problem?"

"Why yes, she had to spend six months in the mental institution, didn't she?"

"Yes, she did. That's when Jake had the affair with Bonnie."

"I remember, that caused a big spat between Susie and Jake."

"Yes, they almost broke up."

"I felt so sorry for Susie, but then . . . "

"Yes, she had been sleeping with Bobby Johnson herself."

I remember this book. Didn't they make it into a TV movie?

05-28-2008, 07:00 AM
There are also places where it IS okay to use the "as you know Joe" trick to introduce backstory through dialogue. Steinbeck does it brilliantly in Of Mice and Men, the premise (you could say excuse) being that Lennie is metally impaired, and forgets things, and George has to spell everything out for him.

05-28-2008, 07:26 AM
Yes, don't try to just "info dump" on your readers as it can often times be easily portrayed as you are "showing off." If you feel that the information is needed in order to provide significant value to the readers then include it, but break it up into "chunks." It is seems to be a better used tactic when you are able to introduce the information gradually over time. Just use these methods strategically and you should not have a problem.

Karen Duvall
05-28-2008, 07:47 AM
The whole point is to keep the story moving. Dumping a load of info is like an announcer saying: We pause this story to bring you the following message. You don't want to pause the story. Ever. You only want to slow it down sometimes, like after a particularly intense scene so the reader can catch his or her breath, but you never want to put on the brakes. An info dump puts on the brakes.

Quentin Nokov
05-28-2008, 06:48 PM
Are all info dumps bad? Or are there info dumps that are explained very smoothly and professionally. I'm worried that one part of my story -- well three parts but I'm concerned about this one today that it might be an info dump.

Chapter 9 introduces Quill a celebrity. The fans rage to the oblivious character about his personality and looks. In Chapter 17 the fans get into his back story which is . . . approximately 253 words long and his personality and looks is 218 words long. Is that perfect or too much?

I'm not introducing him in a Hey Raven have you seen Quill lately? Yeah Metoria his new hair cut is hot. Everyone is explaining him to the MC who is a new student at the school slash country and they're enlightening her about who he is and why he's so great.

05-28-2008, 06:54 PM
When you read a story an info dump should be obvious to you.

An info-dump are chunks of seemingly useless information that's only there for the sake of educating the readers. I could give you a sample of my piece, which is an excellent example of an info dump, if it's okay with everyone here.

Whether info dumps are bad or not depends on how it's written.

05-28-2008, 07:11 PM
Bland infodump is bad. Infodump with exciting voice is good.

Showing all of the info is da bestest!

05-28-2008, 07:24 PM
You could post the piece in SYW and ask if it contains an info-dump.

Read a few crits first, though, to get a feel for what we do there.

To me, it does sound like you have an info dump.

(I'm about to use caps...this is to point out to specific words. I'm not trying to "shout". :) )

An info dump is when you TELL us things that you should be SHOWING us.

Look at it this way: the guy has screaming fans. That, in itself, gives you a certain amout of information about him. We know he's a celebrity, and you've SHOWN us rather than TELLING us.

At that point, someone asking for an autograph of his latest CD/DVD/poster/whatnot lets us know what he does, and one person saying something to the effect of, "Oh my god, those cheekbones!" tells us that he's attractive and even gives us a physical characteristic to know him by. These are also ways of SHOWING rather than TELLING, although you may be able to come up with better examples.

If you want us to know about his personality, SHOW us rather than TELLING us: have him react to a fan or one of his assistants or something. Just have him react. Is he really a nice guy? Have him go out of his way to do something nice for a fan. Is he actually an arrogant jerk? Have him snub an adorable kid in favor of a teenage girl with big boobs, or have him casually toss something to the ground and expect his people to pick it up.

Good stories tend to be much more SHOW than TELL. TELLING is the tell-tale sign of an info dump.

05-28-2008, 08:19 PM
Easiest (though not necessarily least painful) way to learn what an info-dump is and how/why not to use them:

watch a soap opera. :)

(Handsome doctor, talking to teary eyed nurse: "Yes, I slept with your twin sister, but only because your cousin said you were in a coma after Brad tried to run you off the road for sleeping with his father after Mary and Bob's wedding.") :D

05-28-2008, 08:32 PM
This question/problem comes up so frequently that i've composed some links that will completely explain and solve this problem for you.

In short, info dumps are necessary but it is all in the 'how'. There are good info dumps and bad info dumps. the below links give great examples and explanations. Also, there is a link that is great for learning how to start and open a story.



Writers story
Info dumps


pulling the reader in


as you know bob info dump

tuxedo info dump link