By Elizabeth MS Flynn w/a Eilis Flynn
Info dumps are BAD. That’s what we’re always told. Certainly they can slow down the story and even confuse the reader, but let’s face it, sometimes you NEED info dumps. Info dumps are an unwelcome but necessary part of storytelling, you know? Certainly in a story that’s not contemporary; if it’s not the contemporary setting you see around you, you have to set the scene, and if you’re dealing with the historical past (or even the prehistorical past or even the posthistorical past), the futuristic future, and the fantastical futuristic past or alt-past or…well, anyway. If it’s not the in the here and now, some info dumping is necessary.
What kind of info dumping is necessary, you ask? Good question! (Well, it should be a good question, because I am in essence talking to myself, or arguing with myself. And if I lose an argument with myself, I should worry. But that’s neither here nor there.) An imparting of information that sets a scene that’s not necessarily the easiest to understand right off the bat isn’t a dumping of information; it’s the quickest and most effective method by which to set the scene. You just can’t overdo it.
What’s overdoing it? Some people will tell you that overdoing it is when you get a little too enthusiastic about your topic and start pontificating. You risk immediately losing your intended audience that way. Just because you’re fascinated by the button detail of your hero’s boots doesn’t mean that anyone else will be. Your audience may be impressed to a certain point, but after they wake up after being lulled into a doze after the information about the button detail, they may decide that some other activity not involving button detail may be a better use of their time.
And that, of course, is the key. Make sure that there IS no better use of their time. I don’t mean sabotaging everything within the reach of each and every single of your readers, but make sure that all those details, all those info dumps, matter to your overall story. How do you know what truly matters to the story? That’s up to you!
If you’re curious about when and how to deal with the info dump, check out Heather Hiestand’s and my online workshop for the Futuristic Fantasy and Paranormal chapter (romance-ffp.com/beware-the-info-dump-my-child) and join in the discussion as we look at what’s an unnecessary info dump and what’s a necessary one!
Elizabeth MS Flynn has written fiction in the form of comic book stories, romantic fantasies, urban fantasies, historical fantasies and short stories, a young adult novel, and a graphic novella (most published under the name of Eilis Flynn). She’s also a professional editor and has been for more than 35 years, working with academia, technology, and finance nonfiction, and romance fiction. If you’re looking for an editor, she can be found editing at emsflynn.com and reached at email@example.com. If you’re curious about her books, check out eilisflynn.com. In any case, she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.