Info dumps are gonna happen. It’s just a fact.
But is extra exposition inherently bad? Info dumps have gained a lot of heat over the years, but I have a little secret. *lowers voice to a whisper* They can work. If we play info dumps right, they don’t have to be boring and lame.
This article marks the beginning of a series dedicated to discovering how to make info dumps succeed. In this inaugural post, we’ll be discussing how we can redeem the infamous info dump by making readers care.
Info dumps are an issue for two big reasons.
First, they’re noticeable. When readers read our story, we want them to forget that actual words are forming pictures in their imagination. We want them to be lost in the book. When we insert an unwieldy page full of exposition, readers notice and are pulled out of the adventure. It kills the picture forming in their mind.
Second, Info dumps are often dry and boring. Unless readers are ultra-devoted, they won’t be interested in a page of information on the inner workings of a fantasy society’s complex political system.
We don’t want to throw readers out of the story, but what if our exposition is necessary? What if we have no other way of naturally incorporate it into our story?
The best way to keep info dumps from dragging readers out of the pages is to make them care about what we’re sharing. That way, their desire for the information will keep them engaged.
One way to make readers care about info dumps is to relate the information to the stakes.
For example, say we have a chunk of words dedicated to explaining the history of a magical rock that makes people go insane. If we share this information before readers realize this rock is making people go mad, they won’t remember it. The rock holds no importance in their mind. The history simply seems like a bunch of random facts the writer included in an attempt to deepen her story world.
However, if we put that information after the MC’s bestie goes wacko and tries to kill him because of said stone, readers will gobble up the info. It becomes relevant and important because that history is key to saving said bestie from eternal insanity.
Relating info dumps to the stakes is as simple as making sure readers understand its importance. As long as we show our information to readers after they realize it might solve the protagonist’s issue, it takes on a whole lot of meaning.
That’s all I’ve got for today, friends! What do you think? Do you agree that relating info dumps to the stakes make them matter? What else can we do to make info dumps work? Leave your thoughts in the comments!
The Introvert (A.K.A. Gabrielle R. Pollack)