Wednesday, April 13, 2011

How Do You Avoid Stepping In This Mess?

There are a few taboos in fiction writing, but you hear a lot about how you should avoid the dreaded Info-Dump (and adjectives. I hate them so much!)

It's handled well, and it's handled pretty poorly. A popular method is the ignorant outsider. In the one Jim Butcher book I read, )Small Favor, from the Dresdon Files), I thought that the explain-it-to-the-outsider scene came off very well. However, when I read several Sherlock Holmes stories in a row, I got a little tired of Dr. Watson saying “Why Holmes, however did you figure it out?” It seemed to be his only function.

Another instance I enjoyed was (you guessed it) from The Empire Strikes Back. Early on, Han Solo mentions that he had to leave because of a bounty hunter he had run into. A colorful history is alluded to linking the first movie to the second, with a single line.

Another good example is in Tombstone, the Wyatt Earp movie with Kurt Russell. Arriving in a new town, the local law enforcement tries to recruit him (showing his well-regarded reputation) and he quickly and flatly declines, showing how tired he is of law enforcement.

How have you seen info dumps done well? How about not so well?


  1. Thoroughly enjoyed the read Will.
    As I only write poetry it seems it's different for novellist, I found that out when I had my book published,

    Have a good day.

  2. It's hard to think of any, because when they're done well, I don't realize what they are.

  3. I agree with Matthew. When It's done right, we don't notice.