by Tim Kane
The dreaded information dump. You know it. The chapter’s staring off and there’s all this information you simply must give to your reader. Like back story or technical details. Yet a dense paragraph packed with explanations is not the best way.
Pare It Down
First off, ask yourself this question: What’s the least amount of information your reader needs? Often it’s less than you think. Many times I can delete the whole thing, relying on the character’s reactions to set the scene. Hey, if the protagonist is worried about some sort of Quantum Blossoming, then perhaps I (the reader) should be as well. I don’t need all the details yet.
Find Your Expert
At least one person should know about the critical info. Ideally, you want one character to know more than the others. That way he or she can dole out the details as needed. But don’t make your expert too accommodating. Nothing is worse than having one character questioning and the expert rattling off the answers. This isn’t a dialogue by Socrates.
Tension drives your story, so why not use it with back story or technical details. Perhaps your expert doesn’t want to give this information. Or he/she doesn’t like the character asking the questions. Play this right, and you’ve just turned an info dump into a riveting scene in your manuscript.
Spread It Out
Even if you must resort to the expert “explaining things” then don’t do it all at once. Spread it over a page or two. Have stage actions interrupt the explanation. Perhaps this can even frustrate the expert or questioner.
Say it with me: Never again will I dump need-to-know information in one humongous paragraph.