Adding Facts: Less is More

pile-576471As writers, we’ve read about the writing craft and avoid info dumps. Why? Because we don’t want all our hard work to disappear under a huge pile of research.

Readers come first.

Information dumps

Moderation is key.

I watched a movie recently. Too much fighting. Too many special effects. And believe or not–too much sex. To be honest, it got boring. Instead of moving the story along and keeping my attention, it zoned me out.

I wanted story.

Info dumps are the same thing. Sure often researching new information is interesting. That’s probably why we are writing about it, but it must be pushed to the background.

How do the masters do it?

Who isn’t a fan of the greats? Here are some of my favorites: Tolkien, Rowling, Patterson, Connelly, Cornwall, Evanovich, and Hamilton.

And they all have one thing in common. Their stories keep me reading no matter where they take me because their research is where it belongs.

Once I started putting stories together, I can’t help but look deeper at the mechanics of excellent work.

pile-575649Do you have a trick in keeping your work from disappearing under a pile of research?


42 responses to “Adding Facts: Less is More

  1. I try my best to weave in only the things my readers need to know. And only the most interesting aspects. I can’t stand it when I’m reading a book where an info dump has been disguised as dialogue.

    “Well, you see, here’s the basics of nuclear physics as I understand them…”

    It would never happen!

  2. Dialogue is a good one as mentioned above.

    Also, revealed through internal thought and conflict instead of background dump. Thought intertwined with scenery using active description e.g. feelings, memory about a place, scene or person and it affects or how affects the MC/reaction it causes—reaction(internal conflict) that flows into dialogue or scene or sparks dialogue or action moving scene forward in an active way instead of passive. The key is active use on info revelation.

    I have been reading about this lately, not that I am so good at it. I’m still practicing a lot, but trying to keep those aspects in mind when writing.

    Juneta @ Writer’s Gambit

    • I practice too. All that learning has to be good for something. πŸ™‚

      • I agree. There is should NEVER be an Info Dump–anywhere!! But, dialogue is a tool for “small bits and spurts” SMALL BITS can convey a lot and you trust your reader to understand and put the pieces together without you having to spell it out for them. You use it wisely and intelligently counting on your reader’s intelligence. I see it used all the time in reading my favorite authors over the years and I have been reading about the proper use of dialogue and tricks. The key here is Moderate to very little.

  3. Info dumps are boring in every kind from research dumps to a character’s long, drawn-out past. I think the key is divvying out the information in little bits that are relevant at the time.

  4. I erased part of my comment about dialogue, duh. Dialogue I reveal is good BUT for small ACTIVE spurts, not DUMPS. Not sure how I remove that part.

    • I’m pretty sure some computers have a mind of their own. You’ve been warned. hehehe

      Readers are smart and see through most devices like dialogue being used for an info dump. As writers, we should know better. πŸ™‚

  5. I do my best to space out the info. Dialogue is definitely a good way of doing it, but small things, little details you can slip in during the course of actions is my favorite way.

  6. I trickle in the information and facts I learned while researching, but I still find it hard not to lay everything out immediately when it comes to world building. Those info dumps are tough.

  7. Avoiding dumps is the sign of a master. I am currently reading a series where this is a problem. The book could be so much better but there is so much research about the location and food, the story is getting lost. The second book is better than the first, so I do have hope.
    sherry @ fundinmental

  8. story in movies seems to be a dying breed, but at least we can make sure it thrives in books.

  9. I try my best to provide a little more information about a character(s) back story a little at a time. A puzzle piece at a time. Using memories they never want to fully explore or remember. Through their reactions to certain events or subjects, etc.

  10. Con’t…
    Continually building on it until the puzzle’s almost complete.

  11. Timely post. I’m working through a draft right now trying to make sure I don’t overwhelm with technical detail but provide enough info so that the reader understands the context.

  12. With everything we write, we have to ask ourselves – does the reader really need to know this and is there a better way to show it?

  13. It’s tricky, but I think one thing we have to do is trust our readers to get it. We don’t have to over explain. (Of course, I tend to under explain and go super subtle, so who knows?)

    If a chase or fight scene goes on too long in a movie, I find myself dozing off or getting distracted. So not what they were going for.

  14. I can end up going to the other extreme and being too obscure 😦 sometimes finding a happy medium can be tough

  15. authorcrystalcollier

    Definitely. If the information bogs down the action, it’s in the wrong place. I also thing that we like to try inserting more information than is necessary to carry the story sometimes.

  16. When an author can mesmerize me long enough to get into a story, I’ll never stop until the end. One thing I really appreciate is quick characterization. That’s a real grabber for me.

  17. My secret weapon to blast out too much back story is–drum roll, please–my writers’ group. Wow can they ever let me know back story has taken over the page. Great post and helpful comments too. Thanks, Anna

  18. Such a great topic and information, Anna. Even though I’m not an author, your advice helps me to write better reviews.

  19. I like inserting back story through thoughts or dialogue. But, I have a long to go before my dialogue sounds “real!” πŸ™‚

  20. I usually end up putting too much information in with the first draft and then edit a lot of it out later or move it around to where it fits better, once I can see the whole story. It can be really hard leaving out interesting details, but if they don’t move the story forward or aren’t necessary to the plot, out they go.

    • I like the idea of loading it up at first until you know what the reader will need to enjoy the story to the fullest. We can always cut back in the next revision and they’ll never know. hehehe

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