Writerly Post Wednesday: The Worldbuilding Info-Dump

thedreadedinfo-dump

You’ve all heard of it. You all dread it.

But what is it, exactly?

infodump | noun | an act or practice of presenting an indigestible or incomprehensible amount of information all at once (Source)

So, as you can see, it’s obvious why nobody wants to read an info-dump. Because they’re boring. Because too much information drives us insane. We don’t want the boring, worldbuilding info-dump, we want action. But you know what? We also have to ask ourselves this: Sometimes, isn’t the info-dump necessary? (Bear with me here.)

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| Why yes, I am a George R. R Martin fan |

Let’s take epic fantasy books for example. Think about all the information that the writer needs to get across: worldbuilding. character backstory, history, and so forth. How it is possible to not info-dump all this information? (Of course — info-dump is not only limited to fantasy novels, but pretty much every genre that exists.)

Ideally, here is what readers want: information to be spread intricately throughout the story so that they don’t even know that they’re being fed information. Easy for us writers, yes?

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| Does George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series info-dump? Does this matter to you?|

Har har har.

Okay, so maybe it’s not quite as easy as readers want it to be . . . but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. Easier said then done, though, because as a writer, I can easily say that I have info-dumped things on occasion — and I probably will again. Why? It’s a lot easier than figuring out difficult ways to give the reader the information they need without the reader even realizing it.

In a previous Writerly Post Wednesday, I blogged about how to include worldbuilding into your fantasy novel. Today, I want to discuss why — and how — you should include pertinent information without being too obvious about it. So here are a list of tips I’ve put together to give you ideas on how you might achieve this.

  • It’s okay to info-dump. (Yes, you read that right.) Just don’t let it CONSUME your novel. Choose your places. Pick places where it’s not obvious that you’re info-dumping on your reader. Because that’s when they’re likely to complain about the info-dumping.
  • Choose carefully what you want your reader to know. Ask your self: “Is this piece of information absolutely necessary for the reader to know at this point of the novel?” If yes, then go ahead. But if no, or you’re not sure, then store that information away for a later time. You never know where it’ll become important to the novel, right?
  • DSC_0420

    | Essentially, George R.R Matin’s The World of Ice and Fire book is one giant info-dump. (But who cares? It’s an amazing book. Plus it’s illustrated.) |

    Show — don’t tell. The worst kind of info-dump is the one where you’re reading paragraph after paragraph of backstory, history, and world description. Because if you’re reading that — then you might as well be writing a fictional history novel. (Which you could seriously do. I mean, look at George R.R. Martin’s The World of Ice and Fire book!)

Essentially, it’s near impossible to not info-dump with some novels. Just rewrite, edit, tweak, delete, and add so that it comes across in the most interesting and engaging way possible. The best novels are where you don’t even realize you’re learning about the world at hand. You just do.


How do you define “info-dumping”? Does it matter if a novel does it occasionally? Or do you accept that it’s integral you need to know about certain pieces of information? Writers: Do you find it hard not to info-dump? Do you have any tips to share? Comment below!

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11 thoughts on “Writerly Post Wednesday: The Worldbuilding Info-Dump

  1. Info-dumping is okay, sometimes, but the pacing needs to be done well to keep readers interested. It’s almost inevitable that you’ll find yourself info-dumping in the first draft, but like you said, rewriting is key.

  2. I am actually one of those readers who don’t mind an info dump now and then as long as I get the information. I love world building and take it anyway I can get. Although a writer who can get all the world building across without info dumps is one I apreciate even more, some authors do this so well by having the world building interwoven in the story. Great tips and I certainly think some info dumping is okay as long as it doesn’t consume the book indeed. Great post!

  3. I love reading massive info-dumps, as already performed by Melville, Victor Hugo, and other genius of literature; ergo, I write them religiously and shamelessly, and won’t be deterred therefrom by any critics.

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