I think we’ve all accepted that info-dumping is a bad thing. I don’t need the history of a world or a character, a description of how a magic system works, etc. all at once. When I buy a book, I don’t want to be bored with textbook type writing. I want to be submerged into a new world, and I want to feel like I’m experiencing that world with the character. Info-dumping takes that away.
Anyway, I’m currently reading Truthwitch by Susan Dennard. I did not go into this book with high expectations. Honestly, I just wanted something fun to read. And while I’m enjoying parts of it, I got stuck around chapter three or four. I can’t remember which.
Anyway, in this chapter, we are introduced to a new character, Merick. The info-dumping didn’t happen right away, but the change into Merick’s point of view was so abrupt that I was confused. Who was he? Where was I? What in the world was going on?
Now, I’m all for the reader having questions and building suspense and curiosity. But this was neither. I was completely lost, confused, and beyond frustrated. And it had nothing to do with my reading comprehension.
Anyway, Dennard soon started info-dumping about the magic system and about the history of this imaginary world and Merick’s history. Look, I get it. You’re trying to develop your world, but everything was just so vague and not very well thought out.
There are times when things need to be explained. I get that. But it needs to be done well, and it doesn’t need to happen all in one chunk. I’m all for a paragraph here and there. To me, that’s the more effective way of conveying this information.
But here’s the thing. When you are info-dumping, you better know your world pretty darn well. It needs to be well thought out and it needs to be logical. If it isn’t, your reader will be confused and frustrated. That’s why I think it’s SO IMPORTANT to take time building your world, especially if you’re writing fantasy.
The writer needs to know the history of the world, how the magic system works, how the political system works, how each country works. If the writer doesn’t understand that or really hasn’t thought about it, it shows in their writing. The world will feel incomplete. And no one wants that.
Yes, I like fluff. Yes, I like young adult fiction. But that doesn’t mean it’s okay for a writer to cut corners. No matter what we’re writing, I think we owe it to our readers to develop our characters and our world fully. Otherwise, we’re cheating them out of time and money. Okay, maybe that’s harsh, but whatever.
So basically, info-dump for yourself. Write it down. Figure out if it is logical. Work out the kinks. Make it consistent. But most importantly, don’t give it to the reader all at once. Spread it out. Mix it in with the story because that’s what the reader is there for. When I’m reading a book, I’m not really there for the world building. I’m there for a good story, but it can’t be a good story without a well-built world, so I guess it’s all tied together. I don’t know.