Monthly Archives: March 2015

Dump the infodump

Too much information

Information overload

Pandora Hope & Sean McMullen|10 March 2015

All of us have seen it, that lump of words sitting in the middle of our stories like a constipated bean bag. It needs to be there, because you have a load of information to get across to the reader quickly and you’re right on the word limit. It’s impossible to make a bean bag exciting. Right? Wrong.

I used to know some medieval reenactment people who dressed up in armour and fought mock battles. They even had siege engines which fired bean bags. If you got hit by a flying bean bag, you were declared dead and had to leave the field. Under those circumstances, bean bags were to be taken very seriously.

Infodumps are similar. If, for example, you want to show that a guy is dangerous, you can do a physical description of his haircut, tats and scars, followed by notes on his childhood, education, military and martial arts training, and police record. Or you can do what Neil Gaiman did at the start of an episode of the BBC series Neverwhere: “You can call me Mr Croup. You can call my brother associate Mr Vandermaar. You may have had nightmares about us.”

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