Is this a "well written' infodump?

#1
I know the trend is to hate on infodumps, but I've always felt they are ok as long as they don't drag on for entire pages and are actually interesting to read. I have a so-called infodump in my story that describes a certain race of alien beings. The original version felt too dry so I just finished rewriting it to be a bit more interesting or so I hope.

Basically, I want your opinion on if it actually reads interesting. if you saw this in a novel would you find it interesting despite being an infodump or is it just dry/boring etc?

And before anybody says it: Yes, I know 'show don't tell' is typically better. But this thread is specifically asking if this is a good writing style when you feel using an infodump is unavoidable or is for whatever other reason appropriate. Basically, I'm asking if this is a 'good style' for an infodump if you have to write one.

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Re: Is this a "well written' infodump?

#5
It's still a bit too dry, I think. Most of it is like from a wikipedia page. Especially being so specific as to say "their height is 3 feet 6 inches" and "on average they weight only 70 pounds". 

Also, I don't like the fact that the Langa character is named Lana. That's basically the same word, it stands out to me as weird. 

The other thing is that the paragraphs stand out to me as maybe being on the "too short side"...? They're all just one or maybe two sentences, it looks slightly off to me, but this isn't a big deal.

But the passage was solidly written, I didn't notice any mistakes or stuff like that. Just, the style, nothing is happening. Even if it's the main character, if all of this background information isn't crucial at this exact moment, I don't really think that it should be included. Cheers! 

Re: Is this a "well written' infodump?

#6

Paradoxcloud Wrote: this however feels like a report or a piece out of a captain’s log rather than a piece in a fiction.
Ararara Wrote: It's still a bit too dry, I think. Most of it is like from a wikipedia page. Especially being so specific as to say "their height is 3 feet 6 inches" and "on average they weight only 70 pounds".
Well, isn't that sort of the point of an infodump?


I feel there is some information that often can't be provided organically using just in-story events. I do get it that overusing the 'tell rather than show' isn't a good idea. But I would still rather have the occational 'wikipedia' style infodump instead of forcing lore into character events where it won't make sense.

Re: Is this a "well written' infodump?

#7

If you described Lana as a character, and mention "she's above average height, actually!" even when she's shorter than many people around her, the readers will get idea. Or even, if you didn't describe it, but other characters made jokes at her about her height. Etc. It's definitely doable. But yes, it's not a must, this can work fine too. Just, I wasn't that captivated reading this.

Re: Is this a "well written' infodump?

#10

splattenburgers Wrote:
Paradoxcloud Wrote: this however feels like a report or a piece out of a captain’s log rather than a piece in a fiction.
Ararara Wrote: It's still a bit too dry, I think. Most of it is like from a wikipedia page. Especially being so specific as to say "their height is 3 feet 6 inches" and "on average they weight only 70 pounds".
Well, isn't that sort of the point of an infodump?


I feel there is some information that often can't be provided organically using just in-story events. I do get it that overusing the 'tell rather than show' isn't a good idea. But I would still rather have the occational 'wikipedia' style infodump instead of forcing lore into character events where it won't make sense.


The thing is, as a writer, you yourself can make the scenes in which that information fits naturally. If it’s not important enough to change the flow then it probably isn’t important at all. Also it seems incredibly dubious to me that any information worth knowing would be better presented through info dumps then through organic conversations or events. Over explaining something can in and of itself also be a writing sin, and I don’t mean that in the “show don’t tell” kind of way.

Re: Is this a "well written' infodump?

#12
I kept wanting to skim through it to get to the end.
You might want to break it up into smaller parts and reveal each part as it becomes relevant.
One thing that I've always done was to drop a small line about something and then later on build out what I mentioned earlier. 
It wasn't like that back before the war, but times had changed since then. 
And then later, as it became more relevant, 
Back before the War of Liberation, elves were persecuted. 
And then later in the story I'd mention that added a bit more detail.
Even though the War of Liberation happened three hundred years ago, prejudice still had its claws in the minds of men.
So even as you're dumping information, you're still constructing a narrative. 

Re: Is this a "well written' infodump?

#13

Nestor1079 Wrote: You might want to break it up into smaller parts and reveal each part as it becomes relevant.
I've been considering to do this, actually. The problem is that every time you insert info you also pause the action. It's questionable if lots of short pauses are better for the pacing than just one longer one. Typically I insert dumps in-between scenes where there is a natural pause in the action.

Re: Is this a "well written' infodump?

#14
Your approach to infodumping wasn't too bad. It tells a tale, yet isn't too lengthy. An alternative method would be to dump information in bite sizes, allowing a nestled chain of information that stretches across a good amount of text that the reader would decipher over time. That approach (obviously) takes time, but can be extremely rewarding if handled well.

Re: Is this a "well written' infodump?

#15

Zearth Wrote: Your approach to infodumping wasn't too bad. It tells a tale, yet isn't too lengthy. An alternative method would be to dump information in bite sizes, allowing a nestled chain of information that stretches across a good amount of text that the reader would decipher over time. That approach (obviously) takes time, but can be extremely rewarding if handled well.

As infodumps go, it's short. It is harder to do the longer ones, so that is a point in your favor. It has a rough story arc, which is also to the good. Could it be better? I think so.

As the others upthread say, you can break it up as the story proceeds. Either during relevant conversation or scene setting- since what you're doing with this infodump is essentially scene setting anyway. You could alter it, making it more micro-story like. The Langa are little and cute winged people, and about as intimidating as a kitten. You don't expect something the size of an average five year old and the personality stereotype as a nanny to go do whatever the Explorer's Guild does.

Sometimes going into too much specificity defeats the purpose of storytelling. Like ParadoxCloud and Ararara mentioned before, the "three feet six inches" doesn't exactly fit the scene as presented. Real people tend not to think that way unless there is a good reason for it, i.e. filling out an official form for a medical exam or the like. We don't see the PoV character doing that here.

Re: Is this a "well written' infodump?

#17
Yes, I too have the attention span of a rabid squirrel.  The number of sentence fragments unrelated to (i) stabbing with a phallic object or (ii) stabbing with the MC’s phallus is strictly limited.  Two is pushing it.  Three is right out.  (If the MC does not have a phallus, they should at least be sexually aggressive, perhaps enjoying activities involving knives, but that’s up to you, you are the author after all).  Ideally, any backstory should be integrated into the act of destruction: “with a sweep of their sword, the MC destroyed Blahgonia, which had a long and storied history including <flavor text 384D>,” is better than “Blahgonia had a long and storied history including <flavor text 384D>.  The MC destroyed it with a sweep of their sword.”  By the time I get to the word ‘it’ in the second example, I’ve forgotten what is being destroyed.  Many authors paper over this kind of problem with a few blue boxes and level ups, but it is better to avoid the situation altogether.

Re: Is this a "well written' infodump?

#18

splattenburgers Wrote: I'm surprised by the number of people who feel the dump is short or not even a dump at all. What counts as a 'long' infodump to you?

It's just 19 short sentences. 

Read my novel and you'll see what a medium-length info dump is.

Read anything by Haruki Murakami and you'll see lengthy infodumps. Or 19th-century classics such as Jane Austen.

Re: Is this a "well written' infodump?

#19

splattenburgers Wrote: I'm surprised by the number of people who feel the dump is short or not even a dump at all. What counts as a 'long' infodump to you?

Long is more than a page and a half, if it is done well. I've seen as long as six pages without resorting to flashbacks or altered memories. Medium length is around five to eight paragraphs, in my opinion. Three or less is just sort of a minor digression, but my view of the matter may be on the far end of the bell curve.

All parts of the novel should serve the story. The term "infodump" implies that this is an author's hobby horse and wasting the reader's time. Authors like David Weber get away with it because the infodump is both directly related to the story and tells a little mini-story at the same time. They have plot structure, often climax action and conclusion in them.