The Dreaded Info-Dump

So a few months back, I won a little gem of a book called SAVE THE CAT. Technically it’s a screenwriting book, but it’s the most helpful book on writing I’ve ever read. And it had some great info on info-dumps.

If you don’t know what an info-dump, here’s a quick definition. It’s when something has to be explained to the reader – whether it’s a whole new world your MC is entering, or how someone figured out who murdered someone else. Anything that has to be explained. And normally when this happens, it creates an “info-dump” – too much information that reads very poorly.

In SAVE THE CAT, Blake Snyder (the author) gives a solution called The Pope in the Pool, which came from a movie. Basically, the solution is to have something funny or dramatic happening while the information is being given to the reader. In my NaNoWriMo novel, the information is given while a Scottish guy plays the bagpipes in the middle of my MC’s train compartment. The point is to give something else for the readers to enjoy, while they’re absorbing the information.

Info-dumps are one of the hardest things in writing to pull off. Most of the time I incorporate them into dialogue, or have action happening at the same time. And info-dumps in the first page of your novel are a HUGE no-no. Introducing your MC to a new world is full of potential info-dumps, and you should avoid giving all the information at once.

Play around with different ideas, and I would recommend trying the Pope in the Pool method. Whether you have an actual Pope in the pool, a Scottish guy playing bagpipes, or something very dramatic, use some action in the middle of information-giving. Watch Sherlock to see how they do it. Read books.

It gets easier each time.

10 thoughts on “The Dreaded Info-Dump

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  3. I think one of the tried and practiced methods is to have a character introduced into an environment they’re utterly unfamiliar with. Then you can justify your info dumps by having other characters explain stuff the protagonist doesn’t know.
    I try to work it into dialogue myself. Or to just add little bits of info-dumps at the end of long paragraphs rather than clumping them all together.

    • But the thing about other characters explaining is that THAT is an info dump in itself. Which is why I use the pope in the pool method to break it up πŸ™‚ it’s true, there are many different ways to do it, but I hope this might work for someone out there.

      • I agree wholeheartedly; the ‘out of depth character’ method is generally obnoxious and clichΓ©.
        I’ve never used the pope in the pool method myself. I try and splice bits of information into sentences, rather than outright have them go on and on explaining stuff.
        It’s a good idea though; it adds a level of absurdity or humour to the book.

  4. It’s so excruciatingly painful to figure out ways to make it less painful. I’m using dialogue method and going slooowly but it’s always difficult to forget that not everyone knows as much about this world as I do. πŸ˜€ I’ll definitely try the pope in the pool method once or twice.

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