Science Fiction/Fantasy writers, in particular, are faced with having to impart a lot of information to their readers. If this can be done without paragraphs and paragraphs of “info dumping”, it’s desirable to do so. Long narrative tends to get skipped by most readers (not good), and info dumping calls attention to the author, breaking the reader’s immersion in the story (a capital sin). Here’s some strategies for handling info dumping in more “transparent” fashion:

  • Deductive Introspection— Character puts two and two together in his head as the reader “watches”
  • Introspective Reminiscing–One or more characters reminisce about past events crucial for the reader to understand what’s happening.
  • Flashbacks
  • “Stranger in a Strange Land”–Person or alien in an new environment has to ask questions; reader gets educated as the plot develops
  • “The Briefing”–Character in a new situation is briefed by a more knowledgeable person or persons; the reader listens in
  • “The Bard”— Poetry at the start or in the interior of a chapter telling us something about the situation and/or characters (as in JRR Tolkien’s LORD OF THE RINGS or Mike Resnick’s SANTIAGO)
  • “Media Blurbs”–Encyclopedic, newspaper, newscasts, e-mail messages or book excerpts at the start or inside a chapter that conveys info (as in Asimov’s FOUNDATION TRILOGY; Van Vogt’s THE WEAPON SHOPS OF ISHER; Vernor Vinge’s A FIRE UPON THE DEEP)
  • “Strategic Character”–Character specifically chosen by the author so that she’s always at the right place at the right time to see something the main character can’t
  • “The Dr. Watson”–the sidekick approach (as in THE ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES)
  • “Strategic Debate” –two or more characters argue; during the argument, important information is brought out.

When one of the above just doesn’t seem to fit into your story naturally, instead of info dumping you can “lace in” information throughout your story using short author-intrusive phrases or sentences. While this isn’t wonderful, it is better than paragraph after paragraph of dumping. Just ensure that the laced in phrases or sentences seem to naturally flow from the narrative or the situation being portrayed, and that they satisfy a crying need for the reader to get this information. In other words, try to minimize jarring the reader out of their immersion in the story.