Friday, October 5, 2007

Do All Information Dumps Stink?

Following on the trail of doing awesome research, the next obvious stop is the Information Dump--not to be confused with the Information Highway where one is actually moving forward.

An information dump is the place in your novel where you are compelled to share all you have learned. The story stops (uh-oh), your chest swells with pride, and you spill your newfound knowledge. Some might say "spew."

I've created one of the most glorious information dumps ever. Have you?

A medical foray for my manuscript resulted in intriguing, juicy information. Why in the world wouldn't it be of supreme interest for everyone? I mean . . . all cool things to know. Right? And I wasn't getting all "Tom Clancy"--going into detail about the instrumentation in a submarine. This was medicine! And besides, if Tom Clancy can do it . . .

Part of my problem is I've always loved learning about real things from reading fiction. Put a non-fiction textbook covering any topic in front of me and full-blown hives would soon be followed by a headache. But put a STORY in front of me, with real information thrown in, and I'm a sponge. Go figger. (This is why good research is important--readers like me rely on it.)

In the story I'm writing--Broken Bones--I wanted to use that intruiging, juicy information. So I had a totally boring character (set up as an expert on the topic) sitting with her legs crossed, doing the info dump. (Sounds like a dance, doesn't it?) Without a doubt, every reader everywhere would soak up my fabulous facts, and be forever grateful to me for putting these tidbits in front of them in such a compelling manner.


Suspense stories that are not moving forward for any reason begin to ferment. And rot. And stink. Pacing is crucial in suspense. Don't allow your story to stop. Ever.

The smell emanating from my pages became unbearable. I ended up not only cutting the scene, but also the character. Lively and Unique ended up replacing Boring. Way better.

Research (for your topic) and backstory (for your characters) require very similar handling. Most of it is for you--the suspense novelist--to know. The knowledge you ground yourself in will show through even when you're not forcing it.

Avoid backstory (I still struggle) and avoid information dumps (I still struggle) and you will have a stronger story.

Your readers will thank you.

It's all better with friends.


  1. Peg, enjoyed reading your blog and had to laugh at this one. Don't we just LOVE to use what we love? sigh. good advice though.

  2. We often think if it's our child, or our manuscript, or our idea, that we can get away with what others can't. BUT NOT SO! LOL.

    I enjoyed reading your blogg today.