Every fiction writer knows the struggle! You’ve got so much great information thought up about your characters, the setting, and the backstory. In this excitement, when you are deep in the writing zone, it’s easy to “info dump,” or drop in too much information in one spot. The strategies and tips below offer several easy ways to help cut back on that hard-to-break habit, and create sharper, more descriptive and dynamic language.
Don’t rush it!
It seems logical to put a bunch of information in the beginning of your story, but it's one of the easiest ways to wind up with a lengthy info dump. Remind yourself that there’s no need to rush and put all of that information in one spot. You’ve got many more pages up ahead to fit that important information into. So don’t rush it! Include only the information that is relevant to that exact moment.
Sprinkle it in!
In all of those upcoming pages, there will be many opportunities to drop in small pieces of important information. The pace at which readers receive information is instrumental in creating tone, mood, and patterns throughout the story. Sprinkling in details as you go allows for a slower release of information and helps keep your readers hooked, wanting to read on and know more instead of being bogged down by an info dump.
One really easy way to sprinkle the information is through adjectives and other similar description strategies. Instead of telling your readers all about the small, unchanging town that your character grew up in, refer to it as “dull” or “tedious.” And maybe the moment to add in why the town is so dull will be up ahead in a more fitting spot. Better yet, show the dullness through your character's actions, not just telling the reader about it through the narration.
Another easy way to include background or surrounding information is to put it in a conversation. It’s still easy to info dump when using dialogue, but when paired with a critical mindset, this can be a great trick. The narrative voice could just inform the readers that the upcoming event happens every year and the characters always go, and it’s always really fun and busy, and, and, and... Or, one of your characters could simply say to the new girl in town “We always have fun every year!” and the same information is conveyed but done so much more naturally.
Tie it to an action!
When in doubt on how to include important information, make it connect to an action. Characters actually doing things always make a story more interesting. This can be as simple as showing nervous behavior through pacing, fidgeting, or nail biting/picking instead of telling your readers that the character has a long history of anxiety and nerves. Repeating these nervous actions will tell your readers exactly what you mean but you won’t have to explicitly say it.