Contributed by Karen Cioffi
As a ghostwriter and editor, occasionally I get clients who give me a draft of a story that has information dump within the first few spreads of a picture book.
This is a no-no.
Information dump is when an author literally dumps a chunk of information or backstory for the reader to absorb.
Granted most new writers may not realize they’re hitting the reader with these big chunks of information. Or, the author may want to tell the reader what she thinks the reader should know, but doesn’t know how to weave the information into the story.
I think the problem is the ‘author’ wants to make sure the reader understands what’s going on. For example:
Billy and Joe had been best friends since Kindergarten. They played together every day and even had sleep overs. They were also on the same football team. Then Billy insulted Joe last year. After that, Joe didn’t want to be friends with Billy anymore. Now, it’s a new school year.
While this example isn’t too long, there are some info dumps that are paragraphs long, pages long, or in the case of picture books, spreads long.Another possible reason for information dumping.
Another possibility is that the ‘author’ is writing the story for himself. He’s writing to see what he wants to see in the book. He’s not thinking about what a seven year old or a ten year old will want . . . even expect in a book.
Whatever the reason, information dump at the beginning of a story leads to a very boring beginning. And, it delays the initial problem that the protagonist must overcome.
While this has touched on the beginning of a story so far, it’s not a good idea to dump clumps of information elsewhere within the story either. Why information dumping isn’t a good idea.
Children, even adults, have short attention spans. Being told what went on is boring for the reader. She wants to see or hear what’s going on through action and dialogue. Information or backstory must be weaved into the story in tidbits here and there.
For example, going back to Billy and Joe. Instead of telling the reader flat out in the beginning of the story why they’re not friends, bring it in through dialogue.
It was the first day of the new school year. Joe walked past Billy in the yard without looking at him or saying a word.
“Okay, enough already. I insulted you last year. Get over it already,” chided Billy.
This lets the reader know what’s happening without knocking him over the head or dumping clumps of information. It brings the reader into the action and conversation. It’s effective writing.
While you may not be able to get every bit of information into the story that you think should be there, it doesn’t matter. Your reader will read between the lines.
So, think twice before dumping that information on your reader.
is an award-winning children’s author, successful children’s ghostwriter
, and online platform instructor
with WOW! Women on Writing. Check out her middle-grade book, WALKING THROUGH WALLS
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