Thursday, December 18, 2008


The following is an example of infodumping:

For ten years the two planets had been at war. Thousands had died in battles to control the trade routes between the stars.

The following is an example of incluing:

“Just how old is this?” the Starship Captain asked, biting into the ration.

“At least ten years. I had it before we went to war.”

“You would think one of these cargo ships we’re protecting would carry some decent food.”

In info dumping we quickly get to the point and give the reader the information she needs. In incluing we take that same information and spread it out across several pages or even chapters with the goal of giving the reader the information without telling the reader we’re giving him background information. Both approaches have their place, but incluing is typically a better approach. Readers tend to skip infodumps unless they are very short and they don’t take the time to remember the details we would like for them to remember. The reader is much more likely to remember if we use incluing.

Consider the example above. Without looking, how many people died? Now how many years has the war gone on? You are more likely to remember that the war has been going on for ten years than you are to remember that thousands have died. It is easier to remember that the Captain is eating ten year old food, which has been around since the beginning of the war than to remember the details of the info dump.

Incluing gives us a way to reveal important information without slowing down the action. Info dumping works better when we want to set the scene, but the information isn’t important. Of course we need to ask ourselves why we are revealing information that isn’t important.