This week’s video points out one of the pitfalls of using dialogue to avoid info dumps.
Video Transcript: We’ve talked before about how authors can use dialogue to avoid the dreaded info dump. In a nutshell, we do this by allowing an in-the-know character to explain necessary information to an ignorant character. When done well, this technique can be not only an effective way of avoiding the sin of the info dump, it can also be used to move the plot forward. However, there is a pitfall.
In our attempt to avoid an “as-you-already-know-Bob” conversation, in which one character tells another character information they’re both already familiar with, we take the necessary and obvious step of making one character ignorant of the facts. So far, so good. But what if there’s no good reason for this character not to know what’s going on? In a YA book I recently read, the author uses this trick in his opening chapter by having the protagonist explain crucial details about the setting to another character. The only problem with this is that the second character, having lived in this setting all his life, had no business not knowing the answers to his questions.
The author succeeded in his primary purpose of imparting information to the reader, but in the process, he made his character look unnecessarily—and unrealistically—stupid. So the next time you’re scoping out possible characters for that all-important, information-imparting conversation, choose wisely. You need to select a character who can be ignorant for a good reason. Sometimes this means introducing an entirely new character, which, in turn, can lead to entirely new plot developments. But sometimes it’s also going to mean avoiding this little trick altogether and falling back on narrative to impart your info. Dialogue can often be a smarter and more seamless way to explain things, but you can’t force it to work when it just isn’t logical.
Tell me your opinion: Have you ever used dialogue to avoid an info dump?
Related Posts: How to Use Dialogue to Avoid Lengthy Info Dumps
Info Dumps Don't Belong in Dialogue
Is Your Character a Windbag?
Story by K.M. Weiland