How to Avoid Info-Dumps in Your Stories


by Ryan Lanz


Dumping is rarely appreciated anywhere, and inside your novel is no different.

When I started writing, I can remember feeling the urge to clue the reader in on every tidbit of information on a character/setting, including the culture, people, landscape, type of plants that grow there, every holiday, flavors of tea consumed, what type of bear is best (a Jim Halpert reference), etc.

I’m exaggerating a little, but not by much.

For some reason new writers often feel the urge to tell a lot of information and backstory, usually at the very beginning. At such a crucial point in the story, that is probably the point where you want huge blocks of information the least. Heavy info-dumps also drags down the pacing, and it can cause the reader to skip over sections until it seems like something is happening again.

So what’s the solution?

Here are some ways to convey the same information but in ways that are easier for the reader to digest:


Convey information in dialogue

This has to be used lightly, otherwise it’ll sound too purposeful. It’s easy to go overboard with this, but if you give a good enough motivation, you can convey a lot of the setting in dialogue. For example:

“We haven’t had a bite to eat since the king shut them castle walls. I wouldn’t mind if he went hungry for a night or two. Still, it’s better than getting an arrow in the chest.”

From just that bit of dialogue, we already know some flavorful things about the setting and even some about character. We know the character lives in a feudal system, probably back a few hundred years ago. We know that the person speaking is probably in the lower rung of society and that the king is probably not well liked. We also know there is some sort of conflict that might have happened should the gates be open.

Compare that to starting out the scene like this:

In 1727, King Thomas had ruled for 17 years in the town of Mulberry. Two days ago, he commanded the defensive gates shut against the marauder hordes of Charles the fifth. In just one day, unrest in the town grew to a fevered pitch. Charles the fifth had his army fully camped and didn’t seem to mind waiting until starvation did most of the work. His favorite means of war was the archer, stationed all along the barricaded city.

You get the idea.


Sprinkle in the information

You can lightly sprinkle in details about the setting throughout the story. Instead of discussing the 200 year history of a statue at the beginning, have the characters walk past it, wondering what it is. Then later, you could have it come up again in a different way, such as a newspaper article. Rather than flesh out the rich detail of a mansion, describe one facet to lay the groundwork, then pick out other tidbits as the character walks throughout, has dinner, dances in the ballroom, and retires to his chambers. It may sound like a simple strategy, but it can help a lot.



Consider waiting until later in the book. Your reader doesn’t have to know everything right away. That’s one of the common misconceptions I had as a new writer. The reader doesn’t mind leaving some things to mystery for a while. In some instances, that’s a good thing.


Leaving it out

Yes, yes. I know. Your book couldn’t stand losing the vast genealogy of your character or the list of the past dozen dukes who had held a particular sword. I thought the same thing too. The brass tacks of the matter is that really the only thing your readers care about is your character and what pertains to him/her within the specific storyline.

Some genres are more forgiving than others with this, true, but we’re speaking in generalities. For example, if you mention a stone tower as ridden with moss, vines, and collapsed stones, the reader gets the idea that it’s old and abandoned. No need to go into the history of what happened unless it’s pertinent to the story. Heck, that could later turn into a novella or bonus material for your author website one day.



I’m not saying that you need to trim down to the bone, so to speak, but consider what the reader needs to know and when. Today’s readers are a smart group; they’ll pick up on subtly. One test you could consider doing is handing the first chapter (after trimming off the info-dumps) to a friend and simply asking whether it all makes sense. If the reader is happy and not confused by the lack of information, then ask yourself if it was necessary in the first place.




Ryan Lanz is an avid blogger and author of The Idea Factory: 1,000 Story Ideas and Writing Prompts to Find Your Next Bestseller. You can also find him on Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr.


40 thoughts on “How to Avoid Info-Dumps in Your Stories”

  1. So true!

    I just wanted to mention that writing the infodumps can be good though! It can be useful…for the WRITER!

    We need to know what happened and how whatever got there. That helps keep the world 3-dimensional.

    But you’re definitely right. Trimming it down to vague references in the Finished Manuscript, and hanging onto the description for our own use is definitely the way to go. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I am quite guilty of this. I have considered my first drafts (or first dozen drafts) to be my way of telling the story to myself first. The sad part is I haven’t quite grasped the step where I cut everything and paste it back together in a more readable format. You’d think with my scrapbooking experience, this would be a no-brainer.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I think a good way to cement this is to read some of your favourite books with a critical eye – it’s amazing how little is included sometimes, but our brains are very good at filling in the blanks from context and experience. We’re nature’s storytellers, which means we’re also nature’s story devourers 😀


  4. Thank you for this! It’s a flaw of mine I’m constantly trying to overcome.

    Currently, I’ve been writing on Wattpad, and I’ve found that the readers will comment about how they want to know about something that I’ve purposefully left out. It’s a challenge when you have an interactive audience! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I totally agree with you. The books which have almost ALL the information in the first… I don’t know, 30 to 50 pages are the least attractive. Yes, there are some books that might still be interesting after you finish all that “info dump” as you call it, but those are exceptions. I followed your blog recently and you don’t disappoint, that’s for sure! Keep up the great work!


  6. I struggle with info dumps a lot. I think it comes from an insecurity in myself. Sometimes, I treat the reader as someone who does not know any better when he is much smarter. These tips will help greatly as it will show me what to look for and avoid when editing.


  7. One of the things that I constantly have to stand guard against is the dreaded data-dump. Fortunately (I think) I write in the steampunk genre where over-description is more tolerated because the surroundings, machinery, technology is often a big part of the plot. Still, I find that parsing out the data a drop at a time and through the eyes of your characters often help keeping the chunks a digestible size.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A certain dose of “infodump” is also necessary in historical fiction, because not all the readers are familiar with the circumstances in order to understand the deeper nuances of the story. This is why Alexandre Dumas, Walter Scott, Paul Feval, Victor Hugo, Fenimore Cooper and a few others did it in a way or another too, and it was benefic for us, the readers who are far away from that era.


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