infodump

by uzwi

The very term, and the contempt with which it’s deployed in TV Tropes-style criticism, is designed to doom it from the start as a technique. But an “infodump” is essentially a piece of nonfiction writing. If you never read good nonfiction, or if you think that all nonfiction is the same thing, or has to be boring, or has to take a particular unreadable tone that bores you, you’ll never be able to infodump successfully. The perspectives and voices of good nonfiction are many, and available to anyone who wants to learn them. That also makes them as parodyable as any other kind of discourse. There’s a lot of fun to be had by combining a travel writer’s voice from the 1920s with the voice of a motorcycle manual in the 1960s; or a Vienna Secessionist manifesto with a Himalayan expedition record or the distinctive syntactical lilt of a translated Continental theorist in 1981. There’s a lot of fun to be had by switching the voice and perspective of your implicit narrator as a way of switching the frame and context and managing the reader’s perspective on the events in the text. Do you want to write a landscape into your fantasy novel? Make sure you’re reading landscape writers, not fantasists; you may not want to use the phrase “ruderal scrub”, but you need to know when you’re walking through it. Do you want to do faux-physics? Read the real thing, not your favourite TV Tropes writer’s “clever” fiftieth-hand take on the time travel trope. You’ll need a decent ear for a set of style rules—a poetics of jargon—and a dependable conversion ratio to your own voice; and you’ll have to be aggressive and unapologetic about it, and expect the reader to keep up. Here’s a short frame-switch about switching frames. Is it fiction or nonfiction? Here’s a piece about infodumping by outright list. Is it fiction or nonfiction.

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