Monday, March 31, 2008

The Info Dump

George Lucas always places his info dumps at roughly 1/3 of the way through. In the insipid Phantom Menace (sorry George, I dig what you were trying, and you certainly set up a brilliant Episode 3, but Menace ain't too good) this is the scene around the dining table at Anakin's slave quarters when Qui Gon discusses Jedi's, pod racing, Anakin's ability et al. After the initial setup of action and intrigue an info dump is always required to set the ongoing tone and direction of the piece - though it doesn't necessarily have to occur where George specifies, though consider any number of quests - Raiders of the Lost Ark, James Bond, etc - after the initial opening (which in the case of both the aforementioned have the culmination (Act 3) of a different/separate story) we cut back to be told by the professors or M what the mission is going to be and its importance.

Of course, info dumps occur throughout a story - they're essential to fleshing out the piece - and as with my previous post "Stop starting" I showed how information can be slid under the reader's nose without distracting (too much) from the forward moving narrative.

The info dump I'm talking about is the big one that consolidates the "why we are here", and, as with Inkheart, there is just such a scene - though this is pulled off another site (I don't yet know where it appears in the book itself because I've not got far enough):

So, Inkheart has the following blurb:
Meggie lives alone with her father, Mo, a book restorer. But a frightening new chapter in their lives begins the day a strange figure from the past called Dustfinger arrives at their door. He warns them that a villain named Capricorn is looking for a precious book in Mo's collection. And he will stop at nothing to steal it. The dire warning forces Mo to reveal an extraordinary secret — that when he reads a book aloud, the fictional characters come to life. It is revealed that long ago, Mo accidentally brought the villainous Capricorn into the world. And now Capricorn has returned to destroy the last remaining copy of the book. Soon, Meggie discovers she shares her father's gift. If only she can use her newfound powers to send Capricorn back between the pages where he belongs.
But, the brunt of that info dump is given here.

As you can see from the excerpt, it is reeled off in dialogue form - since the reader hasn't come across this news already in their reading, there is no loss in having the conversation here (though were another character to be given this info we, the reader, would not want to sit through it a second time). Also, as it's in a specific character's voice they can embellish and use their own witticisms, giving us a feeling for them rather than having to listen to the droll of the narrator.

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