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Handling info dumps

Emma_Clare at 12:00AM, Feb. 19, 2021

Exposition is information that the author wants the reader to know before they move on in the plot. It is delivered in one chunk, in the form of a conversation, a diary or an explanation from the view of the narrator. Despite its bad reputation, there is a place for exposition. Here are some ways it can be used effectively.

Rule of progression
A good place to start when considering the use of exposition is:

The least important facts come first, the next most important ones comes after that and the critical facts, including secrets come last.

If you think about the manner in which you discover information in your day to day life, this approach makes sense. You establish an overall look of an issue, character or event and slowly unravel them as time goes on. This allows for more natural exposition without overwhelming the reader and dragging them out of their immersion.

Just the tip
Building on the previous point, you don’t know everything that is going on in the world on a day-to-day level and thus nor do your readers need to. Give them 10% of the information, leaving the rest up to their imagination. This is particularly useful if you're filtering information through another character (see below). By doing this, it makes sense that the reader is only going to have a small piece of the puzzle and will encourage them to seek more, allowing you to build interest in the conflict, the world or other characters.

Use a character’s perspective
Filtering exposition through character’s experience, allows events to not only be communicated in a believable way, it also can shed light on the character narrating the story. It prevents exposition from being jarring, allowing the reader to get closer to the character delivering the information. Adding character moments and comments that reveal what the characters think of the information itself makes it all the more interesting.

Keep the scene moving
When delivering information, keep the characters moving. By having a character explaining things over drinks, driving or walking somewhere or whilst doing chores, keeps the momentum of the sequence moving forward. Don’t forget to use interesting camera angles to keep the pace up.

How often do you use exposition in your comic? Let us know in the comment section below! And join us on Sunday evening for our Quackchat at 5:30PM(EST)!

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bravo1102 at 5:47AM, Feb. 20, 2021

Info dumps should be handled like military intelligence: on a need to know basis. When the characters need to know something, they find out. Narrative might tease a little more but if it isn't needed it shouldn't be there. When the characters do something they take for granted, let them do it, not describe it. Compsre it to starting your car. You explain how an ignition system works even if teaching someone to drive? No, you turn the key and go over what to do if it doesn't start right away not explain the history of dynamos, flywheels, cranks, batteries to the electronic ignition system.

bravo1102 at 5:40AM, Feb. 20, 2021

If I want nothing but an info dump, I'll read nonfiction.

Corruption at 9:13PM, Feb. 19, 2021

Mystery plots do have a way to handle this very well, in most cases; The MCs are investigating and find out the information because they are searching for it. Maybe some info they get earlier makes no apparent connection until latter, but it becomes relevent, and is not that much of a surprise. There are many ways to handle exposition (Mentor/student, explorers, people being taught it in character, and more. It is sometimes amusing to have it done by the protagonist screwing up, and someone telling just how he did so).

hushicho at 3:42PM, Feb. 19, 2021

This is very well-written. Of course, everyone is going to want to examine their own way of doing it and see where they could make it more organic to the story and present it holistically, but you've given great tips on getting a good, strong foundation for informing your audience, that doesn't end up being conspicuous and incongruous. I also have to say, I laughed when you used "just the tip", which I think is absolutely delightful as a turn of phrase here. A great article and a lot of fun too, showing that even informing people about informing people can be fun, if it's written well and cleverly!

EssayBee at 12:43PM, Feb. 19, 2021

This is something I'm frequently guilty of. Some of this is because I generally take a fly-on-the-wall approach to story telling, so I just sit back and let characters talk, and the conversation/info dump is the point of the scene. (Plus, I tend to be more interested in the characters than in action, so I'm perhaps too lax in my approach to conversation.) The way I try to dramatize long conversations is by finding/developing certain "cliffhanger" beats in the conversation to end an update on so that the conversation/info dump has various cliffhangers to make readers wanna find out where the conversation will go next, and then next, et cetera. It's not always elegant--and I've understandably been criticized for it before--but it can be a problem with folks like me who tend to get more wrapped up and interested in characters and concepts than physical action.

Banes at 9:35AM, Feb. 19, 2021

Very interesting! Never thought of this type of progression before; that's really cool. Sometimes I've gone too far dumping exposition all at once - that's my impatience. I mainly try to (1) Spread out the info dump across as many panels as I can, so there's not too much text at once, and (2) set the exposition in a scene of conflict/comedy, so there's a laugh or character moment in there. I guess your point about filtering it through the character would cover that - I like delivering exposition through the more eccentric characters so they can have an exaggerated/funny take on things.

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