As its name implies, it’s when a great deal of information is “dumped” on the reader. It’s usually done by the narrator at the beginning of a story or chapter. And there’s no better way to lose your reader then by boring them to death with a ton of details all at once.
Why this is bad
Think about yourself as a reader. You want to get to know the main character and have a basic idea of the setting and the events that lead to the initial scene. But you don’t want a term-paper. You certainly don’t want to spend any mental energy on a slew of names, dates, or locations.
You just want the basics. All of the other details can be filled in later.
Hell, even God knew this.
Take a look at Genesis 1. “Let there be light.” The big book gets right to the action. God turns on the lights and starts making stuff.
Of course, as some of the later writers took over the script, there were times when things went a bit astray. One of the most famous info dump in written history takes place later in opening scene of the Gospel of Matthew:
Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, 3 and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram,[b] 4 and Ram[c] the father of Ammin′adab, and Ammin′adab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, 5 and Salmon the father of Bo′az by Rahab, and Bo′az the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, 6 and Jesse the father of David the king.
And that goes on for three more paragraphs.
And while I’m in a bit of a silly mood coming up with this example, I hope it’s clear what I’m saying: Start with the minimum information you need to establish character and setting and fill in the backstory later.
We’ll be back tomorrow with another Five Links Friday. Until then, thanks for reading!