Information Dump

Basil Exposition

When the presentation of information in fiction becomes wordy, it is sometimes referred to as an ‘information dump.’ It is expressed by characters in dialogue or monologue and sometimes referred to as ‘idiot lectures.’ They are sometimes placed at the beginning of stories as a means of establishing the premise of the plot.

They also appear in science fiction, but it is considered poor writing when characters explain things to each other that they would already know. For example, if you need to call someone, you don’t stop to explain to a colleague that you are now going to use a device controlled with digital circuits to use radio waves to transmit your voice. Why? Because your contemporaries already know how cellular radio telephones work.

‘Villain speech’ is a specific form of exposition in which the villain describes his sinister plans to a helpless hero, often prefacing his exposition with the comment that it can’t hurt to divulge the plan, since the hero will be dead soon anyway (or the plan will be impossible to stop in the short time available). The villain’s motivation sometimes includes his desire to have his cleverness admired by the character most capable of appreciating it. Examples include Comic book supervillains and villains in James Bond movies.

‘Incluing’ is a technique of world building, in which the reader is gradually exposed to background information about the world in which a story is set. The idea is to clue the readers into the world the author is building, without them being aware of it. This is in opposition to infodumping, where a concentrated amount of background material is given all at once in the story, often in the form of a conversation between two characters, both of whom should already know the material under discussion (the so-called ‘As you know, Bob’ conversation).

Both incluing and infodumping are forms of exposition and are frequently used in science fiction and fantasy, genres where the author has the task to make the reader believe in a world that does not exist. Writers in other genres have less use for these techniques, as they can often depend on the reader’s familiarity with the ‘real world.’ The word is attributed to fantasy and science fiction author Jo Walton. She defined it as ‘the process of scattering information seamlessly through the text, as opposed to stopping the story to impart the information.’

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