The only just literary critic is Christ, who admires more than does any man, the gifts He Himself has bestowed. – JRR Tolkien

*Disclosure – this site contains sponsored links – please see our Disclosure Page for more info!

World Building – Information Dumps in Your Story

Are You Overwhelming Your Readers?

World-building in science fiction novels and stories - are you giving readers too much information at a time?

Have you ever run across a prologue like this:

(usually in sci-fi books)

Captain Briggs took the helm and began shouting orders. “Ensign, optimize the traspositional filtration valves to ignite the gravitational destabilizers.”

“I can’t do that,” Ensign Scott replied. “If I optimize the filtration valve, the axomital diffusionators will overload the epithermal neutron cells and blow the ship to pieces.”

“I didn’t think of that,” said the captain, as he scratched behind the gills of his plaxipus, making it waggle its tentacles and coo with delight.

Captain Briggs knew it was essential to ignore the repeated messages being broadcast by stellar-fusion upload from Delta 4, Quadrant 9. He recalled the words of the prophet Ahzarii, which foretold of the coming cosmic disaster, should the Captain proceed with his mission.

He couldn’t forget that the Doraphians were the first to conquer not only the Delta 4, Quadrant 9 section, but they gone on to civilize the entire realm of the Quadrant as well, without first gaining the Queens’s permission.

Nothing short of total war would avert the total disaster should the Doraphians come into possession of the glyphs of Janxier. And since the Doraphians were now at war with the Celestons, only a peace treaty could bring about the alliance necessary to stop the Zeadians from aligning themselves with the Yolleans

(sound of reader optimizing the filtration valves, and blowing the ship)

And this is all on page one?

By now, most readers eyes will have glazed over at all the information they’re expected to absorb and understand.

Of course, it’s not necessary for the reader to understand everything in the beginning. But you want them to at least be able to follow where you lead them. Information dumps given too early in a story usually only serves to confuse or demoralize a reader.

But when you – the author – are building entire worlds, with your own vocabulary, histories, and races of men or creatures, do the reader a favor and take it slow.

Today’s readers prefer to be spoon-fed. A creature here, a gadget there. Be careful not to pile it on too thick and too early. Remember the old adage – No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.

So what does that have to do with information dumps?

My point is, before you begin to delve too deeply into the minutiae of your fictional world, first make the reader care about your characters and the conflicts they’re facing.

Because until they empathize with your characters, chances are, they could care less about the world your character is living in. And if perchance the world you’ve created is more interesting than the character himself, you probably don’t have a story.

At least not yet.

Therefore, back to the drawing board.

Happy writing.

How much information about your character traits and settings is necessary?

Join our Facebook group, subscribe to our Youtube channel, or follow on Twitter, for all the information you need – free – ask any questions you may have and send books for review.