Avoiding Info Dump, Pt. 2 ~
One of the easiest places in your manuscript to dump excess information is during your descriptions of setting.
This, like all possible areas of info dump, tends to happen more in the beginning of our manuscripts when we’re trying to let readers know where the story is taking place. But I have seen some authors try to mould a style around setting-dumps, and that just bogs down your work.
Our settings help build not only a sense of time and place, but mood and atmosphere too.
The way we choose to describe where things are happening should immediately help set the tone of the scene. By keeping this in mind, and selecting your verbs with care, more can be said with fewer words; thus helping reduce the need to say everything about something all upfront/at once.
Science fiction and fantasy writers are not the only authors who need to balance and weigh their information carefully. While it’s true that more emphasis may be needed to help a reader understand a new world or dimensional shift, I have seen contemporary fiction writers get just as lost in the ‘where’ of a scene – there needs to be a greater, tangible reason for mentioning the empty pitcher in the sink… if not, don’t focus on it – it’s just clutter.
Here’s my advice:
Write the first draft of your scene as if the reader already knows the setting. This will show you what is necessary to the plot and pacing. Then, go back and read the scene again keeping in mind how much the reader actually knows and highlight points where they would ‘get lost’ because there’s not enough detail to help them out. Finally, add only the bare essentials in order to keep them connected with the story.
If you return to this location again at some point farther along in the story, you can add more detail/layers as you go. If you never return to this setting, you don’t want to slow down the pace of your story for an unimportant location. Now, if it is a highly important location but a scene you do not return to physically, consider whether or not this particular setting will be remember or talked about later on. You also need to decide if it’s the place or the action that should be the focus… more often than not, the where just stabilizes the what of the scene.