The Great Cut: The Dreaded Information Dump

This is my third post on novel revision. The goal: cut 50,000 words from my 172,000 word fantasy novel to make it a marketable piece of fiction.

When I started my first chapter it felt natural to describe my characters . Details about what they wore, their eye color and even the texture of their skin seemed to be important details my readers would want to know. Little did I know, I had succumbed to the dreaded information dump.

Information dumps are often related to the problem of telling verses showing. Stopping a story to describe an character’s backstory is one example. Long character descriptions are another. In both cases, the reader is provided with information that may not be necessary or could be more naturally shown through the story arc.

In the revision of my first chapter (and others), I was embarrassed to find a lot of telling that had to be cut. In the example shown below, the second paragraph is clearly a dump.

“The deck creaked behind Urms, and two Gilian of the Order of Rites approached bearing torches and oil. “I must check the cabin before you begin,” Urms said.

The Order of Rites presided over all Gilian ceremonies and funerary rites. They spent years in solitude where they memorized the ancient rituals and sought the gift of foresight. Members of this Order tattooed their bodies with elaborate mandalas conceived in visions and wore jewelry of beads, shells and gems collected from the lake.”

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