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Short and Sweet…

By On Feb 1 2010, 1:00 pm

Short and Sweet

Do you find yourself skipping over portions of books? Do you tend to buy shorter 200-300 page books rather than the larger tomes? Why?

I asked myself that question a while ago when I finished a book by a well-known author. The book was over 500 pages and action packed from beginning to end. The main character(s) were constantly on the move and under time crunch to “save” something (the world/another person, it doesn’t matter). Yet I found myself skipping large portions of the book.

Why? Information dump.

I love history. I love conspiracy theories. I love tangled webs. But put them all together and add a fiction plot and more often than not I am disappointed in the book. Make the book a romance on top of that and things can get really tricky.

I feel for authors who are excited about the information, the legend, the myth, and in some cases, the history surrounding an event. It’s a tightrope walk to figure out what is important and what isn’t. I often think the author is more in love with the facts and information than with the characters of the book. The author is so eager to share his/her fascination with the details that they forget they are writing something that is for the beach or the sofa rather than the classroom. The number one thing I dislike more than anything when reading a book for pleasure is to be lectured to. Having an author lecture his/her point of view and using the characters in the story for the vehicle causes me to put that book aside. Fiction reading should be stimulating, satisfying and enjoyable.

While the information may be fascinating, I only need to read the part that connects the dots for the story – the characters and the plot they are involved in. If the plot is so complicated that it requires minute attention to detail and learning obscure fact, chances are the book should have been a series. A series would allow the information to be given to the reader in short doses not all at once.

So to keep this blog short and sweet…what books have you read that are wall-to-wall information dump? Did you like it? Are there situations where that type of book works?


5 Responses to “Short and Sweet…”

  1. Frank Tuttle says:

    As much as I love Glen Cook, there were portions of his otherwise brilliant Black Company books (the very last ones, in which the Lady regained her powers) in which I just got lost.

    The world was detailed and imaginative, the politics and machinations were intricate — but I just got lost. I had to keep slogging through, because I was desperate to know what happened to Croaker and the Lady.

    And I’ll admit a deep dark secret here, too. I read Gene Wolke’s Torturer series from cover to cover, and I still don’t know what happened, or to whom.

    The guy had forty different words for colored sand, I’ll give him that. But I was an utter failure at reading those books. Maybe I should try again.

  2. Lainey Reese says:

    I can get behind well thought out plots and attention to detail on history, plot and science fiction worlds; bring it on. What bores me silly, and makes me skip pages without delay is room filler . I cannot stand it when someone writes on and on detailing what a room looks like. If it takes more than a few lines, I’m outta there. Or when they go on and on about the food! I once read a book where the author wrote three stinkin’ pages about a feast! Not what was happening at the feast, or who was there to enjoy it…just about the food! Three pages of food discription! Yikes!

  3. January Rowe says:

    I love to read trash science thrillers. Even though I’m a scientist, I’m OK with the villain carrying around a bottle of antimatter, or the existence of some piece of shark-like nanotechnolgy dragging along everything but the kitchen sink.

    But info dump… hey, that makes me crazy.

    I just finished a book (involving the magical DNA of Jesus) with tons of data delivery in the form of dialog. Like the villain HAS to explain thousands of years of mystical history to the victim before he sacrifices her.

    But what really takes the cake is this scene in a Jerusalem museum. The Biblical archaeologist hero is with his friend, an Egyptologist. The two are running through the museum because assassins with guns are chasing them. The archaeologists are supposedly terrified and vulnerable. However, during their suspenseful, breathless, scary escape, they pause at various museum exhibits so the Bible guy can explain some piece of relevant ancient history.


  4. Bethany says:

    I understand what all three of you are saying!

    Frank – ahhh the unreliable narrator author. I have to go back and give him another shot. The series did have a fantastic premise.

    Lainey – Don’t ever read American Psycho then – the author goes on about various types of bottled water for 8 pages. The interesting thing about that though was that it fit the voice of the narrator perfectly. If anyone would have told me about those 8 pages before I began the book, I might have given it second thought…as it was, I will finally admit out loud that I liked it.

    January – I will have to look that one up, it sounds pretty bad – actually the one I read is in a similar vein – it was The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown – as a conspiracy buff, I love these kinds of books but this one was seriously boring with the amount of information dump given by the same method as yours – character dialogue…


  5. I think sometimes, having done a lot of research for a book, we authors feel compelled to include every fascinating detail, whether it advances the plot, gives insight to the characters, or not.

    The same goes for those who have worked hard to, say, create a fantasy universe and want all the stuff they’ve imagined on the page.

    So we describe Lady Gwendolyn’s outfit down to the trim on the cuffs, give every detail of the ancient religion we’ve created (“the sacrificial knife was scribed with strange runes dating back to the time of the ancient Ormogs”) and the reader starts feeling like they’re wading through detail sheets instead of reading a story…

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