A ridiculous question, right? Of course not! No one wants to be dumped on, much less your hapless reader. Besides, she’s not so hapless. She can exercise her right to close your book long before she reaches the end.
By dumping on a reader, I mean an information dump. Here’s an example I just had fun making up:
Valencia was beautiful and proud of it. Her auburn hair shone just so in the sunlight, revealing strands of gold. Her simmering brown eyes, enhanced by smoky eye shadow, made her seem mysterious. She kept her nails manicured, Wine On, her consistent color choice. The four-inch heels she wore were worth every ache in her feet. She didn’t care that many women gave her the stink-eye when she entered a room. The men’s admiring stares soothed her soul.
Brad reveled in the fact he held a degree from the Harvard Kennedy School. Ever since graduating, he had adopted a number of ways he could work this fact into every conversation. It had become a game for him, and he didn’t care if his listeners had to strain to keep from rolling their eyes. They were just envious of his superiority.
Though these snapshots give the reader a great deal of insight into the characters, wouldn’t the reader be more interested in seeing Valencia and Brad in action? How about Valencia tossing her head smugly, or smirking? Or even flirting with an admirer? Why not have her show in conversation how empty she feels, even if Valencia herself doesn’t realize it?
And Brad? How about putting him into a conversation to show him dropping the fact of his education, straining to reach the topic out of context? Maybe Brad could sniff when his rival has “only” earned a degree from the Reves Center of William and Mary College.
Information dumps can be even more heinous, like catching up with your gossipy friend:
Joan was unhappy. After her first husband left her, she decided to impose her four children under the age of five on her mother so Joan could enjoy a party lifestyle. At first this seemed like fun, but late nights slowed her down and most of the time she felt lousy, both mentally and physically. She wanted a promotion at work, but was denied, and in private, she fumed and blamed being overlooked on everyone but herself. Then her best friend started dating her ex. To get revenge on them both, she dressed up her toddlers to look adorable and went to every church in town until she found a bachelor pastor and acted nice enough long enough to get him to marry her. From there, things only got worse.
Is this history important to your reader so we understand Joan? Yes, but an information dump is not the best way to handle it. Rather, place the reader in the character’s current situation, and let the information be revealed, nugget by nugget. Not only does this build suspense as to why the character is acting a certain way, but weaving necessary information in the context of the action keeps the reader engaged.
As for information dumps? Keep them on your computer, for your reference. Your reader will be glad you did.
Have you been distracted, confused, or bored by information dumps? Did seeing them cause you to stop reading the book?
Is there a time and place where you think information dumps can actually be effective?