Watched the movie Logan the other day and one aspect impressed me. They were able to adequately describe the world without having to describe it.
In a lot of movies, and books, we get the dreaded ‘infodump’. A big wall of text, or narration, that explains the world. In sequels, this explains what happened in the time jump. In new movies, this explains how the world and characters got to be where they are when the movie starts. Sometimes it’s needed, but most of the time it’s somewhat tedious. There has to be a better way to do it and Logan showed that way.
The movie starts off and we have no idea how Logan/Wolverine got to where he is. We can tell he’s hurting, that he’s older, and that the world is a little different. But we don’t know how or why. And we only find out through small amounts of conversations throughout the movie.
We are introduced to a very old and very unbalanced Charles Xavier and get snippets that they have to block his abilities. But no direct explanation why.
As the movie moves along, we find out why. We get this through conversations and a quick radio report. We are bombarded with an excess of information. We still never get the full story but we get enough to understand and enjoy the movie.
And we don’t need the full story. We need to know something happened, a little bit about what happened, but we don’t need all the details. What we get is enough.
Would that work for everything? No. Sometimes we would need all the details. It’s situational. But all the details, or just some, it can all be given without resorting to the infodump.
You see this more in novels, where the reader learns about the world as the story progresses. As the characters move through the story, the blanks of the world are filled in. We don’t need to know about that kingdom until it’s required. An infodump at the beginning to explain the world can work, but why? Let the story develop the world.
The Skeleton Stone takes place in one small village and the world isn’t described. Through some conversations parts of the world are introduced, The Far Riders and the Griffinstone Library and the magic system. But I tried not to overwhelm the reader with information that didn’t directly relate to the story being told. No mention of the Twenty Kingdoms in the Eastern Reaches or the Romus Empire in the Southern Expanse. Not even talk of the Chasm, one of the major defining features of Atair.
I added some sections in the back to help fill in some of the information told in the story. The hope is that this would make the reader more interested in learning more about Atair. I don’t know if it worked or not, but it’s a style that I like and will continue to do so.
I’m not a fan of the infodump. The scroll at the start of Star Wars is interesting and kept to a minimum but even sometimes that isn’t enough. It didn’t adequately explain the relationships between the Republic, Resistance and First Order. The thought, I think, was that with the scroll there wouldn’t need to be story time devoted to that. The scroll didn’t work and the relationships weren’t fully explained.
There really is never a time for an infodump as it can be handled better in the story.