Welcome to my guide on how to write technobabble! Every post will start with one letter of the alphabet, from A to Z, and cover tips and ideas for all you writers of sci-fi. Whether you’re writing about near-future science fiction, far-flung alien worlds, or historical steampunk adventures filled with advanced technology that never was – these posts are designed to help you write convincing and unique tech for your story!
I is for Infodump (Don’t Do It)
This post builds on my D is for Details and E is for Explanation posts. To define the term, an infodump is exactly what it sounds like: a large dump of information in the middle of the story. It’s when the flow of the story and plot pauses in order for the author to explain something in (usually lengthy) detail. In the sci-fi genres, an infodump often happens when the author wants to explain some aspect of world-building, such as all the details of what a piece of technology is and how it works.
Some explanation is fine—especially if you’re writing a story where the hows and whys of the technology matters to the plot. However, a four paragraph—or four page—explanation usually will slow down the pace of the story, pull readers out of the setting or away from the characters, or simply be just too wordy and read like a textbook.
There are ways to impart information without resorting to infodumps. The technical information needed can be worked into dialogue and/or action: for example, if you want to explain in detail how your space ships’ engines work, this can be discussed amongst several characters as they’re fixing a broken engine. You can also scatter the information throughout the story, in smaller, easier-to-read chunks that won’t slow down the story. Not everything has to explained fully right away—it’s okay to string the reader along a bit, and let them figure out some details on their own as the story unfolds around the tech.
If you’re struggling with writing too much explanation—or you’re not sure whether your explanations qualify as infodumps or not—getting feedback from trusted critique partners or beta readers can help you. And it’s okay to do infodumps in a first draft. Go ahead and get everything out and onto the page—your tech-heavy paragraphs of prose can be streamlined or reworked in the revision stage. While you’re still in the writing and creating phase, go ahead and dump that info!