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Writers Beware the Dreaded Info Dump

As you would expect from a collection of short stories from the author of “Ring”, “Dark Water” by Koji Suzuki is a creepy read. Seven short tales connected by the theme of water with a wraparound narrative of a grandmother telling ghost stories to her granddaughter as they stroll along the beach at Tokyo Bay and look at debris discarded by the current.

Sadly, in spite of the interesting stories, it left me cold. Writers beware of the dreaded info dump, especially in short stories where they scream at the reader. This collection could be a treatise on the perils of telling rather than showing and careless info dumps.

The example I will share is one of many, unfortunately.

“Sugiyama had known Sakakibara for no more than three years. He had met Sakakibara after joining the Pilot Caving Club in Hachioji. As a member of the Explorer’s Club at college, Sugiyama had taken an interest in both mountain climbing and marine sports, devoting his youthful energies to rock climbing and scuba diving. With increasingly less time and money to spend on adventure sports once he started working, he had focused on caving as a pursuit endowed with the dual aspects of both land and sea. Rock-climbing techniques were needed to traverse up and down shafts a hundred feet more in length. Moreover, water was inevitably encountered in caves, given the nature of limestone caves, grottos carved out of limestone by the solvent action of running water.” And it carries on like this for almost a page, delivering nothing that adds to the reader’s enjoyment of the story and just making more obvious information that could easily be intuited by the reader.

The moral of my story - always be careful of over sharing back story, and if back story is vital to the tale you are telling (and hopefully showing) don't just drop it on one clumsily written page.

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