fbpx

Ground Your Reader

Grounding the Reader

What is Grounding a Reader?

 

Today I’m going to discuss a bit about what I call “grounding” the reader. Quite simply, grounding is the fine art of letting the reader know what is going on. In order to ground your reader, you need to focus on some basics: Who is in a scene? Where does it take place? What is the major conflict?

 

Those questions need to be answered quickly with every scene in a book or story.

 

Yet often, writers neglect to ground their readers. Sometimes they forget to give out important information, or they hide it, thinking that the reader will want to “discover” the basics. Even very good authors will do this. Forgetting the basics is easy to do, it is important stay grounded yourself. The courses we have are bundled together and will help you master and remaster the fundamentals of writing. Find the bundle here. In reading stories for Writers of The Future, I found a story that takes six pages before it gives any hints about the setting. In another, it was ten pages. If the writer hadn’t done exceptionally well in a lot of other ways, I wouldn’t have bothered reading that far. Normally, I want a setting by the end of page 2.

 

One writer went through six pages without naming his protagonist. I normally demand a name on the first page, unless there is a compelling reason not to reveal it. In this case, the author finally let on that the protagonist was named Jake, but then went back to using a generic “he” for a couple of pages. At that point, I quit even skimming. I normally reject such stories pretty quickly.

 

I only read this one because I was interested in seeing how long the writer would try to play me.

 

Another couple of stories in the submission pile didn’t tell me how many characters were in a party. So, for example, on one ship, we have a hundred warriors fighting against folks on another ship. In each of the first dozen paragraphs, the author introduces a new warrior or group of warriors performing some neat action. That’s a problem with grounding. I couldn’t visualize who was there, or what the ship was like, or where the people were in relation to one another. There was obviously some intriguing world creation in this story, and some interesting conflicts. But I have to be honest, after five pages I couldn’t figure out who the bad guys were, what they were (humans, monsters, demons?), or what the groups were fighting about. All of those are “grounding” problems.

 

So ground your reader quickly with information about the characters and setting, along with a substantial conflict.

 

Spotting a lack of conflict is usually very easy. If you have your characters talking for two pages, or combing their hair while looking in a mirror, and the reader doesn’t get a hint of a conflict, then the story will begin to drag quite quickly. You could do worse than to start a story with all three elements in the very first sentence: “Johann did not want to die on the moon, but when the asteroid struck the dome above Callisto Crater, it looked as if he didn’t have any other options.”

 

In many cases, knowing the “why of a conflict” is just as important as knowing what the conflict is. For example, let’s say that “Rachel is racing toward a Taxi.” It makes a huge difference if she is racing for it to escape a pack of zombies, or if she wants to get home in time to watch American Idol.

 

Of course, you can play the information out longer than just a single sentence. Creating a character may require you to give us a little action. If you’re going to show us a hero, you might want to create a scene that generates sympathy for the protagonist right from the start, perhaps by putting him or her in pain. In the same way, using all of the senses to evoke a setting may also require a couple of paragraphs.

 

So don’t withhold information too long, or the reader will grow weary and walk away. Remember, the most powerful way to hook a reader is to create a character, put them in a vividly setting, and put the character in jeopardy quickly.

 

apex-writers

Need a writing group or help writing?  Apex-Writers has got you covered!
We always have a stellar lineup of guests and fantastic content for you! Twice a week we set up calls with different authors, publishers, agents, marketing specialist, actors, movie producers, and more. During this time members have the opportunity listen to the instruction/advice of the guest. Members also have the opportunity to submit questions and have them answered.  Visit Apex-Writers.com to sign up now so you don’t miss anything!

Throw in thousands of dollars in writing classes, along with access to writing groups after the various workshops, and you’ll get an idea of what we’re about. And right now the price is only $299 a year, or less than $30 per month. Go to Apex-Writers.com to learn more and find out how to join.

Like this article?

Share on facebook
Share on Facebook
Share on twitter
Share on Twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on Linkdin
Share on pinterest
Share on Pinterest

More Free Writing Tips

Time to Get Serious
Free Writing Tips
David Farland

Time to Get Serious

A lot of people “play” at writing. We tend to think of it as a hobby or a pastime. But I sometimes wonder how much

Read More »
Is my novel too long?
Free Writing Tips
David Farland

Is My Novel Too Long?

I got this question once about writing large novels. We may all ask a variation of it, is my novel too long? How precise can

Read More »
Persistence
Daily Kicks
David Farland

Persistence Is Key

There is a myth among the general public that the greatest writers are born with uncanny innate talents that average folks dare not aspire to.

Read More »

Leave a comment

Subscribe to Dave's Writing Tips!

*We will never sell or spam our lists

Get a Free Ebook!

Creative writing tips

Looking for a writing group, but no one around you shares the passion? Join Apex-Writers.com!

With Apex you get courses, weekly conference calls, and social interaction with passionate writers around the world! Learn more at www.apex-writers.com

Most Recent Free Writing Tip!
Time to Get Serious
Free Writing Tips

Time to Get Serious

A lot of people “play” at writing. We tend to think of it as a hobby or a pastime. But I sometimes wonder how much

Read More »