A to Z Challenge: Earth the Reader

I actually did a pretty good post about this earlier in the year, but it was quite long and I think it’s important, so today I’m doing it again. Hopefully in express mode.

So… Earthing the reader is a term I’ve taken to using when thinking about when it comes to reader perceptions.


Broadly speaking, it works like this: There’s an aspect or thing that has an impact on the story or character. Say… a gun that kills an intruder. Easy, right?

Well… no. Because if you want to keep your readers happy and the tension going, two things need to happen.

1) The reader must be shown that there is in fact a gun in the house.
2) The reader must be on the edge of his seat,
biting his fingernails because of the fact that the intruder broke in.

Now for things to be made even better, the gun and intruder can be earthed further. For example by showing the reader that the gun in fact does not work and later revealing that the intruder is there to kill the main character. Drama abounds, right?

All because the reader was earthed right. If they aren’t gently lulled into the story with wisely inserted but vital information, the climactic scene will not have an impact on the reader except apathy. Or worse: disbelief.

Earthing the reader isn’t just about the storyline, though. It’s in every scene. If your characters are eating, make sure the reader knows this before the character puts her plate aside. Every single thing that the character interacts with has to be set up, otherwise it looks like he or she is conjuring it out of thin air.

It also extends to character motivations. Characters shouldn’t be doing things without reasons, so you should be earthing the reader by either showing their motivations in small ways before something big happens. Conversely, a huge, seemingly incongruous reaction can be used to set up an important revelation of a character’s motivation.

All of the above have to be done with skill and subtlety. Make it too obvious and the reader won’t like it either, finicky creatures that they are…

Look Out for These:

CP and Beta reader reactions are a major indication of problems in this area. Look out for these (or similar) reactions:

1) “I don’t like the Deux ex Machina in the ending.”

2) “Where did this come from?”

3) “Why is the character reacting like this?”

What do you look for when earthing a reader? Do you ever pay attention to it while editing?



41 thoughts on “A to Z Challenge: Earth the Reader

  1. These are all really good points. I hate when the writer pulls this stunt either to (a) tie badly written plots together (b) and this is similar to “a” – when they are stuck and bam! a solution is found. Ta da! Great post.

  2. I don't know that I've heard thie term before, but it totally makes sense. I do hate when a character pulls something out of nowhere, something you had no idead they had/knew how to do.

  3. You are absolutely right! Writer's also need to remember that they have an unfair advantage over the reader. A writer gets to spend copious amounts of time with the characters. The finished product (book, short story, etc) has to make a good first impression to the reader because they will never know what exactly goes on in the writer's head.

    Sarah @ The Writer's Experiment

  4. I notice this when the setting changes suddenly and I didn't get a description of the room they just walked into or the person who just arrived on scene before they started speaking.

  5. Definitely important advice! I hate it when it appears as if things appeared out of mid-air or characters teleported to a different place – these things are only acceptable if I'm reading fantasy or sci-fi and that's what was supposed to have happened. 🙂

    Continued success with the A to Z challenge,

  6. Very creative blog, Misha!

    I like that word “earthing” very catchy! Appreciate the pointers!

    I too am a writer; I've written one book thus far.

    It's entitled: “What Type of Character Are You Hanging Out With?”

    Some of the things that I look for when earthing the reader is who the audience might be; even though you can't really tell who the book will appeal to.

    The book that I've written is for teens and above – I think teens could benefit from it more- so identifying with issues that teens might have; empathizing with things teens go through and simply relating to their issues,are things I've considered in writting the book; also using words and jargon that that age group can identify with.

    I think earthing a reader has to include passages that examplify having fun, excitement, things that bring laughter, a smile,etc. and knowing when to be serious and real.

    Well – I've enjoyed stopping by , Misha! Have fun with the challenge. I'm sure ill be back!

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