There is, of course, naturally fertile ground. Volcanic soils are good in this way.
I think you can see the small drawback in that…
It doesn’t stop people, but it does sometimes end in tears, or at least ash. Nothing really is free and without consequences.
Otherwise… most fertility – of the soil at least, and possibly other kinds require a lot of input and a lot of work. Some people are willing to make those inputs and that effort (yes of course that was a double entendre. This is me writing not some modern literary darling). Others get grumpy when it doesn’t come easy.
But really, whether we refer to politics, gardening, or writing – or even selling writing: the same applies – your results will depend on the ground you sow into — and that is something you can control and influence.
If you’re writing a book preparing the ground is actually the hardest and most important stage of the entire thing. If you prepare the ground well (and the ground in this case is the reader’s mind) the story simply seems to evolve naturally out of it – characters did what they did because you had prepared the reader to see that as a natural consequence of the circumstance you (the author) had created in the reader’s mind and the character that you, the author had created. Foolish people say ‘oh that was an easy read’ (implied: the author is too stupid to write a turgid convoluted and un-natural thing that we are assured is award winning literature). It’s a lot harder to do well than to write stodgy work people have to force their way through – rather like a skilled ballerina or gymnast makes something hard look easy and effortless.
It’s always a balancing act between too much and too little.
Too much… an infodump of many pages may explain everything you need to know about an alien Womblebottom landing craft, and how to sabotage it, and may tell you that the heroine’s defining characteristics are her love for reading Alien tech manuals, and her ability to do telepathic welding… But it’s like preparing your 10 by 10 foot garden buy digging in a ton and a half of fish-guts – which are good in very small quantities, but will probably poison the soil for years in that volume. Information needs to be trickled in, and without the reader realizing they’re being set up.
The opposite of course is true too. The reader has no idea how to disable an alien landing craft, or even what the author means by that, so to have heroine just do it, by her amazing power that the reader never knew she had until she used it… that’s barren soil. Rocks.
Characters react in the way they believably, logically would react for reasons that are 1) built in preparing the reader for that behavior. In CHANGELING’S ISLAND I started preparing the reader for the way that Tim would react to circumstances in latter half of the book in the first two pages. 2) plausible for their mindset, body type etc. Characters are not chess-pieces or PC tokens. They’re people. If you want one a classic example of preparing the ground to give yourself later problems: consider the PC prescription in the token checklist. The gay character is always the sanest, kindest, and most reliable character. Now, that’s possible, but it does not stem from being gay. That is like assuming your skin color or religion defines your character… oh wait. The PC checklist makes just that assumption.
This too is a kind of ‘ground preparation’. It was meant to make readers accept the narrative that these superficial things defined humans. That the pampered wealthy third generation upper crust academia black author is as abused and deserving of special support as a black author who grew up in poverty a housing project and survived real abuse.
The problem with such ‘ground preparation’ is that like the infodump, it poisons the ground. The inverse is likely to happen. I was amused by one of the Puppy Kicker Snowflakes whining that the Puppies had followed the same Playbook as the Alt-right to elect President Trump. I’d actually say the only commonality was that in both cases, was that the ground was largely prepared by the other side, successfully alienating people, who were not necessarily foes or even engaged in the subject before. They are now.
As a writer: sowing ground that detests you may well be a way to get others to like you. There are demagogues on both sides. That’s a kind of ground preparation too. The problem arises if – like modern Trad publishing you’re reliant on not being hated by 75% of your audience – but to get published you must be loved by the other 25% – who will only love you offend the 75%…
To return to the subject of preparing your ground: it also goes into marketing you book/s. Trust me on this, if you don’t prepare your ground – you’re stuffed. (which in theory your traditional publisher does, but in practice, actually they only do if the author doesn’t need it – unless of course they’ve vastly overspent on the advance, in which case they will be willing to sell sows’ ears as silk purses, let alone push your book). There are reasons for this – their fixed costs remain the same for Joe Bestseller, as for Jill Neverheardofher – but the end result is traditional publishers spending a million dollars on a promotional effort that will add perhaps 10% to Joe Bestseller’s sales. A hundredth of the cost, would quintuple Jill’s sales (adding more than 10% of Joes) – but that’s actually hard work (promoting a well-known and widely read author is easy – money for old rope, even if it really isn’t very effective. The opposite is true of promoting an unknown). So let’s assume you want to market your book. Now I am not a master at this, by any means, but I can tell you what doesn’t work.
- My book comes out tomorrow. I will suddenly send people I never ever spoke to before and don’t know the news. They’ll care (no they won’t). That’s unprepared ground the seed will land on. People who know and like you will care, and may buy. But that preparation started years ago, with finding people of similar interests, and… well, being entertaining. Writing well.
- I will send the same people endless spam about my book. That’s poisoning the ground.
The truth is you need to prepare that ground, slowly sensitively and without infodumps about your book, with just as much care as you set scenes and build believable characters.