Wednesday, July 28, 2010

10 Tips to Convince Your Reader of Anything

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by C. Patrick Schulze

Listen to a PODCAST of this article.

The craft of storytelling is all about convincing readers to believe what you made up. In the days of our youth we called this "pretending." As adults we call it fiction and pay good money for it. Regardless, Mr. Lincoln Child in his book Deep Storm almost had me ready to believe they'd found Atlantis. How did he do that?

Convincible writing is a learnable skill and there are a number of techniques to induce your reader to suspend belief just enough to buy into your "pretending."

Here's how you do it.

Give Reasons: By nature, people believe things more readily if they have a reason to believe it. More often than not, even a nonsensical reason will work. This gives the word, “because,” a great deal of power. My wife likes the television series, “Bones.” In this show, the characters always say something like, “She died because…”

Repeat things: You’ve heard the adage if you say something often enough people will believe it? Well, it works with your writing, too. They secret here is to make the point in a variety of ways. Reword the information for it to have more effect.

Prognostication: If you allow your readers to foresee the future, when an event happens, they’ll have more confidence in its authenticity.

Overcome objections: You’ll build a character’s convincibility if they have the opportunity to respond to their naysayers and critics. This rejoinder may take the form of statistics, written articles or any number of other "facts" whether true or not. Regardless, if he can't answer his critics, his credibility falters at once.

Consistency: If your character wants others to believe as he says, he needs to stick to his guns. Remember that scene in "Friends" where Phoebe gets Ross to question the theory of evolution? In almost no time, Ross admitted there was a slight chance the theory, which he believed with every fiber of his being, might be incorrect. Didn't your impression of Ross drop at that moment? So, too, with your characters. A character who is contradictory in their actions and answers will lose credibility in a hurry.

Make Comparisons: Nothing opens one’s mind like a relationship to a known and accepted fact. Must your character prove his honor? Have him indicate other times he at least seemed to act in an honorable fashion and your reader will believe it’s true.

Become Part of a Group: All humans, and thus characters, want to be part of something larger. Have your characters join whatever faction might be necessary to enhance their ability to persuade other characters.

Social Proof: Have your characters turn to others for guidance. There is nothing more effective then to mimic others to have your way with them. After all, how can they disagree if they do the same?

Tell a Story: Paint the proverbial verbal picture and let other characters envision what you want them to see. If your character's story is false, have him gloss over the true facts and distort or ignore those aspects that detract from his point.

Develop Empathy: If you allow one character to prove they have also undergone the same situation, other characters will be more willing to listen to their advice.

Now we all know your readers will suspend belief to a point just because it's fiction, but to truly have them become engrossed in your fiction, convince them you know of which you speak.

By the way, did it cross your mind these techniques aren't just limited to writing fiction? It's true in life, too. Ask any politician.

Until we speak again, know I wish for you only best-sellers.

C. Patrick Schulze
Author of the emerging novel, "Born to be Brothers"


  1. Another insightful post!! This is awesome!

  2. C. Patrick SchulzeJuly 28, 2010 at 4:41 PM

    Thanks, Saumya.

    Glad to know you found it useful.