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The Persuasion Plot Hole

The persuasion plot hole goes like this:

At some point in your story one character has to convince another character of something or persuade him to do something.

The plot derails when a character agrees to something or accepts something "because the plot called for it." There is no rational discourse that shows the character being persuaded or coerced.

For example, Dick hates the ocean. He hates the smell of it and the movement of it. He would never, ever in his wildest dreams agree to go out on a boat, in the middle of the night, with a complete stranger. Miraculously, in Chapter Ten, he does just that because a blonde bombshell says, "Let's take a ride."

Dick might be tempted. He might think he will receive sexual favors. But would a rational human being ever go on a midnight cruise with a total stranger into a vast body of water where no one will ever know they've disappeared based on a loose assumption of fleeting gain? Not unless that is the only way he can rescue someone he is deeply in love with, the only way to catch the drug lord at his game, or because the bombshell has a gun. Even then it will take some convincing. Why should he trust this person?

There is a saying that you always have a choice unless you have a gun pointed at your head. I would argue this further. If someone has a gun pointed at your head, you actually have three choices. You can call their bluff. You can fight back and hope they are a crappy shot. You can believe that dying is a better alternative to doing whatever they want you to do.

Persuasion is an art form. Toddlers learn it early. They widen their eyes, brighten their smiles, and ask, "Pretty please?" They hammer you with, "Why?" They stun you with the logic of, "But I don't want to." Your characters will be much the same when they attempt to persuade or dissuade another character.

Characters follow certain patterns.

1. They are more likely to believe someone they like.

2. They are more likely to support ideas that fall in line with their own.

3. They worry about what other people think, especially people they admire or look up to.

4. They are more willing to trust someone who sounds the same over someone who looks the same as them. 

5. They look to other people when they aren't certain.

6. They respect authority, though what constitutes authority is variable. They will accept an authority or sources they agree with over ones they don't. 

7. They expect people to keep their word and finish what they start.

8. They value that which is rare.

The situation and character personalities will dictate which persuasion tactics are used and whether they are successful.

The value of the objective will determine how intensely a character will fight to obtain it. 

Every conversation should offer some kind of tension. Key turning points require intense discussion.

Over the next three weeks we will arm our fiction tool kit with persuasion tools.

For more information on plot holes and fiction tools, you can pick up a copy of Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict, available in paperback and E-book.

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