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Persuasion Tactics Part 1

Last week, we introduced the persuasion plot hole. Over the next few weeks, we will add persuasion tools to our plot toolkit.

1. Ask for More: If Dick wants something, he can start off intentionally asking for too much so he can settle for something in the middle. This makes him seem like a reasonable kind of guy, except the part where he manipulated Jane by asking her to do something she'd never allow to get her to agree to something she mildly objected to. Children are masters of this technique.

2. Appeal to Authority: Dick may be getting nowhere in his conversation with Jane. He can play the authority card. The authority can be real or imagined. "They say" is so random. Who are they? "Authorities on the subject state..." Who are the authorities? Jane won't have time to verify them. Adding jargon and psychobabble gives his argument more power. Dick can flip this tactic and discount the authority Jane uses to support her argument. He can press her to come up with an answer as to who "they" are. He can refute the validity of the authority.

3. Assume Concession: Dick can circle around the point he is trying to make or the consensus is he trying to achieve. He can talk at cross purposes and end the conversation with, "Well, I'm glad we all agree then." Except no one really agreed, but they will doubt themselves. Did we agree? Maybe we did. If Dick pushes on in a confident manner, they may be bluffed into silence.

4. Attack the Posse: Dick can tear down Jane's objectives by attacking the basis for her assumptions. He can attack her friends, her coworkers, her group members or the social, political or religious body as a whole. He can deride her documents or the source of her information. Jane will be derailed into defending herself as apart from the group or into defending actions by the group she does not agree with. She will be sidelined into defending her source rather than her point.

5. Baffle them with Bull: If Jane seems unconvinced, Dick can bring in random and completely unrelated evidence to bolster his argument. Jane will be forced to respond to each unrelated thread, rather than arguing the main point. He can sum up his argument as if everything he just said supported it. Jane will either be confused enough to give in or will call him on it.

6. Bait and Switch: Dick wants to achieve C. He argues the merits of A. Jane fights back with B. Dick offers C as a compromise, which was his intention all along. Dick wants Jane to agree to a vacation at a golf resort. He starts off with suggesting they go fishing. Jane says, uh, no. She suggests they go to a bed and breakfast in Amish country. Dick says, uh, no. Dick suggests a spa resort in Arizona. Jane agrees to the compromise. Dick had already planned to meet up with his buddies in Arizona so it's a darn good thing Jane agreed. He doesn't tell her about that until they are on the plane or happens to run into his buddies at the hotel, setting up a new conflict.

7. Call Their Bluff: Characters all make blanket statements and threaten things they'd never back up. Dick has a date with Jane for dinner. He needs to get out of it. He suggests Hooters. She reacts negatively and says she'd rather eat at a motorcycle dive bar. Since the motorcycle dive bar is exactly where Dick needs to meet his contact, he calls her bluff. Jane is forced to either go with him or refuse to go with him, which suits him just fine. The date is called off. Next time, Dick needs to make a reservation at her favorite five-star restaurant to make up for it. Jane may bravely state that she is willing to do something against her better judgment to exaggerate a point. Dick agrees to do it. Jane has a problem. She has to wriggle out of it, change her tactics, or end or derail the conversation entirely.

8. Change the Name: Changing the name of a thing can render it less objectionable because it changes the set of objections that accompany it. Dick asks Jane to steal something. She objects, naturally. So he convinces her it isn't really stealing. It's borrowing. Or it's returning something to its rightful owner. Fanaticism can be religious freedom. Anarchists become freedom fighters. This is used rampantly in terms of political correctness and to justify what would otherwise be considered psychopathic behavior. Jane is likely to object to some things more than others. This also works if Jane refuses to grant Dick any ground and he switches to getting her to disagree with his point's polar opposite. It might confuse her into agreeing with him.

Next week, we continue to add persuasion tools to our writing kit.

For these and other fiction tools, you can pick up a copy of the Story Building Blocks: Crafting Believable Conflict in paperback or E-book.

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