We writers persuade readers all the time.
We persuade with our narratives, our characters, our metaphors. We persuade when we write our back-cover blurbs, our one-line pitches to agents, our headlines and leaderboard ads. We persuade with every email, every touchpoint, every update on a crowdfunding campaign (I experienced this first-hand during yesterday’s ecstatic #GivingTuesday rush of contributions to ours).
There are no weapons more lethal, no formulas more potent, no roses sweeter, than words. The power of communication is the power of relationships, the power of conflict and resolution, the power of progress, growth, evolution just as it is the power of repression, corruption, and injustice. This is the power that has made us the dominant species on the planet.
This is the power we writers hold in our hands. As with any great power, comes great responsibility. If you are a writer of any kind, respect your power. Above all, be kind to all those restaurants with typos in their menus!
Let’s explore a few different ways to persuade our readers for today’s practice.
Persuade for Love
When you’re on that first date, you’re on your best behavior. You’re just getting to know the person you’re with, and those first impressions are worth at least a few dozen roses. You don’t get into the “Honey, does this dress make me look…” conversation until at least after the wedding.
Love has inspired perhaps the greatest body of words ever composed by humanity. From old Sumeria to Maya Angelou, poets, singers, and awkward first-daters have been singing their pained longings for centuries. Romantic love, of course, is but one kind. Like a rose, love unfolds in a surprising bouquet of petals, each more fragrant than the last.
What is the most evocative love letter you’ve ever written?
Persuade for Influence
If you’re on the market for a job. If you’re employed but working toward that raise or promotion. If you’re famous and would do anything to keep that star status, or not quite yet famous (YouTube, anyone?) and dream of hitting it big. If you’re running for political office, entering literary competitions, defending a dissertation. If you’re lording your parental super-boss status over an unreasonable toddler.
If any of the above applies to you, you’re persuading for influence. You want others to recognize you, credit you, hold you in esteem. Nothing wrong with that, assuming you and your words are playing by the rules.
How do you seize influence?
Persuade for Argument
Here you’re getting your point across. Right or wrong, you have an argument to make. Do you spear your opponent or do you woo him/her with perfumed promises if s/he comes over to your side? Do you take the time to arm yourself with accurate information, or do you prefer to make moebius strips out of scientific fact and sell them as shiny new toys?
Arguments, debates, “intense conversations” if you want to call them that, can be exhilarating, but they can also deflate the ego like little else. It all depends on the strategic stringing together of words and phrases, and all those intangibles like tone of voice, body language, oh and all those sociocultural innuendos.
How do you make your arguments?
Persuade for Wisdom
Parents of the world, this one’s for you! You know all those words you’ve been throwing at the wall for seemingly no reason, because the kids just won’t listen? Well, we writers do. Your words are great for dialogue for all those children’s, middle grade, and oh, those YA novels.
But they’re also words to be stored deep inside, these and all of the words we come across in our lifetimes, for these are the words that communicate experience, memories, insights, knowledge. When you steep them all in your soul for years, you harvest wisdom (and hopefully you’re not letting those golden words rot like a barrel of spoiled grapes).
Whose words of wisdom do you remember most?
There are plenty more forms of persuasion. Do convince us of your persuasive writing powers in the comments below!
Choose one of the above four areas of persuasion and write a short practice integrating it into your narrative. This can be fiction or not, a current WIP or not, and it can take whatever format you like.
When you’re finished, share your practice with the community in the comments section below!