While everyone appears to have use for these gems, lately, it surprises me that Fiction writers don’t show more interest in Persuasion Techniques. Perhaps it is my pragmatic minimalist frame of mind which draws me to high volume, low cost techniques.
The question I’m asked most often goes something like:
“Why Romance? With your background and bearing, shouldn’t you write a genre with thicker grain? Like Demon Squad or John Wick type novels? With your history in mythology and religion, wouldn’t puzzled thrillers be more appealing? Like Prophecy or DaVinci Code?”
Those areas might appear more appealing, however, Romance is unique in the story-world these days. It’s the last genre in which the whole of the tale is focused on the people — the characters — and not the product. Every other genre on the shelves, even most non-fiction of note, is focused on the MacGuffin or the Chekhov’s gun. Plots revolve only for a twist, and are motivated and fueled by the ‘stuff that dreams are made of’ — but not who those dreams were for.
Romance, however, and any sub-genre, is all about the relationship, and the connection to the characters. Yes, of course, the story is twisted up with interesting emotive backgrounds, objective correlatives, and character arcs but the focus, the impact, is for the people. Two people, in fact. Two people pitted against short odds and brutal forces, both apparent and apparition.
In their struggle, these two won’t have the full scope of options other characters, in other genres, might use, so there is inherent tension. For example, no matter how much she loves him, she can not sacrifice herself to save him. She can’t because this is a Romance, and Romance must have a Happy Ending, or at least a Happy Enough Ending.
And what about this Happy Ending requirement of the Romance novel? Shouldn’t a writer, especially one claiming to be serious about the craft, seek deeper plots? Hunger for heartier fare? Something a bit more … sophisticated than ‘Happy Ever After’?
We all deal with ‘real life‘ and ‘deep emotional issues‘ every day of our lives. Our children become sick, husbands are diagnosed with cancer, layoffs, foreclosures, cheating lovers, overbearing bosses — every day, all day the world is crouched to pounce, and ambush us with ‘real deep’ living.
It’s not shallow to want to sit down, and enjoy a story without having to worry about being ambushed. The need to experience the human condition without “deep intelligent shit” pouncing on us, is real. All too real.
To experience the human condition, however, requires humans, not twists and MacGuffins. Romance readers know relationships end, that love isn’t a lifetime guarantee, that it can all go sideways.According to the demographics of the Romance reader(RWA 2014), they’re hardly the GOTO group for naive idealist in life.
It’s a bit odd, so many Fiction writers thumb their noses at the desire for a crafted, well told, immersive story where — for a few hours the reader can experience the fantasy that it really will all work out in the end. Even when they are sitting across a sterile room, watching their life, and love, passing away, knowing that in their story, in the room they sit in, the pages will close in darkness, and dismay. It is for people I write.
And for those people I will use every imaginable tool and skill I can discover or invent, to offer them the respite they are looking for.
Where I find these tools (made from the Psychology studies of Persuasion) most effective, and useful as a fiction story, is making the either the male (or one of the the females in a lesbian story), sexy and attractive long before we meet him or know what he looks like. I want the reader interested. I also want her at odds with the MCF (female main character), when she’s unwilling to give HIM during the first act of the novel. That’s the goal. High interest from the reader, and drama rising hard enough the Reader is going to scream at the MCF if she doesn’t get a clue soon.
That’s the goal, for me, within the first part of the story. Building tension will lead to drama, but drama isn’t when the character cries or breaks down or makes the connection — it’s when the reader does.
Physical description isn’t going to cut it, nor a description of all of his best qualities, as if the novel were his dating service. Besides — other than Anaïs Nin’s stories, and a few other real Erotica writers — have you ever read a Romance or Erotic Romance where HE was described as short, fat and bald? So, no, physical description will not achieve the emotional attraction we need. The Reader is expecting a hunk with a package songs are sung for, and bar fights are won by.
Which brings out the heavy tomes, and sets up strategy room.
Before strategizing your Persuasion Techniques however, you need to understand who you are selling. Who is this guy? What is he like? The Reader doesn’t need to know any more than is necessary — as we just discussed. It is best to allow his history and character reveal itself instead of plopping down the infomercial.
Without coming on stage, however, He isn’t going to sell himself, no matter how blessed he is or where those blessings may be. I have found it necessary to have as much information on him as possible, before I begin here, because it saves hours, and hours of time from the process if you have a clear idea of who and what he really is before you begin.
Also, it really has nothing to do with our Reader being Jaded by the ocean on half-naked man covers, so that another(ours) now lacks sales power. In reality describing HIS qualities (physical, mental or spiritual) is like listing the features of a product you are attempting to sell.
Features do not sell products. Of course the product has those features, our potential customer tells us — because those were the clues they gave the search engine. No emotional rise, and certainly no arousal, is incited by reading a feature list. Bullet points or no. It’s a list. You read it.
No one has ever bought a nail.
I love that line. It is an old copywriter standard. People don’t buy nails.
They don’t care about the tempered strength, the nickel content in the steel, the grip — they care, but that’s not going to sell them, just like a golden-rod package isn’t going to sell HIM.
What people buy, is a hanging picture in their daughter’s room, a fixed front porch stair, so mother doesn’t break her leg this weekend — a mended fence so Grover won’t die.
These things, people buy. Hell, you don’t even have to sell these things. All you have to do is let people know you have them, and they ate on their way to buy. You will never close. Sales going on around the clock. So, why doesn’t your sales teams do this?
I don’t know. Why don’t Romance authors do this?
I read stacks of books, every week keeping up with my genre areas of interest. Over and over, authors will interrupt a perfectly good plot to go to Infomercial, where another gorgeous hunk of a man will be paraded out and shown: stats given, and bright eyes twinkling. Why?
It happens so often I’ve stopped reading past those points. The book goes flying across the room, and I take another from the bag.
Ask any woman over the age of Butt-Rock fandom what really turns her on about a man, and she’ll tell you; ‘a clean kitchen. Mine.” Then she’ll laugh, and then you’ll laugh, and then she’ll give you the look — the fast glance that in an instant conveys with profoundly deep need, “no, seriously, I’ll do blow-jobs, not joking, OK?’
The Romance has a Happy Ever After. And I am all for that concept, as I’ve described. Why can’t HE be a real man? Why can’t he be REALLY attractive? Why must he have the body of a Chip’n’Dale as his best quality? Why can’t he do dishes? Or show up when he says he will or know how to ask someone about a wine? — we don’t need a wine steward for a husband, but someone who knew how to talk to a wine steward could be useful.
Why does he always have to throw down, and fight it out? Is that his only go-to problem solver? Nothing else? Must every date’s success be hinged on the hope some asshole won’t whistle at my ass?
But, where would we find someone like that?
… did you say ‘golden rod?”
We are influenced by others around us; we want to be doing what everyone else is doing. People often base their actions and beliefs on what others around them are doing, how others act or what others believe.
Why is this? Are we just shallow creatures after all? No — well, that’s not why this is going to work for us, anyway. The first, and I believe main reason, is we work eight hours, sleep eight hours, then take care of life for eight hours, and … oops, ran out of hours.
If I have four hours on a Friday night, I don’t want to gamble. I want to know what’s the hottest, best, bumping place to have a good time, and what the hell should I be wearing when I get there?
Also, where to find these places? I understand that there are people out there who raise bees or something, and the swarm is always on the move, returning to their queen, with honey dripping gossip.
I’m not one of them.
Most people aren’t. Even with Twitter bots helping, it’s more time than I want to spend.
Finally, we want to be in the crowd that is getting laid this season. If you ever want to understand a particular decision-making bias, start with the — getting laid factor. Comprehension will follow shortly. Most of our decisions, men and women, are based on, is this going to get me laid by who I wish to be laid by? And I’ll tell you now, if the answer is no, iit’s not going to matter what technique you use, no one’s buying.
I’ve had dozens of guys ask me:
“Why is it when I’m single I struggle to find girls who are interested but the second I have a girlfriend, women check me out and throw themselves at me?”
That’s no coincidence, it’s the driving force behind social proof. Women want men that other women (and society) want. They’re also more inclined to desire a man who has a thriving social circle or who their friends approve of.
[Also, if we’re going to be all full confession, most of those women aren’t interested, they are curious. They want to know how you got it going on, and if you have friends.]
On top of that, you’re already trained, and now you’re showering regular, and have smoothed off the stubble. If she’s happy, well? Others might be happy too?
Exploiting this as a writer, for our Romance Novel, to add sex-appeal to our MCM goes something like this:
- Two female characters talking about the MCM.
- MCF overhears them.
- They say things
- She listens more.(Reader of course eavesdropping as well)
That’s it. Have your Female lead (MCF) overhear them. Keep the conversation in the area of appeal and not Penthouse. Both of them would get with him, hell yes — but NO they did NOT last night! And not together either….ever.
What would you want to hear? That’s what you need to get across in a brief, minimalist way, so that the story isn’t halted. We’re not going to Infomercial. One point, perhaps two if you can do it in a tandem way.
That’s going to be true of all methods you create from these techniques. Where those writing articles about how they saved the Petrified Forest National Park and Rainier National Park using these tactics have large, complicated campaigns. You are hitting, and out. Just dropping a line… is the precise way of thinking about your task.
Our Reader is now convinced that he’s the one. You can have our MCF remain skeptical, even cold. You can have their first encounter fall from the fourteenth floor to slap like a dead fish on the sidewalk in front of her — have her leaving the encounter with the words, “Not happening… ever.” This won’t phase our Reader. She’s hooked. She knows that MCF will see his true self. How could she not?
It is widely recognized that communications that make social norms salient can be effective in influencing behavior. What is surprising, given the strength of the evidence, is how little people are aware of the extent to which social norms affect their own behavior. Consequently, this low-cost persuasion strategy is considerably underutilized to promote behaviors …
~ Noah, J, Ph.D Persuasion Researcher
And that’s the other shoe dropping. They are all going to seem rather simple, and small, and unable to pack the wallop I’m suggesting is in play. Nevertheless, Reader is hooked. Keep in mind as well, that Reader Wants to be hooked. She didn’t sit down with your novel in the mental state of resistance and war. She is in cahoots with you. A full-on collaborator.
And it is going to be so good when MCF turns to him, post apocalyptic orgasm and says, “When I said I wasn’t interested in you, it was the blackest of blasphemies.”
Not simple enough? I got one for you.
Commitment (and Consistency)
People have a general desire to appear consistent in their behavior.
People generally also value consistency in others.
For this reason, once we’ve committed to something, we’re then more inclined to go through with it.
This one is the simplest to use, and it’s a felony not to use it at least twice. No need to over do. Three in a single story — that last one needs a reason. Two is good. The second proves the first wasn’t a fluke. All you have to do for this one is to have your Male Love Interest(MCM) tell someone, “No, sorry, can’t. I told my sister I would…” whatever you want. Done.
A man who says he’ll show, and does, is a good man. Safe to love. Reader approval: Established.
A man who commits and then doesn’t show up?He would have been better off coming straight out and admitting:
“Yeah, look, I love your ass. It’s sexy as hell, but I’m not doing that.”
Right? At least he likes your ass. No, we’re never going to speak to him again, but we’re not going to publicly castrate him either.
Dependable guys are sexy, especially to the Reader. From that point he can make several mistakes with a Free Pass. Reader will back him.
Take a moment before we move on, and note, that MCM, has no description at this point. A conversation, and a sound byte from him in a hallway, and with those two working in tandem, she’s hooked. Reader doesn’t need to know his height, weight, or whether his package is revered in song or limerick. Reader is ready to meet him. Panting to meet him.
Now, I know I said, we’re never going to call that jerk who bailed on us, and had the gall to like our ass — and when I said it — five seconds ago — I meant it, but a lot has happened since then and … welcome to the Sleeper Effect.
Persuasive messages tend to decrease in persuasive value over time, except messages from low-credibility sources. Messages that start out with low persuasion gain persuasion as our minds slowly disassociate the source from the material (i.e., a presumably sleazy car salesman, and his advice on what car is best).
I know! Right? But men do it too. We all do it. Why? Well, because after Mr. Jerk was all cool and nice until we actually needed some real help and he bailed, we’ve been think about what a Jerk he is, and how we should have seen it — at a rate of roughly 100 times a second.
A professor once told me that the brain is capable of 5000 thoughts a day, and my first reaction was, “Yep, one thought, 5000 times.”
That’s called mass advertisement. And there is no way we are going to think about him now, and not co-recall, even if it’s only a silent implied message, that he really likes our ass. No, we are NOT shallow. We work hard on that fucking blob of meat. It’s about time someone liked it.
After a time, the need, and importance of the thing he bailed on will fade. It always does. In a month, we’ll believe we were over reacting… again. He’ll still be good-looking, and interested — in our ass.
It’s still messed up, I know. It’s how creepy, creeps. So, in your personal life, watch for it, because that’s how sleazy men get their foot in the door. For Reader, however, we can have some fun with this, and I just gave you the script.
Minimize the ‘need’ he didn’t show for, give him a psycho-scar related to the task, and have him work through it, because he really does like HER, and let Reader watch him untwist himself. Then, have HER hit him up again with something similar, and now urgent. and have him show. Reader will let him pat that ass of yours, while she says, “I told you, he was good for you.”
If it’s crossed your mind that these Persuasion Techniques are meant for live play, not read over from the safety — and distance — of a novel, where they can be seen for what they are, don’t worry about it. They work on us read, as well as done.
Honestly. There are factors, which are hardwired into us, and whether we hear these, experience them live on the world stage, in our living room or read in a novel, they will affect us, and Reader will be there, right beside your Fem, feeling every ounce of them.
Words have power, and there are lists of powerful words out there. But even the mild words have power. Like yawn. Yawn isn’t a command, or even a verb really. Yawn is the name of an action, a common event. Yawning happens all the time. Yawning isn’t even a discomfort. Some people like to yawn. So, yawn offers no threat, no cohesion, nothing. Yet, when one person yawns, other people yawn. It happens. There is no why. It just happens, and when yawning people spread their yawns on the page, you don’t have to see them, do you?
No, you don’t. You’ll yawn in an empty room, just like we were all in there together.
There are at least forty, solid, thoroughly tested Persuasion Techniques listed in the Psychology area of where ever you want to go look for them, which also translate into effective tools for the Romance novel. Properly formatted, and delivered, they will influence the Reader in various ways. I’m not going to tell you, which forty, because I may have decided one had no value, and that one will be your best tool.
It’ll make you famous.
The focus, is the reader. Your characters can look and read sexy with their moans and sighs, but it’s only sexy if the reader screams for real.
Writer, Novelist, Researcher -- Most of my writing in Fiction are thrillers.
@glennhefley on Twitter