“In journalism just one fact that is false prejudices the entire work. In contrast, in fiction one single fact that is true gives legitimacy to the entire work. That's the only difference, and it lies in the commitment of the writer. A novelist can do anything he wants so long as he makes people believe in it.” – Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Born Mar. 6, 1927.
Persuasive writing isn't about fact. It's about truth.
If you think truth and facts are the same thing, you're going to suck at writing persuasively.
Emotions are true. Feelings are real. But they can defy logic and sense. Yet they are urgent and influential and can override all thinking and drive action.
Are emotions facts? Sort of. They are true chemical responses, but if one event makes you feel sad, while it makes me laugh – which response is “true”? Neither? Both? Yes.
The point is, persuasive writers deal in TRUTH. What FEELS real and right and correct. Based on our experiences and memories and knowledge.
You are not relaying information. You are agitating and guiding an emotional experience. Just like a shaman or a screenwriter in cahoots with a director.
What are you showing them? How are they supposed to feel about it? Facts are fine. Necessary even, from a legal standpoint. But we aren't journalists. We are much closer to fiction writers.
We are story creators. We begin with a very small fact and artfully arrange a plot – a plot that will queue and trigger the emotions we want the audience to feel.
Here is a trick about emotions. Emotions are REAL even if the story that triggers them is not. A sad story makes you feel sad, even if it's not happening to you. We have a sympathetic response, but the feeling is REAL.
So things like envy, desire, hope, anger, loathing, fear, doubt, confidence, pride, shame, despair, ennui, lust, jealousy, joy, love, heartbreak, etc…
Those are your palette. Not facts. Not numbers. Not proof. Not headlines or testimonials or guarantees or promises. Those are tools. Words are tools to create the ACTUAL material we work with. Which is emotion. Which is truth.
Because feelings are WHY people do things. Not facts. Facts help back up those feelings once they've been felt and decided upon. Feelings first. Then facts.
That's how you build the beliefs that make people buy and behave how you want them to.
Do you want to learn to embed emotional truth in your writing so that people move more easily at your command? Here are a few pointers…
1. Use characters in your sales material. People can relate to other people.
2. Put those characters into situations where they experience the same emotions your audience has around their problems and hopes for solutions.
3. Use as many of the senses as you can, and always remember to describe how your key characters FELT about what happens.
4. Describe the change in feelings from negative to positive when the solution you’re selling was applied to the character’s problems.
5. Offer those imagined good feelings to your prospects when they make a purchase.
That’s it! Note, always check with legal when using fiction to sell – it usually needs a disclaimer. But ideally, retell the TRUE stories around the creation of your product and the stories of your customers lives being improved by using it.
The key is to weave in the EMOTIONAL element so that your readers can’t help but make an emotional decision.