Last updated on August 16th, 2017
Many of my books are controversial. I mean, you’re not going to hear just anywhere that an important part of the Bible was written by a woman. And how about a murder mystery where the clues are in an antique Mormon alphabet? Or what about the excavation of sin-city Sodom?
Recently a secular organization wanted to hear what I had to say about handling touchy subject matter. In addressing others who might want to write on something controversial, I shared with them the most important element of persuasive writing.
It is this: The first task of a persuasive writer is to anticipate, and address, the objections of the reader – before those objections arise in the reader’s mind.
What does that have to do with writing fiction, you may ask?
Everything. Because, more than any other kind of writer, the fiction writer must convince the reader to care about people who don’t actually exist, in predicaments wholly invented by the writer. Now, that’s persuasive writing!
Here’s an exercise to help you do that.
Choose either the plot of your WIP or an extended section of it. Now, imagine three people you know who just won’t put up with illogical or unbelievable plots. (We’re not talking about the writing, just the plot at this point.)
Ah, there’s your snotty Aunt Eunice who points out plot holes in Murder She Wrote reruns. And your teenage son who rolls his eyes when something improbable happens at a movie and groans so loudly that you duck down in your theater seat.
And don’t forget your spouse who throws across the room any book with too many coincidences. Imagine them at their worst. Allow them to morph into avatars. Let them hold court on the plot of your novel. Let them be ruthless. Reason out what they would object to.
Then fix it. Every plot hole, improbable coincidence, silly sequence, gratuitous artifice.
Then ship those three avatar plot critics off to a Siberian prison that swirls in the middle of a perpetual ice storm forever, because they have nothing more to say.
Then take lung-deep, ah!-bright- wings breaths.
Lavishly, recklessly, write.
— Latayne C. Scott
Latayne C. Scott writes controversial books. Her newest one, the critically acclaimed A Conspiracy of Breath, is based on the scholarly theory that a woman wrote part of the Bible. She has won awards for her writing, including from Pepperdine University, its “Distinguished Service Award.” Her first book, The Mormon Mirage–also controversial– has stayed in print almost continuously for almost 40 years. She has nearly two dozen other published books.
One notable recent book is about the discovery of the ancient Biblical city of Sodom (Discovering the City of Sodom.) Her first novel is a murder mystery revolving around a code developed by the early Mormon church. Both are…. controversial.
She’s also won a national award for humor. Her kids say she’s not so funny, but she just holds up the prize check.
With her sole-authored theological books, she is patron-supported and publishes those books exclusively with TSU Press.