Hello and welcome back to another writing article. After last week’s fun writing tips I decided to keep them going into this week. My prompt for today is flattery, which is an interesting prompt indeed. You see it said in most magazines that flattery can get you anywhere, so I am going to run with that theme and see just how far flattery can get your characters when you are writing.
Tip #1: Now, I am fairly certain that the first image to pop into your heads is a wily femme fatale using her feminine wiles to lull the guards into a false sense of security. If you did you are almost certainly not alone, but I want you to think outside of the traditional tropes with this tip. Let’s take our female character and instead of putting her in a room with a lustful man who she can easily manipulate we’ll put her in the room with a matronly woman, three kids all grown, with a stubborn streak that could defeat the common cold. Not only would this be a very amusing situation for the phrase, feminine wiles, to be bandied about, but it would also force your character to think outside of her usual box. Enter flattery. I don’t think I’ve ever met someone who doesn’t like talking about something they’re passionate about, and if you add in a few flattering comments then you can keep them going for days. Now, you want to show that this character is competent (if played for laughs you might not), so have her analyse the room she’s stuck in. A mother of three is bound to have photos of her loved ones, and if not there’s bound to be signs that children once inhabited her life (dirty laundry perhaps). Then, have her started up a dialogue with her matronly roadblock, lay out a few compliments among the questions and you will soon have a much more amiable captor.
Tip #2: That was a rather fun example but that’s hardly the length and breadth of what can be done with such a skill set. Next, let’s look to villains, James Bond to be specific, and their poor tendency to give away their plans in a pique of arrogance. This might seem like a moment of idiocy for them, which it is, and a terrible cliché to boot, which it also is, however, you’d be surprised how realistic this could be. After years plotting grand schemes, making sure every detail is perfect, it’s almost impossible to not want to show off, to show the hero just how badly they’ve been outsmarted. If you don’t believe me then answer me this, have you ever been asked a question about your book/writing project, and been able to give an answer that didn’t show off just how clever that particular scene was. Now, this is a cliché, and I wouldn’t recommend writing it exactly like the movies, but there’s wiggle room here for the creative mind. Perhaps your villain, in a humanising moment, is drowning his sorrows after the test of his doomsday machine destroyed an occupied village. Between alcohol and a few leading questions from the protagonist and he might well spill his guts, especially if a few allusions to his brilliance are made. As the saying goes, knowledge is power, and a little flattery can gain you a lot of knowledge if used in the right place.
Tip #3: Now, for my last example I’m thinking something a bit lighter, such as a romance novel. Your protagonist is trying to play fairy godmother with two people she knows, but wants to be certain that the feelings are reciprocated before nudging them together. One is her friends, and has admitted her feelings, but the other is a bit more of a mystery. The trick here would not only be finding out, but also keeping the others from working out why she was asking. Getting them talking about themselves and past entanglements is never a bad start, compliments on their appearance will rarely go amiss, and finally a nudge towards anyone they could have their eye on. Get people talking enough about themselves and their guard will be lowered and their suspicions will be put to one side for a bit, the perfect time for our matchmaker to interfere. Bonus points in this example is she gives herself away but it’s this accidental reveal of information that brings the couple together.
Armed with this information you should be able to turn even the most bumbling of characters into a persuasive force to wheedle information and leverage out of every situation. The perfect character for thrillers in every genre. I hope that, in the run-up to NaNoWriMo, these writing tips are proving useful, and I shall see you in the trenches when Nov 1st finally comes.