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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Manipulative Intent

We’ve all heard or read about Ivan Pavlov and his doggie experiments – conditioning the mind for desired response.  There are a variety of manipulation techniques that people use every day; to get what they want, to avoid punishment, to hide. Characters too can engage in a variety of manipulation techniques or have them used against them.

 The Psyche (one) – Internal mechanisms, nature vs. nurture, personality all work to affect how individuals are manipulated by themselves. Phobias affect the way we respond to different situations; a perfect example – Indiana Jones & snakes. Fear is a wonderful & terrible motivator all in one. There is a yin & yang that co-exist to define a set of responses. Belief systems, ingrained, developed & integrated into the personality affect the worldview. ‘The Great Gatsby’ is a perfect example of this. And, Nick’s internal evolution is indicative of where he started & where the close-up view leads him in shifting his ideas/ideals.

Dialogue – Intimidation, provocation & uncertainty; all can be achieved through the use of internal & external dialogue. Self-doubt & wariness of others. The quickest way to split a couple in a romance is to introduce the sprouts of doubts – weeds of discontent & mistrust. This can be very effectively done through dialogue; “What do you think?” “Did you hear…?” 

Anger – When a person exhibits anger, it directly & negatively affects the body & the brain. An angry adversary is an ill-prepared one.  Harry Potter’s ability to set Voldemort on edge is directly related to the anger the latter conjures when dealing with his greatest failure & humiliation. This opens the door for Harry’s overall success.

The Interrogation (two)– Most often seen in mysteries & thrillers, police officers, agents, etc. conduct ‘the interview’. This interview may lead to a clue, resolution of the situation, or create additional questions. Some of the tactics to consider are: 

Indirect Communication – A chair scraping across the floor, adjusting the thermostat, slapping a baton on the table. These are only a few of the methods that can be used to induce fear, a confession, or answers. 

Indirect Questions – Open-ended, leading, fill-in-the-blank. Think courtrooms & lawyers. “You were at the bank & what were you doing exactly?” “When you arrived, she was standing where?”

Social Conduct (many) – Human beings like to belong within their group. The PTA, a work group, a social set. This is something that is used in historicals a lot; Molly Brown is a good example – nouveau riche. ‘The American Heiresses’ is a great example of how 3 sisters struggled in English aristocratic society. One of whom birthed Winston Churchill.
Social queues can be used to demonstrate rejection &/or acceptance. 

Inclusion - The right invitation or lack thereof, the inner circle. This aspect can have a direct effect on a character’s psyche, self-worth & self-esteem. To rise above as in ‘Pygmalion’ or to succumb as in ‘A Tale of Two Cities’.

Smiles & Laughter – When a person smiles, endorphins are released in the brain. They create the warm-fuzzy; more importantly, smiles from others indicate acceptance. Laughter intoxicates & spreads through a group. When the group isn’t smiling, laughing or participating, the outsider feels the sting of rejection.

“Some studies show that people who are depressed have weaker smiling muscles and advocate smiling therapy.”Psychological Manipulation

Understanding the psychological inner workings is key to determining how best a character can use & be used by the persuasive method -  manipulation.

Happy Writing,



  1. Great post Patti. I'm working on my smile muscles right now.
    N. R. Williams, fantasy author

  2. Much to think about here ... and not only for your writing.

  3. Wow this was intense! Is there anyone who doesn't try to manipulate others, by some means or another? We just have to use our powers for good!

  4. Thanks to all of you for posting. Smile muscles, thinking & working for the good of all are great points & definite food for thought.