I watched this video of a blind, Autistic boy sing “Open the Eyes of My Heart” and bawled like a baby. Why? This child’s faith, his determination, his joy at life tapped my pathos. His struggles made an emotional connection with me. I dare you to watch and not be touched.
Why does it matter if this video moved you in any way? Because tapping into a person’s emotions is one way to effectuate a change in their behavior.
According to the Greek philosopher Aristotle the goal of persuasive writing is to convince an audience that an idea is valid and motivate them to take action.
Here are Aristotle’s three tools:
- Ethos: The character must be someone worth listening to, worthy of respect, and likable. For example: a hero who is a failure in romance doesn’t exactly inspire people to seek his advice for Valentine’s Day suggestions. But if you have a woman who’s had a bit of success as a mother, she could conceivably give credible parenthood advice to a pregnant friend.
- Logos: Keep the message consistent. Story can turn the abstract values and beliefs of a writer into flesh and blood heroes in the reader’s mind. In the Hunger Games, the writer believes there are inherent dangers in a totalitarian world. Suzanne Collins consistently keeps that message before the reader with one gutting wrenching injustice after another.
- Pathos: Make ‘em laugh. Make ‘em cry. Make their stomachs clench in fear. Language choice affects the emotional response. Choose words that SHOW the reader and gain the most emotional impact. For example: If the above video didn’t show you to appreciate your life, I don’t have the words to tell you.
How can you use these ancient tools in your fiction?