Monday, May 21, 2012

The Inoculation Theory (used in writing fiction) and My Guest Post

First off, go check out my Guest Post on Laura Pauling's Murder/Mystery blog series.

Next, For Sara McClung's May blogfest,
Mondays Are: May I tell you something about writing?

 Last Monday, I posted about using character motivation and world-building to justify the plot decisions you want to make as the author. This increases believability, decreases plot holes and use of coincidence and can add depth to your characters and setting also.

Still, sometimes you can't see any way around want the character to make an irrational decision, or act a little out of character, or you want/need to have just one too many coincidences.

A way I've used to increase believability during these situations is based on the Inoculation Theory in persuasive speaking (proof my incomplete speech/theatre minor in college wasn't a complete waste:).

According to wonderful Wikipedia, the inoculation theory was developed by social psychologist, William J. McGuire.

The idea (used in persuasive speaking, marketing and politics) is that you inoculate listeners against counterarguments by bringing them up before they think about or hear about them.

As a writer, I use this idea to plug up potential plot holes, increase the believability of coincidence and let my characters make the occasional irrational choice. You can use another character bringing up the problem/counterargument or have the POV character think out the inconsistency.

For a real-fiction-life example, I want my protag in Cheater Beaters (Becca), to meet up with, by accident, a guy (Riley) in the library, the school basement, and a coffee shop where he works...too coincidental? Maybe. 

But, as a shot at making it work, I'm going to have the two characters joke about stalking each other. Then, the guy will say that he's in all his usual places, so it must be her stalking him.

See, now I've given a reason for the coincidence (or at least brought it up and made a joke of it), hopefully before the reader has a chance to feel like the situation is too unbelievable.

What about you? Ever used this strategy before or seen it used effectively?


  1. Oooh, I like this. I haven't heard of it before. But there are a few instances in my wip where things are just too coincindental. Wonderful and helpful post!

  2. Jennifer, great technique! I love it. I do this as well, but I didn't realize it had a formal name. I know as a reader when someone DOESN'T do this, and you're sitting there thinking: but why this? or why that? it's frustrating. :0)

  3. Cool! I actually have done that without knowing it's an actual strategy, because one of my biggest pet peeves is when characters in books DON'T acknowledge those things. So I try really hard not to do that in my own books.

  4. That's such a great way to handle potential plot holes! I definitely have to start doing that.

  5. This is really cool! I think I've been using it without knowing what it is.
    I think I'm the type of reader who needs constant inoculation--I'm always searching out plot holes. Thank goodness I can't ever read my own work without authorial bias. :)

  6. What a great theory. Like Rebecca, I think I've used it without really realizing I was.