There’s a famous line from the 19765 movie, Network. The character Howard Beale goes on air and goes off script. The famous line from his rant:
Go to your windows. Open them and stick your head out and yell – ‘I’m as mad as hell and I’m not gonna take this anymore!’ Things have got to change. ’
Some days you hit crisis after crisis. Ten people come at you ten different ways. They may all want different things but they share one thing in common. They demand your most precious resource – your time.
Customers, co-workers and everyone in between huddled up in the morning and decided to attack. At least, that’s what it felt like. I gave in without complaining. I held in my feelings and played along.. Just before 1 PM I hit my breaking point. I couldn’t take it any longer. I fought back.
Just like Howard Beale in Netowrk, I gave my own rant.
I’m going to lunch. I’ll get to it later
It doesn’t sound like much. In fact, it sounds mundane. But understand the context. It was in the middle of a crisis. Of course, it wasn’t a real crisis but everyone acted like they were in crisis mode. Going out to lunch while everyone else is in crisis mode rubs people the wrong way. They think you don’t care.
At that point, I didn’t care and I didn’t care what anyone thought. I reached a breaking point.
The Breaking Point
The breaking point is where the fun begins. Before the breaking point, we feel comfortable going with the flow. We stay in harmony with the crowd even if it goes against our desires. All the while anger swells. When it reaches a tipping point, we lose control.
That’s exactly what you want as a persuasive writer. You want to build up the emotion to a point where the audience reaches their breaking point. It doesn’t matter if it’s losing weight, mishandled customer support or working in a job they hate. You want your audience to say
Damn It. I’m sick of this. I need to do something about it.
Bringing your reader to the breaking point gets them past inertia. Inertia is what hinders us from taking action.
The Three C’s Of Unbridled Emotion
There are several tools to create this kind of emotion. This is not a complete list but these are three common techniques. You’ve seen them used (abused) in everything from fiction to politics.
Conflict – Any kind of conflict generates emotion. Wars, arguments, struggles allow us to picture ourselves in the middle of the action. We may even root for one side to win.
Conspiracy – Who doesn’t love a good conspiracy theory. The government is monitoring you. We all have our conspiracy theories we cling to. When you confirm someone’s conspiracy theory and they think “Ah. I knew it!” – instant emotion.
Conceptual Victim – I call this conceptual victimization to distinguish between the real victimization tyrants have abused throughout history. Here’s how it works.
Tell a story about how your enemy takes advantage of vulnerable victims. It can be a conceptual enemy. Transform scientific information into something visceral.Explaining the deep science behind DNA and weight gain generates zero emotion. Instead, tell a story of how rogue DNA forces your brain to send you uncontrollable hunger signals. Victimization generates emotion, almost always anger.