Writing Tips at GarySpeer.com

Tips for writers and musing about writing and life

Use eyewitness testimony, testimonials to capture reader interest

Do you write any crime fiction? Police procedurals or courtroom fiction? If so, you realize the importance — and the fun, really — that you can have including eyewitness testimony.

I say fun because the beauty of creating eyewitness testimony lies in the variety of “truths” or “facts” you can generate in a scene or plot simply by showing an event from differing (even contradictory) viewpoints.

For some reason I’ve never understood, we humans give great credit to eyewitness testimony, really to any sort of testimony or testimonial. There’s some sense of security or comfort if we’re told about something that has happened and that telling is followed up with, “Yeah, and they’ve got eyewitnesses, too. They saw exactly what happened.”

As a lawyer friend of mine tells me, he loves getting eyewitness testimony. Juries are universally swayed by a confident witness. Of course, defense attorneys like eyewitness testimony, too, because they know eyewitnesses often contradict each other: One witness’s viewpoint was clear, another was standing just behind someone taller in a crowd. One person saw the car crash just as it happened, another turned toward the sound of the crash — and the two invariably will have slightly differing accounts.

Use those characteristics and others when you bring characters into your stories. Kick up a good fuss. Mix all that together, and you’ve got a scene.

Note for copywriters: The concept of “testimony” or “testimonials” serves you well in writing ad copy, too. In this case, it’s because of human tendencies to find reassurance in testimonials. If I said “Buy Leptovox diet pills and you’ll lose a lot of weight,” you may or may not believe me. But if I put up a web page about diet pills and include three or four testimonials from people who have used various diet pills and told of their experiences, you’d be much more interested. Pretty obvious, and it works.