The Art of Persuasion: Writing a Realistic Con Artist

To write an effective conman you have to know how to make them persuasive. But even if your best puppy dog eyes aren’t persuasive, how are you going to write a persuasive con artist? Never fear! I have some resources to help you sound more persuasive.

    1. Body Language

Body language conveys volumes without saying a word. The main things you want to tell the mark through body language is, “I’m listening,” and “we are similar.”

I touched on this in my last post, but good listening skills are key to conning someone. Have your conman lean forward, maintain good eye contact, and interject with clarifying questions. This will make the mark open up and tell him what he wants to hear (and maybe a little TMI).

Your conman should also mirror the mark’s body language. People like others who are similar to them. By discretely mirroring the mark’s body language your character can trick the mark into thinking they are more similar than they really are. But don’t be obvious about it because that’s just creepy. And don’t mirror them if they seem angry or annoyed, duplicating that won’t help things.


2. Similarities

Before conning the mark, have your conman look for similarities (hobbies, favorite foods, books, and so on), even if he has to fake them. Negotiations are more successful when both parties like each other and share something in common. By sharing some similarities with the mark, he will like the conman more and be more willing to trust him. Gaining confidence is vital for a conman. It’s also where he gets his name; conman is short for confidence man.

3. Scarcity and Urgency

Why do you think companies are always labeling things as ‘limited edition’ or urging you to ‘get them before they’re gone’? It’s because we want what no one else has and if we have a limited time to get them then we are more likely to impulse buy. This is what our conman wants, a mark that is willing to jump before he’s thought things through. It also makes the mark desire something he didn’t even know he wanted. This is why marketers also use this scheme in the first place. How else are they going to get you to buy an ugly robe that you’re supposed to wear backwards? Anyone ever heard of the snuggie?

4. Reciprocity

There are six key principles to the science of persuasion (most of which I’ve already covered), the first of which is reciprocity. People are more likely to say yes to you if you’ve done something for them first. By doing something of equal value for them, you socially obligate them to return the favor.

5. Have a Spokes Person


Authority is one of the best ways to gain someone’s trust, but you can’t go around boasting about how great you are, that looks arrogant and no one likes an egoistical prick. Have someone else boost your conman’s standing in the eyes of the mark. This way your con artist doesn’t look arrogant but he can still install trust and a sense of authority into the mark.

Now your conman has the tools of persuasion, but how does one write talk like a con artist? That I will pick up in my next post.

Posts yet to come…

The Lingo of a Conman

Types of Cons

A Conman’s Guide to Picking Marks


5 thoughts on “The Art of Persuasion: Writing a Realistic Con Artist

Add yours

  1. I really liked your insights into writing conmen! I had never thought about how to write a character like this, and the way you laid it out made it make sense. I might just have to try writing a conman character now… Who’s your favorite conman of all time?


    1. I don’t know if I have a favorite conman as of yet. But I must say I got a massive kick out of “Count” Victor Lustig because he managed to pose as a French government official and sold the Eiffel Tower for scrap metal….twice!


  2. Wonderful and intriguing post. Within my writing, I’ve not yet had a character who’s a conman, but I enjoyed learning different ways a conman can work to get others to trust him/her. Now the next time I’m watching a movie with a conman I’ll be analyzing the character’s every move. Can’t wait to hear more about writing a conman!


    1. Thanks Andi! I’ve never written a conman either…until stupid Jack (or Kam, we haven’t come to an agreement on his name yet). He’s making me work to write his story.


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