Three Sneaky Ways To Make Your Readers Feel Like Experts

2015 Artwork Make Your Readers Feel Like Experts sketch

Let’s face it, everyone likes to be good at something. If you can make your audience for your story or comic feel like experts of some kind, then they’re going to be more interested in the things you created.

To use a related example, this is one reason why many modern mega-budget First-Person Shooter computer and video games are apparently a lot easier than old FPS games were.

In the good old days, FPS games were fiendishly difficult and you had to put in years of FPS gaming practice to be good at games like “Doom II”, “Rise Of The Triad: Dark War” or “Duke Nukem 3D”.

You had to start by playing on the lower diffculty settings and learning the “rules” of these games (and how to use them to your advantage) before gradually moving up to the “intermediate” difficulty settings. This is why these old games are still so much fun to play, even more than two decades after they were originally released.

These days, of course, FPS games are apparently a lot easier. Your character’s health points regenerate frequently, the levels are often completely devoid of puzzles, your character always has more than enough weapons and there’s very little variety when it comes to the enemies that you fight. This is all done to allow the player to have the feeling of being an expert at playing FPS games without actually being an expert.

But, this isn’t an article about computer and video games. No, this is an article about how to make the readers of your story or comic feel like they’re experts at something. So, how do you do this?

1) Sneaky tips: One of the best ways to make your readers feel like experts is to occasionally show your narrator or one of your characters doing something that your readers don’t know how to do (whether it’s something realistic or something fantastical) and giving the audience (or the main character) some advice about how to do it.

A good televised example of this is probably an American TV show called “Burn Notice”. This is a light-hearted thriller show about a fugitive spy called Michael Weston who often ends up solving problems for people.

Throughout the show, Michael will often improvise spy gadgets or use clever spy techniques and these are almost always explained to the viewers via voice-overs. After watching a couple of episodes of the show, you almost feel like you could be a spy yourself. Almost.

A word of warning here though, it’s usually not a good idea to give your audience realistic advice about how to do anything seriously dangerous and/or criminal. It’s also a good idea not to research any of this stuff online either.

You can usually give the impression of giving this advice by either leaving things slightly vague (which gives the impression that your character knows what they’re talking about, even if you don’t) or, in some cases, just making it all up.

This is also a good thing because it means that you won’t actually have to research some of this stuff and can just rely on your own imagination or things that you’ve seen in other books and movies (since, depending on where you live, researching certain things online may actually be illegal in and of itself).

2) World Details: There’s a good reason why both the science fiction and fantasy genres have much geekier fans than any other genres do. Because these genres are often set in entirely imagined worlds, there are often a lot of interesting background details that fans have to learn about in order to fully enjoy the story.

For example, any “Star Trek: The Next Generation” fan will probably be able to tell you what a replicator is, what a warp core is (and what it’s powered by) and what the Prime Directive is. Any “Dune” fan will be able to tell you what spice melange is, what a mentat is (and why people use them) and how to distract a sandworm.

Any “Song Of Ice And Fire” fan will be able to tell you what valyrian steel is, what a sept is and what the chorus of “The Bear And The Maiden Fair” sounds like. I’m sure you get the idea….

Usually, these details are introduced in a subtle way throughout the story – but, as well as adding atmosphere to the story, they also give the readers the experience of learning new things and becoming an expert in something.

3) Expert characters: Often, the easiest way to make your readers feel like experts is to just make some of your characters experts at something and to show them using their expertise in a variety of cool ways.

If you do this, your audence gets to vicariously experience what it feels like to be an expert, without actually really learning anything. It allows the audience to imagine themseleves as that character or to imagine what hanging out with that character would be like.

Don’t ask me why, but there’s something absolutely mesmerising and inspiring about seeing an expert at work. So, include expert characters in your story or comic.


Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

2 comments on “Three Sneaky Ways To Make Your Readers Feel Like Experts

  1. babbitman says:

    4) make one of your characters completely clueless about a piece of tech (e.g. Skype, Siri, whatever) or social reference (e.g. preferring screwdrivers over sunglasses) that your target audience will instantly recognise, then have another character effectively poke fun at the first for being out of the loop. Meanwhile, your reader will be entertained and keen to read more. They will also probably be feeling quite smug. And if you make your audience feel good about themselves, you’re on to a winner 🙂

    • pekoeblaze says:

      Oooh, I didn’t think of that one. Thanks 🙂 It’s a pretty cool idea and it’s always gret to feel smug that you know more than one of the characters does – although current references tend to have a fairly short shelf life though, so I guess that this technique only works for a few years (For example, in a few years’ time, Skype is probably going to seem as old-fashioned as MySpace, MSN Messenger etc.. [EDIT: Although, thinking about it, the first time that I heard of Skype/ VOIP must have been at about a decade ago or possibly slightly earlier].)

      But, yeah, a variation of this technique tends to be used in at least a few computer games (albeit to explain parts of the game to the player, rather than to make the audience feel like an expert though).

      Not to mention that the cyberpunk genre often intentionally does the opposite of this technique and it throws all sorts of futuristic jargon, technology etc… at the reader at a ridiculously fast pace and you kind of have to work out what’s going on from the descriptions (eg: if memory serves me correctly, I still can’t quite understand what happened in parts of the ending of William Gibson’s “Neuromancer” LOL! It’s still a really cool novel though.).

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