Fraud is a deceit, trickery, or con perpetrated for profit, according to Dictionary.Com. We hear about fraud all the time, maybe not with that particular term, but it all boils down to the same thing. It feeds on human greed.
Greed, of course, is one of the Seven Deadly Sins (pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, and sloth). Boy, are we going to have fun with these over the next few posts.
I sometimes think we missed getting an eighth sin in there. Gullibility.
Fraud includes scams and things that prey on human frailties and the most common frailty is gullibility. Most recently–on Facebook–a post being share around claims some random Facebook users will be selected for various prizes from the Ellen Degeneres show. When I see someone I know posting these things, I let them know it is a fraud and to delete it. In this case, Facebook removed the post in question and I didn’t get any copies of the text for analysis. Sorry.
But, that’s my old IT security dude coming out. We need to look at the kinds of messages that gets folks to share, forward, repeat these scams. One, they claim to be from some pop-culture, popular organization or individual. Two, they offer “too good to be true” prizes, gifts, miracles. Three, all you have to do is like, share, copy/paste/post, or otherwise perpetuate the hoax.
It doesn’t seem to matter there’s no possibility of getting one of the prizes mentioned just for liking or sharing it. Folks get sucked in every time. It is no surprise. Every part of the fraud message is designed to get a greed, lust, pride, wrath, envy response–depending on the goal of the message. The perpetrators of these had a lot of practice. Remember the old chain emails and Nigerian 419 scams in the ’80’s and ’90’s?
How does this translate to our writing? Well, character. We build characters to reflect the human condition. And most humans are pretty gullible, among other things. Based on what we see on Facebook, a few choice turns of phrase easily manipulate people. Temptations that feed on our greed, lust, or pride.
A fellow author, Thomas Waite, recently released his new novel Shadowed (this is an adult-themed novel, so you’ve been warned). The main character, Dylan, is my case in point. Dylan’s main flaw is his gullibility (Thomas, you can argue this, he’s your character). The bad guy sucks him into situations that compromise him, his future, and his love interest, and could have ended his life. He makes bad decisions. Repeatedly. That’s about all I can say without spoiling a great read for you.
But the character Dylan is like most of us, woefully unprepared for the bad guys. We don’t recognize the signs, the language, the dangers. Until it is too late. On Facebook, the end result is often a compromised account. In real life, the end result may be yellow tape around a crime scene and a chalk marked silhouette.
Apply the Flaw
Isn’t this the stuff of thrillers, though? The flawed main character, the long con, the love interest, the really bad guy.
So, apply the flaw. Make the main character gullible. Use what you see on Facebook for examples of how to dupe and manipulate. Think like the bad guy. What can the bad guy get the main character to do? How will he/she approach it? Have some fun. I think Thomas had a lot of fun writing Shadowed.
Remember. The good guy has to have some redeeming quality that allows him to win out in the end. Just saying.