I've recently started writing, but hit a wall during a certain scene. In the story, the characters have an open debate on discrimination in an attempt to raise awareness for their issues and pass new legislation in the fictional country they live in. However, I've found it difficult to find good arguments to use in the story without it coming off as overly simplified or unnatural. Does anyone have tips on debate, or how to write good arguments that flow in a story format?

  • Duplicate or related: writers.stackexchange.com/questions/9100 . The answers there might be helpful :)
    – Standback
    Commented Aug 18, 2016 at 6:42
  • Is your main intention: (a) to put forward your own political opinions? (b) to educate people about the issues by giving a fair shake to both sides? (c) to write a story about politicians in which this debate happens? (d) to write a story about ordinary people (e.g. participants in a school debating team) in which this debate happens? I would give very different answers depending on which of these options it was. Commented Aug 18, 2016 at 18:42

4 Answers 4


The starting point here has to be to ask yourself whether you are writing a novel or a polemic. If your story is just an excuse to make an argument against some form of discrimination, then you are going to be stuck trying to write both sides of a debate where you are on one side and trying to set it up to win. It's not that that can't sell, as long as your audience feels the same way you do about the issue. People love books that confirm their opinions. But you also need a victim for them to root for. Save the victim, stand them in the front row of the debate, and have you hero make the speech your audience wants to hear.

On the other hand, if you actually want to write about politicians and how they behave, that is something altogether different because politicians don't actually debate, they posture. It is not ever about proving a point by argument, it is always about positioning yourself to win votes and casting your opponent in a bad light. Politicians never answer the question they are asked and they never address the points their opponents make. They talk past each other and over each other. The key to making that sort of a scene work it to write it like a prize fight. Each one is looking for an opening, for a way to sting, for a way to grandstand. The arguments themselves are secondary at best. There are mere weapons in the war. What makes or breaks the scene is not the arguments but how they are used tactically in the war for votes. Make every line a blow and let the battle go back and forth, and you will have a compelling scene.


You don't have to write good arguments for two characters arguing opposite points in a debate, you need to write good characters.

As someone writing a debate, it's likely that you will favor one side over the other, therefore bias to the debate will likely creep in, as it is difficult to write arguments to support a point that you don't believe in. You will feel the person who is arguing against how you feel personally doesn't have good points, because you don't personally think they are good points. The trick is then to make sure that the character truly believes in the points that they are arguing.

One good thing to do would be to practice writing out a debate about something you are 100% decided about, let's say the Earth not being flat. Then think about how someone trying to argue that the Earth is flat would attempt to convince people.

They may resort to appealing to emotion over solid facts, misrepresenting statistics, using specific theories or studies that agree with their point of view or any number of logical fallacies.

Then when writing about an issue that may actually have two valid sides of an argument, you can intersperse tactics that someone would use to argue a lost cause with actual solid reasoning that they may use. Depending on the characters debating, they may both resort to some of these tactics to some extent.

It is not about writing a good debate, it about writing how characters would attempt to debate well. Whether their points are good or believable or agreeable is irrelevant, it is about how they are argued by the characters you have written.

  • 1
    Further to your advice about writing realistic characters (IF that's what the questioner wants to do), remember that in real life people often forget to make what ought to have been a "killer" debating point - and then remember it when it is too late, to their intense frustration. Commented Aug 18, 2016 at 18:46
  • On the other hand, writing one side as stupid is a quick way to get your story dismissed as propaganda.
    – Mary
    Commented May 28, 2020 at 17:47

Adding unnecessary comments or arguments is one of the most likely pitfalls of writing a political debate. Make absolutely certain that each and every comment that your characters voice is for a specific purpose. Everything must have an intended result and meaning.

This is all about condensing and being concise. If 'George' voiced his opposition to the Bill on the floor make sure his next comment is communicating his reasoning behind his opposition (BUT ONLY if his reasoning is pertinent to your story).

Dialog often loses its power with needless repitition of points already voiced, or adding details that are simply pointless to the purpose of the story and scene.


If you want to write a debate, it's the same as writing a gamble, or a fight, or any other human vs human conflict. Focus not on the arguments, but on the characters trying to get a read on each other, get inside of each other's heads, and ultimately come up with some twist strategy to, since it's a political debate for legislation, ultimately win the people over.

If you're on one side of this debate, find somebody in either real-life or media to give you arguments. You could read Mein Kampf or any pseudo-science written in the American South to justify racism and slavery if you want real-life examples, as long as you don't use them too ham-fistedly, and probably have, if not a particularly deep debate then at least an entertaining one.

Since I know nothing about your story, I will put this on at the end: don't make your discriminated class be significantly different than the ruling class. Detroit: Become Human, for example, messed this up by making their discriminated class look exactly like the ruling class, as well as giving them enhanced abilities, an entirely different thinking process, and telepathy to other androids, so it would make sense to discriminate against them.

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