I want to write a story where the main culprit is controlling someone to commit crimes. Is there any way like medicine or psychology to control someone?

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    How far along your story do you want to reveal this? From the beginning? As a resolution of the mystery near the end? Somewhere in the middle?
    – Stef
    Aug 9, 2022 at 14:54
  • Hello, thanks for asking. It is something I want to reveal as you said as a resolution of the mystery near the end. Aug 9, 2022 at 14:56
  • Hi, I think you have a decent setup for a story. I can think of similar stories, but that doesn't mean yours can't be original. What we can't do here is tell you how to write the story, you'll need to flesh out your protagonist, and plot out the clues that lead to his discovery. Also a motivation for the psychology professor, what is he gaining by this? In a longer story you will need more than just a good setup and reveal, you will need conflict, perhaps the patient's friend becomes an obstacle to the professor's goals, the stakes are raised because soon it will be more than just theft.
    – wetcircuit
    Aug 9, 2022 at 17:30
  • Thanks for the suggestions. I guess I was a bit wrong in presenting my questions. I am looking for ways by which the professor can control the main lead. Thanks and sorry Aug 9, 2022 at 17:54
  • How close to the real world is the story world? Because that will limit the suggestions that can be offered. There is a way to do this in the real world, but the "good" doctor's medical specialty is not required for this to happen.
    – hszmv
    Aug 9, 2022 at 18:00

2 Answers 2


In fiction you get 1 for free

In the podcast How Weird is too Weird the writers at Writing Excuses say that you get one 'buy':

"you get to ask the audience to believe 1 big thing and everything has to follow from that 1 thing."

While I think most readers would be skeptical of mind control in real life, it is your story and readers are usually willing to suspend disbelief over 1 'buy' that drives the plot – even when that 1 thing is a bit fantastic – as long as the rest of the story plays out realistically from it.

It's not unbelievable

You've given the professor authority over a person who is psychologically vulnerable.

There is enough to this situation to suspend disbelief on the specifics: experimental treatment + abusive psychologist + vulnerable patient. It won't be perfect, and that's how the story stays interesting.

The victim may have been groomed, or handpicked from a medical study because he is receptive. The victim may have turned to the professor for help, willingly being hypnotized and medicated. The professor may have tried this in the past, and learned from mistakes, meanwhile the victim is someone with a troubled past who won't be believed – a patsy.

It's not perfect

Nevertheless, cracks start to show. Maybe the drug is less effective over time. The situation is not sustainable so the plan is rushed, the patient is pushed too far, a skeptical colleague asks too many questions, the professor has to improvise. Now the police have come around, and his past is going to be examined – the stakes are rising and time is running out.

This power imbalance and the protagonist's turn make a more interesting story than a "secret formula" macguffin for perfect mind control. Assuming the narrator stays close to the protagonist's POV, the reader might never learn exactly how it was done.

Good Examples of this setup:

Some examples include Hitchcock's Spellbound, The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, Dr. Mabuse – all feature abusive hypnotist/psychologists, none dwell too long on the specifics how it actually works.


This idea forms the basic conceit of Lathe of Heaven by Ursula Le Guin. A psychiatrist realizes one of his patients reforms, reshapes the world every time he sleeps. The psychiatrist quickly realizes the power of that ability, and how he might manipulate it to his own ends.

We live the story through the horror of the patient, watching the world change with his sleep cycles, but the machinations of the psychiatrist, whom the patient trusts (because... "authority"), grow ever clearer.

And so, to your question, "are there some ways," the answer is a resounding YES. Pick up a copy of Lathe of Heaven at your library and see how Le Guin weaves tension and forward motion to convince the reader to accept a wildly impossible (or is it?) proposition.

After all, how do we really, truly, actually know that the world is not remade every time one of us sleeps? And if a psychiatrist had control over that person...

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