There’s a ticket machine at the bus stop near us. After you put your money in, pressing the green button will get you a ticket. Pressing the sticky-out button will cancel the transaction and get you your money back. Easy, right?

Then why do so many people who want tickets press that sticky-out button instead of the green one? Even when there are TWO signs on the machine saying “PRESS THE GREEN BUTTON”?

Because design trumps words. Yes, the signs tell you to press the green button. But the shape of the machine and the arrangement of the coin slot and buttons lead the user to the sticky-out button.

It’s easy, as a writer, to get frustrated when a reader makes assumptions that contradict things we’ve plainly said. “Look! Right there! I specifically state that she’s 25 years old!” But if everything in the design of your story (the character’s behavior and choices; the reactions of those around her) imply otherwise, the reader is more likely to believe the design.

If there is something you want the reader to know, put it into more than words. Put it into the action of your story.

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