Writing Assignment: Write The Other Side Of An Argument

by Randy Murray on May 23, 2014

One of the keenest signs of intelligence is the ability to adopt and argue the other side of an argument without necessarily believing in it or supporting it. Those who have been trained in debate know how difficult it is to do it well. Take a controversial subject, assign viewpoints at random, and then present a clear and persuasive case for your assigned viewpoint.

It is very difficult.

I’m not that big a fan of competitive debate, but I do appreciate the ability to try and think about the opposing sides of arguments.

Here’s a secret that they don’t tell you in debate training: there is not always a clear opposite side. Facts do not have sides. But people have viewpoints.

And what they do tell you in debate training: you can persuade an audience about pretty much any damn thing, at least long enough to win a debate.

Hard core debate training can make one cynical. I think a little cynicism is a very healthy trait. For writers, the ability to see how others might think about any particular argument is essential. That includes writers of non-fiction, not just novelists. I spend a good part of every day doing basic expository writing (marketing). It is absolutely required that I understand how someone that I want to convince to buy something thinks. I need to completely understand their point of view. With that in mind I can present them with persuasive arguments that might just bring them around to making that buying decision.

For today’s assignment think of any argument or discussion that you’ve had today, something simple to start with, and then write a single page defense of the opposite side of the argument from the one that you took earlier. Don’t patronize or sabotage the argument. Think it through clearly. Detail the points in support of this argument. And then make a strong, supportive defense of this argument.

Bonus points if you succeed in convincing yourself to change your side of the argument.

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