the writer as seducer



Writers, like seducers, aspire to get outside of themselves and into the perspective of another person, to gather information they can use in their campaign.

They develop a ‘cool eye’: the ability to step outside of their own ego and exist within the moment, to see things as objectively as they can.

Storytelling, like seduction, is about the power of fascination.

It’s about getting inside someone’s head and under their skin. It’s about knowing when to step close and when to step away, and when to make them think they’re chasing you. It’s about mixing pleasure with pain. It’s about injecting the relationship with the right amount of doubt and uncertainty to create in the other person an obsession. It’s about engaging the senses en route to the mind. It’s about wrapping your presence in poetry and fantasy.

It’s about slipping yourself into someone else’s world…and guiding them slowly into your own.

It’s about stirring up the transgressive and the taboo.

And knowing how – and when – to make the bold move.

Whether you’re seducing someone, or telling a story, or creating a presence on the Web, you are using the pull of attraction. You don’t push yourself at your intended victim(s). You pull them to you through the power of your presence, your words, the husky melody of your voice.

To do this, you have to be an excellent student of human nature.

You have to be empathetic enough to understand the other person’s point of view…and calculating enough to gauge your process and revise your course when necessary.

A writer, like a seducer, has to be a kind of spy. You watch people. You gather information and store it for future use. You examine their motivations.  Harriet Rubin talks about “the 5 whys”: whenever someone asks you for something, or does something, ask yourself Why. Then ask yourself Why again. Then ask yourself that three more times. With each answer, you pull back another layer of motivation to get to the truth at the core.

The truth gives you power.

May 18, 2010

10 comments · Add Yours

Love the 5 whys. I think we write sometimes without really considering more than one or two “whys” (if even that). Our characters do what we tell them to because we need them to make the story go. Once we get deeper, the whole thing becomes so much more interesting.


“It’s about injecting the relationship with the right amount of doubt and uncertainty…”

The seductive writer, or writer as seducer, both try to make you feel different. The struggle we hope for is whether or not feeling different matters, and if the lover/reader experiences the same feeling, the vibe, as the writer. Can they trust someone enough to be honest about those feelings? Will they care too much? Let’s hope so.

Thanks JLM


These are some really great insights on writing.

Too bad when I try my husky voice, I sound like Mickey Mouse.

I think when it comes to creating that sort of presence on the web, we have more at our disposal (i.e. art, sound, video, social networking gimmicks) to draw a visitor in. With writing we only have our words. I think in that way its a more purer form of ‘seduction,’ obviously a more difficult one.


That’s a really good point.


Me too–whenever a tale gets stuck or stupid, nine times out of ten it’s because I haven’t properly identified a character’s whys, which usually results in me trying to make the character do or say something that he or she simply wouldn’t do or say. The more I push, the worse it gets.

It took me awhile to truly understand how vital that is, but now it’s the first thing I look at when things start to go awry. I think it’s probably the most important thing I’ve learned about writing in the past five years or so.

While answering a question about finding the story in an idea, Warren Ellis recently summarized the same sort of concept as “Want/Get/Do:”

“Identify a character in your idea.

1) What does that character WANT?

2) What does that character need to do to GET what they want?

3) What are they prepared to DO to get what they want?”

1) and 3), it seems to me, are where the depths of why can be plumbed.


Seduction of the reader makes me think of Larry King’s interview with Mick Jagger I watched the other day. Answering a question about getting on stage, having his audience in his pocket already, Mick stated that was not the case. Each time he goes on he feels he needs to “slay them”. If that sounds like warfare I read his words as —winning them over, demanding victory for what he’s willing to give, put out, lay on the line.

With Mick Jagger’s performance in mind I’d say the writer’s seduction at times may be a controlled, subtly disguised pushing, which lures the reader into his/her web.


I like to ask, why? Not just of other people, but of myself too.

I am horrible at seduction though. For the same reason I’m bad at chess. I always think three moves ahead, but they’re the moves I want them to make not necessarily the best moves.

I’m bad at creating allure. I need to work on that. Thank you.


I love this post, although I might challenge the choice of seducer as the right word. Seduction, at least the way I hear it, has an end point – a consummation if you will.

I much prefer to describe the successful writer as a tease, not in the sense of the childhood tormentor, but rather in the best possible sense of someone who excites the imagination and emotions about the possibilities and keeps the person engaged without ever fully delivering. The tease in this sense offers just enough to keep the attention of the recipient fully engaged. Because there is always the possibility of a lot more, and arousal along the way, the relationship is sustained. For me seduction is more transactional – it had a defined end point.

All of your points about seduction apply in terms of really deeply understanding the object of the tease, stirring up the transgressive and the taboo, etc. but over a much longer period where the excitement mounts because both parties gain a deeper understanding of each other and the teaser has a deeper sense of how to excite based on prior interactions.

It’s definitely about pull (how could it not be ;-) ?) because the author is finding ever more effective ways to attract and sustain the attention of the audience.

Sally Hogshead uses even another term in her book, Fascinate, which I recommend if you have not had a chance to look at it.

Of course, at one level, this is all about semantics – you are on to something deeply powerful that appeals to the mind and the emotions and exerts an irresistible hold. We all should strive to master it, whatever term we use.

Your blog is wonderful!


Do we write to stimulate a reader’s imagination and allow them into our world, with no ulterior motive other than to share the human condition?Or do we also write to gain recognition from our global peers on a cerebral level tied with the material threads and laced with the joy in discovery self.


Thank you for this. It goes back to those rules from FASCINATE that you mentioned in another post too, “mystique” and tension created by dropping a trail of crumbs (information parsed out bit by bit)….answering a question with a question. Sassy!


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