The Art of Seduction

The Art of Seduction by Robert Greene, (also the author of 48 Laws of Power) if taken for its purported purpose of getting anything from anyone, is rather creepy and chilling in its constant use of the word “victim.” It takes seduction at the worst meaning of the word and often made me think of stalker. Here, however, I present it as book with information that can aid in developing and understanding your characters.

The book is presented in two parts. The first part gives a straight forward, in depth explanation with historic and or literary examples of Greene’s arbitrarily set of nine types of seducers:

1. The Siren—ultimate male fantasy figure who offers a total release from daily life. Symbol is water, liquid and enticing.

2. The Rake—provides a mix of danger and pleasure. Symbol is Fire, a Rake burns with a desire that enflames.

3. The Charmer—discussed below. Symbol is the mirror, reflecting what the other person wishes to see.

4. The Ideal Lover—reflects fantasies and desires. Symbol is the Portrait Patinter—under his eye all imperfections disappear.

5. The Dandy—creates an alluring presence that stirs repressed desire. Symbol is the Orchid, odor sweet and decadent, prized for rarity.

6. The Natural—has the qualities we left with childhood: spontaneity, sincerity, unpretentiousness. Symbol is the Lamb, soft and endearing, a pure innocence we want to possess.

7. The Coquette—grand master of the game of alternating hope and frustration with the lure of total satisfaction. Symbol is the Shadow, it cannot be grasped.

8. The Charismatic—attract by radiating a confidence and contentment they keep mysterious. Symbol is the Lamp, an invisible current that turns cadescent.

9. The Star—uses the desire to escape into fantasy and dreams. Symbol is the Idol, the eye of the worshipper fill the Idol with life and imagine it to have real powers.

Each type also has a “Key to the Character” section and “Dangers,” a connotation Greene never applies to his “victims.” In the margins are a great many historic and literary quotes which are interesting in themselves and are used as mirrors of the author’s ideas. The second half of the book is given to the “process of seduction” which Greene divides into four phases, the first being “Choosing the Right Victim.” It is a disturbing dissection of social power but can provide motive, means, and modus operandi for your characters.

How so?
Take the seducer type “Charmer.” Greene states, “Charm is seduction without sex. Charmers are consummate manipulators, masking their cleverness by creating a mood of pleasure and comfort. Their method is simple: they deflect attention from themselves and focus it on their target. They understand your spirit, feel your pain, adapt to your moods.”
We all use characters that are charming. This book gives an in-depth analysis of how to charm—be it your hero or, if followed to the conclusions of the book, the vilest of villains. The main facets of a charmer, according to Greene, are that they are keen observers and truly listen. By keying in on what is important to their “victim” they tailor their responses and bolster self-esteem. Greene includes paragraphs with these headings in explaining how a Charmer works:
1. “Make your target the center of attention
2. Be a source of pleasure
3. Lull your victim into ease and comfort
4. Show calm and self-possession in the face of adversity
5. Make yourself useful.”

One of the examples given to support the Charmer is a telling of how Averell Harriman came to marry his second, and much younger, wife Pamela. It makes fascinating reading as well as suggesting several plot lines.

If you are hunting for a different or unusual way for your hero to gain your heroine’s heart or vice versa or a way to make your villain truly despicable The Art of Seduction may be for you. Check it out from your local library and see if you find it useful.


Reese Mobley said...

Thanks Joan for this amazing post. It's great to identify our characters like this. Might make it easier to stick true to type when writing them. At least for me.

Joan Vincent said...

Thanks Reese. The details of our characters' lives, the "what makes them tick" needs to speak true to attract or in the case of villians, repel readers. This book can help add detail to the pyschology of why a person acts in a particular way or to explain an action. Perhaps even add depth or shallowness of character.

Pat Davids said...

I'll be sure to check this one out. Thanks for the tips.

Joan Vincent said...

Thanks for stopping by Pat. Hope you find the book useful.

Starla Kaye said...

I have this book and agree with your idea of him coming across as a bit "creepy." But I have used the various types of seducters in developing some of my characters.

Penny Rader said...

Ooh, Joan, I just love character archetype-y books. This books sounds quite intriguing and I'm looking forward to reading it.