Don’t get all excited.

I’m not going to flirt with you…

Or…

Am I?

Do good writers flirt with readers? (for the moment we will suspend the notion of whether or not I am a good writer)

What makes a book go from good to great?

There’s the old adage that there are only four stories to tell:

  1. Person vs Nature
  2. Person vs Person
  3. Person vs Themselves
  4. Person vs Technology

For the most part you have the protagonist battling one of these things. The thing that changes is how the writer tells a story, the individual take that someone brings to the ideas.

If we consider a book to be good, does it mean that the writer is better at seducing us?

I read two books recently: “Palms and Pomegranates” and “A Woman is No Man”. Both books deal with how women are treated by men due to a particular interpretation of the Quran. One book was great, the other quite possibly the worst book I’ve read in awhile.

Subject matter similar: story telling different.

One book used words creatively, used words to draw you into the world the characters were inhabiting. The descriptions heightened your senses. The other book tried to be too much of everything. Once you have compared someone to the tabula rasa and tried to make this how people talk in their everyday lives with their families, you’ve lost me…

One writer seduced with turn of phrase- the other made me close my eyes to rid myself of the awful imagery. It’s like meeting two men. Though they might share certain attributes, I only want to date one of them. I only wanted to date one of these books.

How does an author flirt with you?

Perhaps it’s the way that they hand out information: a little bit at a time, only letting you know certain things, and expounding when they are ready.

Maybe it’s with the descriptions: just lush enough to wet your appetite, yet leaving you wanting more, making you turn the page to see whatever else is going to delight your senses…making you want to see and hear and touch and taste…is there anything more seductive than sensuality…

I think a great book doesn’t try to impress you with all it’s got right up front. I think a great book sets the pace very deliberately. It knows when. to. slow. down. Itknowswhentospeedup…

A great book has a little mystery to it, a little allure. We want to turn the page to see what the moment is that will startle us, will wake us up, will make us wonder how we never thought about that before…we beg for more little tiny moments like this…

A great book knows how to close the deal…

It knows how to leave us wanting more…

So…

Do good writers flirt with readers?

52 thoughts on “Flirty Words

  1. I think a good book flirts with its reader by giving up just a bit of the plot at a time. Basically, not giving all the info up right away. I like a book that keeps you guessing and not one that you can predict the plot and ending after the first chapter.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This was such an interesting post!! I like the analogy of writing style and flirtation. I’m intrigued by a book when it slowly builds, but not too slowly or I start to lose interest. Conversely, when there’s too much information all at once it overstimulates me 😖. For me, a good writer throws in an unexpected plot twist that I never saw coming. And like you suggested, it beckons me to turn the pages to see what’s going to happen next. 😃

    I hope the book you enjoyed is A Woman Is No Man because I have that one in my tbr pile.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I think you’ve come up with an excellent analogy for good writing! I’ll be keeping it in mind. As a non-fiction writer, plot is not something I can manufacture, but how I present scenes and events makes or breaks the story.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Yes yes! That’s why it’s an accumulated skill. Words definitely seduce. Learning how to use them brings the reader right where you lead them. AND if you keep them there. I have read a few books lately late made me thing…mmpphh … good idea, but I don’t FEEL anything.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This is a lovely thought experiment, and thank you for sharing. Apologies for my lengthy comment.

    Hands down the most “romantic” book I can think of is “Fates and Furies” by Lauren Groff. The plot was peeled away, the characters well defined and revealed in their own time according to their personality, and Groff herself chose interesting phrases here and there that just – smacked me – while reading. And I mean it. I would be totally immersed in the novel, then a phrase so fresh would come up, and it would hurtle me OUT of the scene. It was like breaking the fourth wall, and I would read the line over and over, simply delighting at how beautiful the line was.

    For example (yes, I had to go grab my copy, I love this book!): “He’d woken up to the absence of Mathilde in his bed and felt grief in the coolness where her heat should have been.”

    This line has stuck with me for YEARS since I first read it. I remember my first read through, I got so flat out frustrated with the book. I wanted to be involved, it wasn’t enough for me to just read it. I had to tear into it. I stopped a few chapters in, exasperated. I grabbed a pencil and started ripping into lines and making notes in the margins, I dissected it while reading, like I would one of my college texts, actively taking notes of foreshadowing and motifs and connecting plot point pages. It was just. that. damn. good.

    I’ve yet to come across a novel that’s made me that… flustered, if we’re going to keep “flirtation” as the theme.

    It’s 100% a skill.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. First…no comment is ever too long. So thank you for putting so much thought into this. And yes. I know exactly what you mean. When you have a book so eloquently written, where it pulls you in and you remember the feelings it evoked when you first read it? Totally a skill

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I know that I have to really get into a character, they have to seem real, even if I don’t like them. I find some description gratuitous or over the top, making it seem like they are just padding their word count. I want to have a picture painted but not a paint by number.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I like the way you phrased that. That’s exactly the issue I had with Palms…it was a paint by number. It was so overly descriptive, and 90% of the time the spot didn’t require that much description

      Liked by 1 person

  7. As usual, your questions are intriguing. Or perhaps you are just “ flirting “ with us. Lol By the way, that is an excellent way to describe a good book. Like flirting with danger, intrigue, or self reflection. I also liked that you used allure. I think that’s the ticket to a great book. I want a page turner. I want to be enticed to turn the page. Tempted to continue on. I don’t want to have to force myself to go to the next chapter. I love it when I can’t put a book down. No matter what the subject. I don’t want to have to work for it. I want to be seduced or beguiled into turning that page. So I’d say flirting is truly the right ingredient to making a novel a success!

    By the way, Did you know that now they’ve given us an expanded version of the man vs. society lesson? In fact, it’s become gender neutral as well. When I first started teaching there were only four in the list, but by the time I stopped it was expanded to six and thankfully they threw out the male dominated title. When I taught this lesson I always said “Person vs Nature” because being a feminist I had trouble bringing myself to teach it in that way. So I always made it gender neutral. However, now the newer books write it that way. What’s interesting is that beginning in the 2000’s there were always girls raising their hands because they were offended by the universal usage of “man or mankind”. Before then not too many objected. Girl Power!

    Character vs. Self
    Character vs. Character
    Character vs. Nature
    Character vs. Supernatural
    Character vs. Technology
    Character vs. Society

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oops I forgot to add this one to my response…Character vs. Destiny (or fate). This one was around years before they added supernatural to the list. I can’t believe I left it out. There would always be great discussions in class about fate. And it’s interesting that it used to be called Man vs Machine, but then became Character vs. Technology. Once the year 2000 hit children did no5 understand the man and machine reference. I wonder how many more conflict changes will happen in the future as society advances? Hmmmm…

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Such an interesting topic, I think you have to engage the reader with flirtations if needed but also intrigue, mystery, or revelation? I want someone to want to read to the end because they are hooked! It’s a difficult skill to master for sure. C

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Hmmmm: I’ve never considered the question you are framing just like this before. How fun. I would say, yes, they do in some way. Flirting with the deep characters, great story, and simple language that invokes beautiful imagery. Well, that’s how a great writer flirts with me anyway. 🙃 Great post and question, LA.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Absolutely! I love authors that can tease me with just enough innuendo that I don’t want to put the book down at the end of a chapter. If they can’t capture my imagination through plot or word pictures by the end of the second chapter, the book is toast. I’m like that with television series shows too. If I can’t get vested in the characters right away, it’s not worth watching. I have to “feel” something for the characters or in some way identify with them in order for them to be worthy of my time and interest! 💜

    Liked by 2 people

  11. I’d never considered writing to be an act of flirtation, but I do see what you mean. That realisation’s got me worried about my writing though, as I’ve never been much of a flirt (far too direct), but it’s something I’m going to bear in mind. Thanks LA 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  12. That was beautifully written LA! And perfectly describes the difference between a good book and a bad/mediocre one. I’m currently reading The Midnight Library, half way through, and am not detecting too much flirting. Maybe it will get better and have a fabulous and profound ending. It’s a good thing the chapters are short, as that’s the only thing keeping me reading…..

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Okay. I read a press interview with the author, and he said he changed the protagonist to a female as his original version of male just wasn’t working, but I’m not getting the voice of the character. The premise is original and interesting though.

        Liked by 1 person

  13. Interesting question and it boils down to “what makes a good or great book?” I like your example of two books with same subject matter that brought two totally different responses from you. I think many of the ideas people have posted here are good. I would add that your enjoyment also derives from what you bring to the book. I read When We Were Young and Brave recently about British and American children interred in a Japanese camp in China. I think it would have been a “better” book to me if we were not in the current threatening political scenario we find ourselves in. Back to your question, I understand what you mean by “flirting,” and it certainly is a part of writing for authors, according to their individual styles, to bring you in.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I always love your questions and I would say that yes my favorite authors “flirt” with me! I don’t want to know everything up front, entice me, draw me in as to where I have to keep turning the page, make me curious even though it drives me crazy, it keeps me reading. I get kind of disappointed if I figure things out too soon. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Interesting ideas here! Love the way your writing-as-flirting idea has triggered such a response, and not just in me. Much as I like this thought, I’m tempted to take it further because– well, flirtation is fun and teasing is too, and a sensual experience is delicious. There are times that’s exactly what we want. But some writers offer more : compassion, ideas, hope, or friendship foot instance. (I know you know this!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m always looking for ways to figure out what makes a book go from good to great. Though I will say, I’ve started doing a monthly roundup of my reading, listing which books I liked to those I didn’t like as much. Last month, I thought one book was good, not great, till I got to the last page, which made the book great for me. Last week I read a book that I thought was great, till I got to the end, and the end dropped it down for me. So I’m thinking the ending is really important

      Liked by 1 person

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