Literary Seduction

Published on 26 December 2023 at 17:43

In 'The picture of Dorian Gray', Oscar Wilde shows what seduction is and how to seduce the reader. Like me, Theo Holman was also inspired by him ( He learned from Oscar Wilde that "nice talk helps, but that you have to capture them in paradoxes and statements, and you have to be extremely vague, so use a lot of words like love, passion, soul, senses, et cetera, et cetera, words with which you can go in all directions because they mean nothing anyway. Literary seduction is confusing the other, and you evoke that confusion by speaking confusingly, but writing clearly."

The last sentence confused me myself: How should I speak confusingly and write clearly?

I googled 'seductive writing' and came across a lot of management and marketing sites. Here it is about 'online persuasion' and greater sales by focusing on your target group, actively writing and naming the benefits for your readers. Not what I really want to know. I then typed in 'literary seduction'.  With these search terms I came across sites in which (young people) were tempted to read literature, I saw books about (erotic) seduction arts and I read how readers could be tempted by pageturners to read a story. Interesting, but still not what I was looking for.

I then read that neurolinguists used the language of the influential hypnotherapist Milton Erickson ( to influence clients. Erickson often spoke in general, vague, and sometimes even ambiguous terms. Because of his authority, his patients filled in themselves what the meaning of these terms was for them. In the further conversation, Erickson then used what he heard to influence his patients' thinking in a direction that offered solutions.

His method thus included a context and a dialogue, in which he followed the patient and steered him through hypnotic 'seduction'.

According to Holman, vague terms such as love, soul, love, etc. invite the reader to fill them in themselves. Yet this will not be unbridled, because the story wants to go in a certain direction. The author will not be able to avoid at least sketching a context. What I mean by this I want to make clear with the three sentences below, in which the vague term 'love' is used in three different contexts.

• At the ice cream tent, x asks: 'Do you love chocolate ice cream?'

• When they're busy with their dessert, x takes her hand and says, "Sweetheart, I love you."

• They say goodbye. He kisses her, says "I love you," and then quickly walks to his taxi.

Of these three sentences, the last sentence has the most ambiguous context. The chance that the reader will give his own interpretation to what 'loving' means to him / her, will be the greatest here.

The question of how to speak confusingly, but clearly written can now be answered for me: use vague words in an ambiguous, but clearly written context.

That is the way to seduce literary.

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