Writing a la Casanova

At some point, you’ve probably heard about Giovanni Giacomo Casanova. Long story short, he was the original ladies man and/or pimp and/or womanizer circa the 1700’s. What made Casanova the ultimate charmer was actually his great analytical skills. He was able to familiarize himself with a woman’s interests, dislikes, and desires. Through “deductive reasoning” Casanova could then transform himself into an array of occupations or flamboyant characters to fulfill whatever craving (romance, adventure, mystery, etc.) the women lacked in their lives.

Personally, I prefer Heath Ledger’s movie version.

I think of our role as writers like charmers. To charm your audience, it’s absolutely crucial to know who you’re writing for. According to Casanova’s memoirs, his umbrella of occupations included being a playwright, dancer, businessman, lawyer, military officer, diplomat, mathematician, philosopher, spy, and–perhaps most accurate–a conman. “Craft of Research” talks about fitting a particular role as a writer to keep your audience engaged. We must be Casanovas in this way: analyze what our audience expects of us, what we think their role is, and mold ourselves accordingly.

Unlike Casanova, though, it’s important we’re not playing our readers. Authenticity is key here. I wouldn’t publish a research paper on aspartame’s effects in the brain cells of mice because I don’t know what a good research paper looks like, sounds like, or what information the audience (probably other researchers) expects me to include. There are tons of ways to be authentic. If you’re publishing a political essay, avoid the adjective “stupid.”  If you’re writing for a magazine, be colorful, add pictures. If you’re being funny, make sure your audience has a sense of humor. I think a major way that all authors can establish authenticity is to have legitimate evidence and cite where it came from. No one wants to read any more of a paper if they discover a sketchy piece of information. The writer has essentially failed to charm the reader.

But, is a “charming, authentic writer” an oxymoron? Admittedly, I kind of hate the idea tailoring who I am to meet the expectations of others. When it comes to writing, though, it kind of makes sense why it works. Unless you don’t care if your work ever gets seen, the unfortunate truth is that if we were to write how we wanted to, where wanted to, whenever we wanted to, we’d probably be less authentic than if we considered what our audience wants to hear. I’d never expect Edward Cullen (100+ year old vampire from Twilight saga) to say “bro” for example, even if that was Stephanie Meyer’s favorite word to write. The moral of the story is, if we want to connect to our readers, we have a responsibility to charm them.




2 thoughts to “Writing a la Casanova”

  1. Lorena,

    I love your inclusion of Casanova at the beginning of this– it’s a very clever way to think about how writers are supposed to quickly learn what makes their readers tick and then adjust their style to that.

    I also found your point about the struggle (and perhaps impossibility) of being a “charming, authentic writer” extremely compelling. It’s hard to stay true to yourself and to give the audience what they want at the same time. Often those things are different, especially in academic settings, because most of us would rather not write so formally (even if we have an interest in the topic). Do you think the trick is finding a niche audience that really appreciates your individual style? This obviously would limit the range of your readers, but it would ensure that they and you are mutually happy.

    I’m excited to tell your cult following twenty years from now that I was a fan before any of them were.

  2. Hi Lorena!

    I am so glad that you ended your post questioning the idea of being a “charmer” for your reader. I think it is really important to not lose sight of your own voice and what you want to write. But I do enjoy that you take a realistic standpoint on the idea that it is valuable and important to understand where your readers are coming from and what they will enjoy. Because when it comes down to it, writers (or at least in my opinion) want to be heard. And the best way for this to happen is through understanding our audience. I just have one question for you to think about: Do you have any ideas on how to find that balance between writing with authenticity/in your own unique voice and writing for your intended audience? This is a tricky thing to do, and something writers probably struggle with their whole life. However, I think it is possible to reach that point!

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