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.
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.