Flirt or Flatter a Fan of Your Reader: A How-To

Let me entice you to come on my road trip. I’m sure you are doubting the wisdom of the driver and what direction I’m taking us in, or to (play on dirección – address). But I like a manual transmission, which means I really know how to drive. Sit back, don’t tell me how to use the clutch (do you know how?), and buckle in. We are going to a fancy restaurant. On a date, if you will. Because writing your own and/or reading the thoughts of another is an intimate occasion (sometimes more so than anything lust can dream up). And an intimate occasion deserves some flowery language, a soft light, a calm listener, at the dinner table of communication.

I’m not a bad flirt in real life, and I can definitely do it in writing. But only you decide how bold you want to go (in either realm).

Stay with me now. I’m not trying to splash rainwater from the gutter of your mind (If I want to, I’ve got the wheel and you won’t know when I’m going to veer off that curb). But writing is like seduction: you have to want to, you have to show your assets, and you must have some experience (the cliche write what you know is to be remembered here).

Okay, we’re in the car. I’m driving. We’ve just shifted into third gear. Do you look nice? Are you wearing a cologne? (Don’t wear cologne or perfume like the cloak of an aroma. Make your reader sniff it out).

If you are a writer, than you better know your damn vocabulary, sentence structure, pronunciation, spelling, and have a handle on your grammar (grammar is hard, so I won’t judge you for it. I’m not a Nazi in any of my beliefs). You’ve gotta know all of that before you take to punching the keys.

Got a date with your reader? Dress up! It’s a sign of respect!

When I’m getting ready to go out (hardly ever) I always start with my eyebrows. Mis cejas have always been thick – before anyone called them “bold” or “‘brows” – and the pain of plucking does not bother me one bit. I don’t usually fill ’em in. For what? I’m going outside to the garden to pick jalapeños. The point is this: edit. Edit as much as you can, what you know how. You will miss some (I always miss an eyebrow hair somewhere) but the effort to show your best self is what matters on a date, or in your blog posts.

To edit sucks. It’s not the fun part, I know. Editing (and eyebrows) are the bane of my existence. But, I’m not showin’ up anywhere with a uni-brow, and I don’t let my work take errors to the Reader page (if I can help it). Sometimes you can leave an intentional error – it’s exciting to the reader – just like one might decide to leave a beauty mark, or freckles, uncovered by foundation – also exciting (better be!) to the man or woman sitting next to you in this 5-speed of life (6-speeds are for luxury cars, which I have no use for).

Think it’s all about you? Not if you want a partnership. Dating, loving, marriage all require that you listen to your audience. Be it man, woman, or faceless reader.

Everyone talks about listening to their audience: it’s important – it takes two to tango. Well, then, put the damn phone down, look up at your listener, and say something. Say something for them. Say something that you want them to know about you. Just don’t say too much! No one likes a chatty Kathy, and mystery is the best genre for leading your reader on.

Set boundaries. Just as you would on a real first date.

Be funny, smart, honest on your date. Show some class. Show your wit. Just don’t make an ass of yourself. Don’t talk about your ex, or your bad habits. And please, don’t drink too much of that powerful poison that a few thousand followers can get you drunk off of. And don’t forget rule number one: use nice language and always ask for consent. (Also, a safe space requires the explicit instruction that slurs or insults are not to be used).

Not sure what consent is? Or how to give it? Then you need to go read something else. You’re pretty far behind. I’ll stop at the next Road Ranger, and you can call a different ride.

Consent in real life is a must. Consent from your reader is a bit more fluid. You won’t know if they’ve given consent until they’ve read your words, commented, or closed out of your site’s home page completely.

A rape of the mind is committed through writing in the form of propaganda. Consent is not given or asked for by propaganda. Propaganda is a genre that seeks to cheat on you, lie to you, make you feel stupid. But that’s a bit heady. Let me roll the window down for you.

Whew! I can breathe much better with that fresh air comin’ in. What were we talking about? Oh yes, dear, you.

There is a way to ask for consent in writing. It may trigger an un-follow. But guns are always goin’ off in the Wild, Wild West of the internet. So saddle up, cowboy(girl). Or, hold on to the grab-bar. I’m about to downshift.

Be upfront about some of your beliefs. Vagueness creeps into writing of any form – long, or less than 140 characters. Not being truthful will creep out your reader, and then your date. Be yourself, because you can’t be me. Or anyone else that you may admire or adore.

You have to be you, and change your opinions of yourself if it will help. Here’s a cliche I don’t like: love yourself before someone else can. Ah yes, love yourself. It’s a worthy aspiration. But how do you love yourself if no one has ever taught you how? Not all of us have been taught. And that’s why I’m teaching you.

A marriage is difficult if he voted for Trump and she voted for Hilary. A marriage is difficult if one likes la fiesta, and the other wants to stay home. A marriage is difficult if one is a lustful carnivore, when the other is a simple vegetarian. A marriage is difficult if you’re the same, let alone different. (Skin color or differences in appearance do not make a marriage difficult – just want to make that clear. Life gives all people difficulties to bear).

Set those boundaries in your blog, with as much dignity or grace as you can. Don’t get up and leave the table, spilling Merlot all over the white tablecloths. Just don’t forget to mention the things that will always divide you and your reader (or date). Some people are not our perfect match. And there’s nothing wrong with that. There’s always a “one” (shout out to MTV again and AYTO?. “This year, your perfect match could be anyone.” I love it!).

Don’t mislead people, though (See? Had to edit something that was published. But only because it was an important distinction. Updated). Don’t write something that you don’t actually know. We will be able to tell. Readers can spot red flags, and already know that red flags eventually turn vermilion. Maybe you put up a red flag on purpose. I would. To scare off a stalker or trollish commenter. You can’t sleep with everybody, no matter how much you may want to (anyone remember the Great Tunechi’s Every Girl In The World?). Look out for the flags your readers throw up, too. And don’t ignore el rojo. Red usually means stop. And so does the word “no” – one of the easiest to hear, say, write, or recognize.

Leave your reader with something to think about. Show a little skin, but leave your body to the imagination.

Decide what you want to show. Your assets? Your wit? Your views on the bittersweet world that we live in? They say not to wear short-shorts with a tank-top or a mini-skirt with a halter. Pick one, they say: arms or legs, humorous or grim outlook. Try to keep it consistent, and use some organization. I have messy hair and all, but I put it in a braid if I’m going out to eat.

Oh, the check is coming. Did you have a nice date? Was it fun? Did we learn about each other? No, no. No kisses on the first date. And no, you cannot come home with me.

Remember that reading and writing are chances for connection. I swear, it is intimate. But don’t judge a whole person by one logged blurb of their life. Take some time to read them well, look at their creation, and think about how you might answer that come-on. Only then might you ask for a kiss, to go up to their apartment. Words do affect, so be careful which ones you choose. It’s always nice to ask for that kiss, rather than lean in unannounced.

Okay, boys and girls. Before you leave this sex-ed classroom, can you tell me what you have learned?

I don’t care if you have learned or not. I’m not a real teacher. Understanding is impossible to measure, anyway.

I’ll spell it out for you, then, my poor, sweet thing. As a writer or a reader, of books or of blogs, you should always dress it up, discuss consent and boundaries, lead ’em on a little, and pay attention to bright red flags.

You just might get a second date. And then a third or fourth. One of those dates just might lead you up a flight of stairs, into a private place, to one of the best reads you’ve ever had in your life. Writing and reading are fun, just like that three-letter word is supposed to be. That one little word that I have just referenced oh, so sexily.