Monday, April 13, 2009

Heroine Archetype: The Seductress

Yes, you read correctly...the archetypes are back, by popular demand. We're going to cover the heroines this time, so make sure to check in every Monday for a new type. ;-)

The Seductress

The Seductress knows how to use her beauty, her sexuality, to do two things, manipulate people, mostly men, and get what she wants. The first heroine I thought of that fits this archetype is Anne Boleyn, both in the HBO series The Tudors and the book The Other Boleyn Girl. Since there is so little known of the real Anne, we can only guess as to whether she truly seduced her way to the crown. But in the series and the book, her family drives her toward her death by encouraging her manipulative behavior.

Following that vein, her experiences as a child, and the influence of her family would play a part in the birth of a Seductress. This archetype has been told since childhood that external beauty is more important than intelligence. But the Seductress is very intelligent. She analyzes people and fashions her behavior to draw their attention. She’s a chameleon, able to take on the characteristics guaranteed to draw her target’s interest and get what she needs or desires.

The Seductress is a cynic. Since she is a student of human nature, she uses her understanding of people’s motives and responses to gain what she can from her relationships. She’s not interested in friendships, because being manipulative herself, she distrust other people’s intentions. Or if she does cultivate friendships, she’s only interested in them for what they can bring her.

Sometimes the Seductress is born out of a bad experience. Because of her beauty she might have been molested as a child or a young teenager, or had some other experience that has left her feeling vulnerable and humiliated. Instead of becoming a victim, she becomes a survivor, but it hardens her and makes her distrustful. It also makes her determined that no one will ever take advantage of her again. Such as Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind. “As God is my witness I’ll never go hungry again.” With that vow she’s grown from the spoiled, playful, flirtatious, tease looking for a husband, to the true Seductress determined to survive no matter who she steps on to do so.

The Seductress who has discovered her beauty can lead to security, power, and adventure uses her beauty as a weapon to gain it. That first taste of success becomes addictive and she wants more. Her eyes are on the prize: money, position, or fame.

The Seductress is a siren. And the siren can get any man she wants. Perhaps she’s been dirt poor and down on her luck and she’s discovered that a sway in her walk and a soft wispy laugh can wrap a man right around her little finger. And men will compete against one another, fight one another, and stab each other in the back to gain possession of her. Yet, they’ll never possess her because she may give her body, but her heart is well protected behind her defenses and her agenda.

The Seductress can be a kind of anti-heroine if the writer neglects to give her enough likeable characteristics, a touching vulnerability, or a good reason for growing into the such an archetype. She can evolve into too hard edged a character to like. But with penning the right balance she can become softer, and grow into a bigger more likeable character.

In Kathleen Woodiwiss’ book Shanna, her heroine starts out being a spoiled, flirtatious, manipulative, tease very similar to Scarlet in Gone With The Wind. But because she grows a conscience and is finally able to look beyond herself and sincerely care for those around her, she escapes that cliché archetype. Through love she grows more as a character than Scarlet ever does, and she becomes someone the reader can pull for and respect.

Tell me about some of the Seductresses you’ve run across in movies or books-- or in real life. Was she likable? Did she have a good reason for growing into such a character? Let’s discuss it.

Write on,
Teresa Reasor


Kathy Otten said...

I'm not sure I could ever write a heroine who was a seductress. I just don't understand how to manipulate people. If I did try to create a heroine like that I think she would have to be doing it as a ruse for some reason.

Julie Robinson said...

It's about time we focus on women!! LOL

Teresa, I would like to think I'm a seductress, but alas, I am not! sigh I've been called too open and friendly for the mysteriousness of a seductress.

I think in fiction that the reason it is so hard to write a Seductress that women will like is because most women do not identify with her. She is the woman every woman loves to hate and every man loves to love. Women do not want to be in the same room with her when they're with the man of their dreams.

I mean, who would want to be in the same room with, say, Angelina Jolie? I'd probably have to pick my husband's chin off the floor, to put it nicely. My hubby, teen-age son and I saw her in Wanted and I thought they were both going to pass out when she got out of that hot tub. But then, I'm probably more the Jennifer Aniston type.

You are right about the Seductress maybe having a troubled childhood. One way of acting out molestation issues, for example, is by dressing seductively, etc. As a child, she learned to connect with a man through sex that was first forced on her. As an adult, she uses the lesson learned to manipulate men through sex. It also may be her way of connecting with men, since that is how she leaned to get love, especially if the man would tell her how special she was and/or that it was their little secret---something 'special' he shared with her. (Remember I do rape crisis counseling).

So I do think a Seductress can be written, but in such a way that she is vulnerable.


Teresa Reasor said...

A ruse would be very entertaining. Imagine a shy backward person trying to take on the characteristics of a seductress. And capturing a man's attention, only to become the girl next door later on in the book.
Sounds like a good plot to me.
Thanks for stopping by,

Teresa Reasor said...

I read somewhere that Marilyn Monroe was molested as a child and that's why she acted out as the blond bombshell later on.
I've often heard that women who first experience sex in such a matter have real trouble connecting emotionally to a man and learn to turn the tables.
Have you ever seen The General's Daughter with John Travolta and Madaline Stowe. The murdered girl falls directly into that category but takes it one step further. She uses sex as a weapon to punish her father and the other men she attracts.
Made for a wonderful movie and an even better book.

Thanks for joining in the discussion,
Teresa Reasor

Mary Ricksen said...

I can in no way identify with the seductress. But don't they make wonderful characters both in life and in the movies. Which is how we always see them.

Julie Robinson said...

No, Teresa, I haven't seen that one. But I will now. Sounds like a logical outcome, psychologically speaking.

Teresa Reasor said...

I think Seductresses make wonderful secondary characters. Gives the heroine and other characters someone to dislike because she draws every man's attention as soon as she walks into a room.
Or what about a anti-heroine. Where she starts out as unlikable but learns how her behavior is self-destructive and becomes a true heroine. In Nora Robert's book Montana Sky, one of the sisters acts like a seductress and the man she puts the move on, rejects her. By rejecting her, he shows her he wants the real person not the seductive pretender. And she sets aside that persona and becomes the real person she truly is.
Makes for a great story.

Teresa Reasor said...

I'm thrilled your following the blog. I love to talk about writing topics. Keep things fresh for me.
Thanks for coming back,
Teresa R.

Julie Robinson said...

So do I, Teresa. It keeps me focused.

Julie Robinson said...

BTW, I didn't even realize April is Child Abuse Awareness Month. I just saw it on Coffee Time Romance. Maybe we tapped into the energy!

Tracy Preston - Romance Writer said...

I have a supporting character in the vampire book I'm writing that is very much the seductress. However, she doesn't do it because she's been abused -- she just likes the power of using her wiles to manipulate those around her. ;)

I am being careful to keep her redeemable though, because one day she just might have a story of her own.

Teresa Reasor said...

Good idea to keep her sympathetic to the reader. So you might want to come up with a more psychological purpose behind her need for power. Not necessarily abuse, but maybe something that's sent her on that path.
We're all carved from our experiences.
I'm anxious to read your vampire books. I love them.

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