Updated: Sep 8, 2022
I'm sure we all know the character: the dame with legs for days, the vamp with pillowy lips, the siren with the golden voice. She causes a stir just by walking into a room. She encounters the hero and completely captivates them. Soon enough, the femme fatale reveals that she had been using the hero, and now that she's gotten what she wants, the hero is tossed aside like trash. This is a character that audiences love to hate, whether portrayed as a villain or just as a deeply flawed individual. But while we use she/her pronouns here, a seducer definitely doesn't have to be a woman. Think Star Wars or Lord of the Rings. The villains of the dark side and Mordor use seduction as well.
But what makes the Seducer such a powerful character, and how can she affect your writing?
The Seducer is known by many names: femme fatale, vamp, dame, siren, and even whore. Her earliest literary debut was in myth and folklore, where stories were typically passed down via the oral tradition. These tales included Circe, the enchantress, and Lilith, the demon. The European Middle Ages gave this character archetype a wider audience and greater appeal, utilizing it as an example of the danger of unbridled sexuality when one should be living a pious life.
The Seducer is seen as morally ambiguous, if not downright villainous. They often try to achieve their own hidden purpose or goal with the use of their "feminine wiles": beauty, charm, cleverness, and you guessed it, sex. They're not above using their body to achieve their means, and also lie, cheat, or backstab to get their way. (HOWEVER. While this character is closely associated with sex, this does not mean that they need to engage in sexual activity, especially if it does not suit your story. They can use any strategy they want to take a character to the dark side.)
They may often be seen as a victim, or they may play up this victim status if it gets them their way. Ultimately, they are utterly independent when it suits them, keeping others at a distance and keeping their true motives hidden away.
What can the Seducer do for you?
Despite seeming like a cliche, the Seducer can play off of other characters, manipulating them in order to reveal hidden information or to bring true motives to light. They can work with the villain to distract the hero from their quest or compete for the hero's affections, revealing themselves to be untrustworthy in the face of the hero's True Love. They can team up with the hero to achieve a hidden goal, and abandon or betray the hero when the goal is met. They can even have a redemption arc!
Ultimately, the Seducer is like any other character: she is guided by her own moral compass and has her own thoughts, feelings, and experiences to guide her. But this is a complex and complicated character that can make any story more exciting, even if it's just by walking into a room.
About the author: E.E. Suchowolec lives in Michigan with her husband and three small children. In those rare moments where she is not writing, she can be found taking pictures of her family, going on adventures around the state, knitting, or reading with a hot cup of coffee in hand. She has recently embarked on a quest to read some of the greatest literature known to man.