There’s a fine line to walk between confidence and arrogance.
The other night my BFF and I went for a walk. Along the way we encountered two young men, not supermodels, but decent-looking guys still with their own hair. They absolutely reeked of potential.
Then one opened his mouth.
Girls like a guy who shines with confidence. A man who is comfortable with himself can focus on making those comfortable around him. Plus there’s just something oh-so-attractive about confidence.
But it doesn’t take much to cross the line from confidence to arrogance.
Anyway, the guy and I got an unmemorable, but friendly banter going—at least in him trying to guess my and the BFF’s occupations.
Then it got better.
I think he was the type used to girls fawning all over him. At this point I was neutral. Despite his smarmy, arrogant attitude making itself apparent, I was still willing to give him a little more time to redeem himself back to confidence land.
“Can I ask you a question?” he says. “But you have to be completely honest.”
“Sure,” I reply.
He draws closer. “You have to be completely honest.”
At this point he’s a hand’s distance from me. “I can honestly tell you that you’re invading my personal space,” I say.
He laughs in a dismissive sort of way, leans in even closer and with his best smoldering look, asks in a low, masculine voice, “Do you feel the attraction level rising?”
HOW I WANTED TO RESPOND
MY ACTUAL RESPONSE
Why do I bring up this story in the first place? Later after the BFF and I were done laughing about pathetic smarmy lines foisted upon us, it got me thinking about writing (since it’s completely overtaking my life—not that I’m complaining.)
One of the first rules of writing should be know your audience. Smarmy Smarmington’s approach, I’m guessing, works fabulous on giggly-just-got-into-college girls. Less so on graduated-and-in-my-career girls. While I don’t actually recommend this approach on any girl, what Mr. Smarmington failed to recognize was his audience.
Our writing career depends heavily upon the audience we want to approach and how we approach them. Our audience may be very narrow or very large. Old or young. Literary or popular fiction reader.
There are books that appeal to some that others despise. There are books that inspire many, while leaving others too bored to continue. It may be that the author is a poor writer, but I think more often it’s that the book was intended for a certain audience. Those that fall out of this target are less likely to enjoy the story.
Know your audience. Use the voice that appeals to the people you’re trying to reach or you’ll lose them.
Readers are often like my friend and I. We’re willing to take a chance on potential, something I think most stories carry inherently. It’s just up to us not to blow our chance to woo our readers.
Mr. Smarmington’s confidence shifted to arrogance when he decided not to pay attention to his audience and continued full steam ahead, certain we would be fawning all over him any second now.
As writers we shouldn’t pander to every little critic that comes our way, but we certainly don’t want to encompass an arrogance that tells us we can do no wrong.
Confidence comes with testing our material on our intended audience. For further enlightenment on this, check out my friend Brian’s post Readers Read, So Let Them. We learn what works, what doesn’t, and grow from common cliche creator to compelling crafter of story.
And one more thing, but you have to be honest.
Do you feel the attraction level rising?