Make Them Feel: Desired

This post is the second in my series of addressing major desires. I’m going to explore what it means to be desirable, why many readers are ashamed of it, and why this particular desire sells so many books and invokes so much enthusiasm. I will also try to make note of the differences between the masculine and feminine audience, what their general expectations and preferences are, and how the interactive fiction writer has the difficulty of satisfying both.

While the below ascribes differences and makes assumptions of men and women, it is not intended to make a statement. Instead, it is intended as generalized writing advice from observations that will not apply to everyone.

As Low As It Goes
You as a writer cannot feed your readers or keep them safe. The most primal and human desire you can satisfy however, is intimacy. This is indicated on the diagram above (Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs). Romance novels, harem animes, dating sims and the entire human species—each owes its success to where that arrow is pointing. Being desired is an almighty need that you must respect if you hope to impact your audience.

Being Desired
At the heart of being desired is validation. It validates us so well, in fact, that it becomes dangerous—unfortunately, many people get their sole source of validation from others, particularly their significant other. Those relationships never end well.

If someone is attracted to you, it means you are healthy and sexually appealing. As a human animal in this game of life, you are winning. It sounds shallow, yet it is at the core of countless poems and stories, epics and ballads throughout human history. When our imaginations get into the mix, romance is the result. And nothing but romance can turn simple urges into classics. The Little Mermaid didn’t just want legs to dance!

Inciting Desirableness
There are countless ways to display attraction, to chase after the player and make them feel worthy of being chased. Here’s a small list: a flushed face, a heated voice, a prolonged gaze, a Freudian slip, a competition for your attention, an attempt at acting more feminine/masculine when you’re around, a double entendre, an excuse to be alone with you, a compliment, a resentment towards those who wrong you, a possessive temperament.

Just as every character you write has a different personality, each of them should display attraction in their own, unique way. The furious mercenary might let his guard down, whereas the aloof executive might become less professional. Often, the tension is at its peak before any confession is given: Rumiko Takahashi made a career out of that, with characters who drove relationship tension to ridiculous levels. She is now considered one of the richest women in Japan.

Being Desired, Masculine Version
If you’re writing a series of books targeted to most guys, do yourself a favor: keep ‘romance’ off the front cover. In fact, hide it as best you can until they’re too many chapters in back out. There are many reasons why fellows flee from the genre, even though they enjoy it as much as women do.

The major reason is shame, and here’s the primal logic behind it: if you are successful as a man, then your intimacy needs are already met. And since no man wants to be seen as unsuccessful, it’s especially hard for guys to admit that they do have this unmet need and that they do want to be desired. It’s why their harem animes and dirty visual novels are so often guilty pleasures (that is, they feel ashamed of their interests).

What can an interactive fiction writer do? The solution I’ve found is to empower the player. You must have a protagonist who is able to take an active role in the relationship, initiating and making choices, expressing lust and not being shamed for it or punished, but rewarded. Don’t just allow the reader to chase after a romantic interest, encourage them.

Being Desired, Feminine Version
Society is very harsh on women who show desire, but are far kinder to those who show a need for being desired. That little difference echoes in so many dynamics that you need to be aware of as a writer. It’s one of the reasons why girls are less likely to make the first move in a relationship, and why some would rather have all the moves be made for them (by Mr/Miss Perfect, of course). This issue of control is one of the most delicate and important when writing a relationship.

Fifty Shades of Grey is a terrible Twilight fanfiction, but it also sold over 125 million copies. For all its faults, there was something in it that middle-aged women couldn’t get enough of: that feeling of being desired. But there’s a problem here, because traditional novels are passive by nature, and interactive novels are active (you make choices). It turns out this problem is really just an opportunity in disguise.

The key here is in your romantic characters. Have them have real passions for the protagonist, and to initiate a relationship if the player is reluctant. Then the player can decide to refuse, escalate or whatever your dramatic choices may be. The important part is that all the risk and shame is gone.

On Perversion
Allowing the player to be perverted goes far deeper than you might think. I work under the assumption that all people are perverted, just in varying degrees they’ll admit to. There is a stigma about being perverted that will come out as resistance from your audience. I know because I’ve faced it myself!

When Samurai of Hyuga Book 1 was released, many players weren’t comfortable with the ‘Perverted’ stat. I was tempted to remove it, but I’m glad I didn’t, because it being on that stat screen was important. It didn’t just tell players what to expect, but that there was no shame in it either.

That’s called validation.

13 Comments

  1. This is a very good post it’s easy to understand and fun to read, I look forward to more and yes some might feel shame to admit it but I love the perverted stat ?

  2. Hmmmmm. …. Very interesting! Wonder what the next one will be.

  3. I’m thrilled you kept the Perverted stat even when so many were against it. It has to be my favorite stat! Keep up the amazing articles – they’re very insightful ! (Is that a Reine des fleurs picture I see?)

  4. DON’T REMOVE THE PERVERTED STAT, PLEASE.
    I’m a woman and I love it. My ronin is a lady who feels no shame in shaming others hahaha (I’m looking at you, Musashi). I love Samurai of Hyuga and its romances. Playing as a woman, I adore how powerful she is, how sassy, yet so needy sometimes. (I’m looking at you, Jun). So you can make her a shameless flirt with some characters and passive (kind of, the ronin is never really passive XD) with others.

    This was a great analysis.

    ALSO: I played as a male ronin, too, and being a perverted hunk with the doctor… amazing. What can I say, your MC is the best MC ever. We can choose a lot of things about her/him, but she/he has a personality of her/his own. And it’s a GREAT personality.

    Do you know when Book 3 is coming out? 🙂 Summer, maybe? Autumn 2017? <3 Pleeease~
    And how many books will it have? I'm guessing A LOT. (Because they have to defeat… 5, 7 demons? And it appears it's 1 per book, so…)

    • I’m glad you enjoy the perverted stat so much! There will be plenty of perverted opportunities to come. I do think MC acts differently with each supporting character, and I think that comes out most during the romantic/one-on-one scenes.

      My guess is that there will be six books in the series, and that Book 3 won’t be out until late 2017. I can’t narrow it down more than that—I’ve got a lot more writing to do!

      • Am grateful for all the hard works, but fans including myself would be most grateful if the romance has more than one romance character outside Jokun and Momoka

        • There will definitely be more romance-able characters than those two. I understand just how important romances are to my audience, and you can expect more in the future!

          • I personally have been hoping to romance Toshie. She is personally my favorite character!

  5. I just finished both books and was devastated when I couldn’t find the sequel. You don’t know how glad I am that you are working on the next one :)) I wish you all the best !!

  6. Question! Can you read Spanish? I want to write some Fanfiction if that’s alright with you, but English is not my first language so if I try to write it in English… well, I don’t know what monster I would create exactly XD You would throw a dictionary at me, probably.

  7. Good luck! I’ll be waiting for book 3 ^^

  8. Damn that was interesting ! I think, just like you, that we are all at least a little perverted but because of norm we refuse to accept it
    Ironicaly enough i loved the possibility to be perverted which coupled with some humor can give a fun MC ( and liberty of choice is always nice!)
    But why i really loved in your work was thaht you made the perverted option more like…. Hum how do i say this…
    Ah i know ! you use the funny/badass/charming type of pervert ( Like Zevran from Dragon Age) and not the ridiculous/gross/pathethic kind (like Issei from High school Dxd)! Because of that the Pervert Option was funny as hell to play with !

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