Tuesday, April 9, 2013 | By: Lynn

The Allure of Alluring

Romance writers have a handle on what is alluring. I mean, we write about romance, something that features the delicious pull of attraction, the sweep of allure. Readers read romances for a variety of reasons, but probably a common expectation is the experience of being swept up in intense sensations that are based in pleasure, something that is inherent in things that are alluring. They want to read writing that evokes the feeling of being awash in sensations.

Dictionary definitions of the word "allure" use phrases such as "attractive and fascinating; tempting, able to arouse strong desire, entice, having an often mysterious or magical power to attract; seductive, fascinating, charming." It's interesting that these descriptions are fairly specific, yet not all things that fit the word "alluring" hold sway for everyone.

For instance, for many readers and moviegoers, the allure of a certain vampire and werewolf seemed obvious. From their unique physical characteristics to their glowering and intense personalities, the characters oozed attraction.

But not for everyone.

What is alluring is not universal. What attracts is tied to gender and sexual preference, society's influence, geography, and our individual experiences. What is perceived as attractive changes with fashion, mores, and the times. For example, many years ago, women wore bustles to enhance their allure, but if a woman of today wore one, she would probably get the cold shoulder. And even fundamental attributes, like power and wealth and strength and beauty, shift in appeal. A man who owned 40 horses and a few hundred acres may have held appeal a hundred years ago or so, but today would not be alluring simply on the basis of his property ownership. Today, allure would more likely be found in his ability to communicate well and his kindness. Okay, and maybe his well-paying job and fast car would be alluring today, too.

Still, some things never seem to change. Some things, like the effects of human chemistry, underpin even the action of allure. According to an article written for Psychology Today by Susan Carnell, Ph. D., being pulled into the sensory-rich experience of allure lies in a chemical effect of dopamine. Carnell writes that while not everything is understood about the workings of dopamine, it is known that it releases when we encounter a pleasing experience, thereby reinforcing the allure of whatever it is we just enjoyed, be it chocolate or the clean scent of our favorite loved one.

"Interestingly, dopamine also makes an appearance when we see or hear cues telling us that something we previously found rewarding is within reach … Its effect is to give us a helpful neurochemical nudge to stop what we’re doing and chase after the delight-producing object.," she writes.

Fascinating. But all I have to say is, thank you dopamine for linking heady pleasure with things I find alluring.

Here's a list of things I think have allure:

An amazing but distinctive metaphor
A good romance novel
The scent of a loved one's clean skin
A genuine smile
Men's spicy cologne

What do you find alluring? Share?

4 comments:

Angela Adams said...

I agree with your list -- especially the "genuine smile."

Jo Grafford said...

Brains over brawn - but the brawn is incredibly welcome, thank you, so long as it's accompanied by brains. Smart, successful, financially savvy men on a mission are intensely alluring. Edward Rochester, Rhett Butler, Edward Cullen...be still my heart!

RT Wolfe said...

The smell of freshly turned soil. The vision of a lost dog reunited with its owner. The feel of sore muscles after a hard day of work. The type of man who doesn't need to be the center of attention.
-R.T. Wolfe

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