Developing Characters – A Response to @VStilesErotica

I was taking a break from writing this week after spending a lot of time on the update of my autobiography. I needed to decompress a bit and spent a little more time reading than writing. I came across Veronica Stiles, another writer and while reading a couple of blog posts, I saw one that caught my eye about character development – https://veronicastiles.com/developing-characters/.

As I read through her blog post, I formulated a few opinions… WHAT? OPINIONS?… Yes, I have them.  While I will agree character development is important in the telling of a longer story, I also think it is important in the short one’s as well… BUT… I don’t necessarily agree that a character should be introduced and a “bio” of sorts should be told at the time the character is introduced.  The feelings drawn from the reader should be based on what they perceive of the character.  Give them too little and they dismiss them, give them too much and the opinions of the characters can convince the reader to put the book down.

Veronica is right, there are exceptions and character development is not based on a set of rules.  In fact, I would argue that a writer develops his or her own rules when writing.  It really depends on the story they want to tell.  Sometimes, too much characterization can be detrimental to a story.  It can make the story predictable and sometimes boring. I tend to look at characterization in my stories as part of the entire story.  Dropping pieces of the characters along the way.  It adds an ire of mystery and suspense to the story and in erotic stories can take the story in a different direction sexually.

For me, character development and dialog is major part of my stories.  I spend a great deal of time thinking about the characters.  Not only the aspects of their personality, likes, dislikes and quirks, but I especially think about how characters would interact with each other… this helps make the stories a bit more believable.  When the shock factor is appropriate for any part of a story, that means that the initial introduction of the character is short and mysterious, but as the build up continues there are hints dropped – either by the characters actions or another character’s viewpoints.  This allows me the creativity to take the story in almost any direction.

The one thing that works best for me when I develop characters is my ability to visualize the character.  I will often search the web for pictures establishing a face to the characters I write about.  As I develop the characteristics, I will look at the photo and determine if the characteristic fits the person I am looking at.  I don’t however choose character names based on the visual representation.  This is done more from actually seeing the name on paper.

Again, everyone is different and my way of looking at names is different from Veronica’s.  Not better… just different.

I have also written novels that are made up of short stories – the progression of the story also lends itself to the progression of the character development, but the one thing I try not to do is focus on the character’s physical appearance from a build stand point.  Clothing, hair color, eye color… sure, these are always part of the story, but height and weight are not usually part of the story unless it is necessary.  It allows me to be part of the story as an observer and puts me at their “eye-level.”  By not expressing the physical dimensions, I can let the reader develop the character in their own mind and if the story is well written, they can insert themselves into the character based on the reader’s own physical characteristics.

I do agree with the character mapping and linkage.  It is important to show how the characters, meet, what their opinions are of the other characters and how they will progress throughout the story.  Especially in a story that teaches a lesson.

When it is all said and done, characters are an extension of the storyteller.  The characters are the story in most cases and their development is part of the story, but should never be the entire story or the story is not worth reading.

Thanks Veronica.

I can’t believe what I just read… Wait I wrote that?

I have been considering a re-release of my first book.  The autobiography that I wrote a few years ago was originally written with a purpose and profit was not on the agenda.  Since then I have written a lot – well over 40 pieces and after some gentle pushing from friends, I am close to a decision.  I spent the weekend reading through the first release and it obviously brought up some very difficult memories.  As I read through it, I thought about what to add and what to clarify.

There are some things in the book that were very difficult to write about and I chose not to be too detailed about certain experiences for a couple of reasons.  The first was obvious.  What happened to me was criminal and expressing the details may be too difficult to read and I didn’t want it to be misinterpreted as a sick smut rag.  The second was who this book was “really” written for.  It was an explanation to those close to me and the details were not as important as the overall message I was trying to convey.

Looking back at it a few years later, I realized that some of the details should be included.  The vividness I see everyday after 30 plus years should be a vivid reminder of how people can be manipulative and selfish and how that selfishness can drive certain people to commit unspeakable acts.  IT is also important to add a few more current details to the book as new events have had a profound impact on my life.

My last blog post received more feedback than I expected and while most of it was very supportive, I also noticed that curiosity was influencing the comments.  Most do not know my story so providing an opinion on whether or not to re-release the book was based on perception and their personal interests.  Some of the feedback which I chose not to approve was more focused on the graphic details and less on the message I want to send.

Which brings me to this. After reading the book from cover to cover… for the 100th time… yes, there are pieces missing.  Yes, the story is not a pleasant one… and yes, It is somewhat graphic.  What I realized however is this; I realized the book has new meaning for me.  I was looking for something and wanted to convey a message, but looking back at it now, that message was incomplete.

So I have decided to re-arrange and republish my story.  It is important to me that the new experiences in my life are part of the story and that the book delivers the “real” message I am striving for.  I am not sure it will be the crossover book I am looking for to move from an erotic story-teller to a traditional fiction writer, but I am not sure if that is important anymore.

I will keep you posted on the progress.
Wish me luck… and as always, thank you for the support.

Desires and Risks… Tough choices for #girlslikeus

decisions… DecisionsDECISIONS.

The thoughts of the last few days have created a quandary for me.  I released a new book that has gotten some very nice reviews so far, which is obviously rare for the genre I write about.  What’s strange this one is that it brings me to a crossroads.  I started writing because I needed a release and it was very therapeutic.  It eventually became a drug and very addictive, but more for the motivating stories that popped into my head and less about the sexual gratification.

In the past, this usually came full circle.  Depression, therapy, motivation, gratification then back again.  The hard part now is that I want more.  My friends have suggested that I crossover from a smut writer to a more “traditional” fiction writer and possibly use my real name.  The thought of moving to the lighter side of fiction was intriguing, but using my real name was terrifying.  Using it meant revealing more than I ever wanted to and could jeopardize my life.

This is not uncommon for anyone living in secret as a transgendered man or woman, but for someone who still feels shame, humiliation, confusion, fear and isolation… it can be overwhelming and can put you on the edge of the blade.  Which brings me to the suggestion that was made recently.

I wrote an autobiography a few years ago as many of you know.  The book was my first and was horribly written because I simply took my journals and threw them together.  I added some graphic memories and tried not to fictionalize them, but after over 30 years, it became difficult to tell a story when pieces of it were missing.  The book didn’t sell and I eventually pulled it off Amazon.

A few months after that, I figured out that Goodreads doesn’t pull books off that easily and it stayed out there for a while creating a little bit of buzz.  The book description prompted a number of questions and direct messages from the LGBTQ community, weirdos and parents asking where they could get a copy of it.  I didn’t feel comfortable at the time and chose instead to respond to each request individually – hoping I could answer the real questions without giving up too much of myself.

After the release of this latest novel My Perfect Partner, a great friend made a comment that the book had some true life experiences that I shared with her; and another friend who has been a great mentor and inspiration to me as a writer suggested I revise the biography and re-release it.  Difficult choices to have that include some risk, but anyone who has skeletons in their closet – whether “normal” or a little bit different – have to deal with risks everyday.

I guess the real question is what to do next.  I work alongside people of all walks of life and those who seem content with their lives are those I tend to shy away from.  I am always looking ahead and trying to be better than I am today.  I am drawn to risk and challenges, but this one is one of the hardest ones to make.

Do I re-release the autobiography?  Do I use my real name?

This may seem like a couple of easy answers… if I am not willing to use my real name, then releasing my autobiography is not that hard of a decision and doesn’t seem like that big of a risk.  The tougher questions are…

Am I considering a re-release to tell the real story or is it just to try and make money?

The money is not really a concern.  If you follow independent writers, you already know they don’t make a lot of money and many don’t write for the financial gain.  The first release as I mentioned was a release for me.  It was a way of talking to someone who was willing to listen and understand.  That someone was my wife, who really never knew about my past in graphic detail.  After she read it, she understood but never really wanted to talk about it again.  That was enough for me, but now I think it may be a good idea to take another stab at it and see if anyone else is willing to offer an opinion.  Whether you are connected to it in some way, for it or against it.  Maybe the story just needs to be told.

What do you think?