I have a number of working titles that I am building stories around, but always enjoy hearing from other authors and readers… and ESPECIALLY MY FANS!
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.
I am always looking for feedback on my books and stories. While they are not easy to come by because smut rag writers tend to draw a very private audience, every now and then one comes along. That was the case yesterday when I received this review of my book A Victim’s Revenge – Missing in Plain Sight.
I saw your tweet about your new novel and misunderstood. When I went to your author page I found this one and thought I found it. I am glad I was wrong. I have a small book club and we usually read one or two erotic stories a week. Mainly because they are really short. I usually find erotica is much like porn… short, down and dirty with no plot. We have read your stories and it was very interesting that you actually try to write a full story. Even if its short, you try and give the characters depth which me and the club found very exciting to see. We started reading this book this week and being semi retired, I had more time and finished it last night and it was superb. I loved the conflict in the story and the way you put me in Stacie’s shoes as you told the story. Reading the previous comment from Julie, I tend to disagree with her. I don’t think it is for anyone struggling with gender identity or bullying, but more for someone who enjoys the this type of erotica who is looking for a little more out of a good smut rag. 5 STARS – GREAT BOOK. — Rob
First off, Rob thanks you for the feedback. I am glad you enjoyed it and hope the rest of your book club enjoy it as well. I think every writer would love to receive feedback like this, but it also made me think again about what I write and how I categorize myself as a writer. When I first started writing – before I ever decided to publish, it was therapeutic for me. It allowed me to share my thoughts and feelings without opening up to anyone. When I decided to publish my diaries, it was the courageous risk I took and while my first book didn’t sell (because it was unedited and written at different stages of my life) I eventually pulled it from publication, but the fact that I shared my true life story ignited a spark for me to write more.
When I started #reading erotica and the smut rags that were on the market, I found my niche but wanted to tell a story, not just a describe a sex scene in a porn movie. The problem was, no one wants to read those types of stories… or do they?
I realized that there is an interest – small as it may be, in a more graphic sexual tale. The 50 shades fans are still private but are showing themselves more and more and looking for more raunchy tales. I don’t think it is coincidence that I write stories that have that type of balance. Of course, my stories are more focused on members of a community that is smaller and shunned by society. I don’t think I follow any one particular writer’s style – because I never really studied anyone specifically. I am a fan like many readers and I just write what I see and what I am comfortable with.
Now, while much of the feedback I have received has been positive, I have received feedback that is not very nice. I have been called a lot of names, told that my writing sucks and even told that I should kill myself. Most of these are easily dismissed because they haven’t really read my work. Those who have who still don’t care for it feel I am putting the transgender and others in the LGBTQ community in such a vulnerable position that it is not a true representation of the strong and courageous people who support and are proud members of the community…. and they are right.
We all deal with conflict, for some of us that conflict is difficult and for others it is welcomed and easier because of how we embrace it. My earlier stories were just about telling the sex story – how did the sex scene develop and how it affected the characters. As I went back and read those same stories, it inspired me to try and develop those types of characters more. Giving them an identity and attempting to show how they dealt with the conflicts in their lives. For some of us in the transgender and LGBTQ community, that conflict is dealt with different ways. Being a private member of the community, I dealt with conflicts by crossdressing and writing.
I get a chance to step out of my body – so to speak and look at my problems with fresh eyes as I look at myself in a new form. It allows me the chance to clear the noise from my head and really look at the conflict – where the what is more important than the why, and once I understand the what, I can learn the how. This is what pushed me to consider my newer stories and adding more of that character development and substance into them. I wanted my readers to understand the characters enough to understand the conflicts they faced. I want them to feel the pain and frustration the characters feel and not just the sexual gratification of the steamier chapters in my book.
ALERT!!! ALERT!!! ALERT!!!
Shameless plug coming…
This is why I am very proud of my latest book due out on July 20th. The 288 page novel is focused on characters who have everyday conflicts and how one character finds a way to deal and how that misunderstood method of conflict resolution is not accepted by everyone. I won’t spoil the story for you, but don’t worry, there are a number of steamy and raunchy scenes in the book, but I think it might be the piece that adds a category to my writing style – from erotic writer to fiction writer.