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2006 Authors Insider Tips

Beyond the Basics
With Tulsa Brown
The 30-Second Solution
Backstory vs. Flashback
Intimacy Begins With "I"
Hit the Ground Running
Make the Reader Leap
Meaningful Dialogue
Pulling the String
Central Image
Elegant Smut
Better Plots
Bitch Power


The Write Stuff
From Ashley Lister
Predefined Your Goals
Spell Ink Miss Takes
Plotting & Planning
Character Building
Speech Therapy
Talking Sense


Two Girls Kissing
With Amie M. Evans
Intro to Lesbian Erotica
3-Dimensional Characters
Submitting for Publication
Five Year Writing Plan
Setting Up Your Plan...
The Power of Naming
Language of Lesbian...
Sexual Description
What Can I say?


Hard Business
From Greg Herren
What Are Your Priorities?
How to Edit an Anthology
Follow the Guidelines...
A Cock is Just a Cock
But is it Still a Story?
Who Am I Fucking?
Potential Material
Rejection ...


The Business End
By Kate Dominic
Effective Cover Letters
How to Lose Contracts
Contracts: Agent Issues
Contracts: Read It!
Double Duty Bios
What's Sex?


Literary Streetwalker
By M. Christian
Ground Rules for Writers
No Muse is Good News
Effective Cover Letters
Location, Location
Say Something!
Dirty Words


The Erotic Book Docter
By Susie Bright
Marketing Your Book
Submission Concerns
Promotion Strategies


2006 Smutters Lounge

Pondering Porn
With Ann Regentin
Babes & Hunks of Erotica
Fantasy, Reality & Rape
Selling Ourselves Short
Selling Smut in Motown
The Frankenstein Bride
Frankenstein Revisited
Porn and Perfect Shoes
Porn's Passionate Pull
Instruments of Joy


Get All Worked Up
With J.T. Benjamin
Orwell's Eerie Parallels
Redefining Marriage
The Porn Menace
High-Quality Porn
About Profanity
Dirty Laundry
Big Brother
Sluts


Editorials

Wrong Reasons to do SM
by Midori

The Write Stuff
by Ashley Lister



Character Building Exercises



Pick up a book, start to read it and you’ll meet a variety of characters. This is why so many of us read. Fiction is not just there for the pleasures of an escapist plot or evocative and descriptive passages. It’s a chance to meet heroes and villains, dark brooding strangers and beautiful, strong-willed heroines. It’s a chance to extend your social circle without having to add to your Christmas card list because, although the best fictional characters are seldom more than the creations of a writer’s imagination, they can live and breathe inside a reader’s mind.

If you’re reading Dickens the characters will be larger than life and easily recognisable. If you’re reading Poe they will be sinister individuals, motivated by base instincts and inhabiting introspective plains of existence even when descending into a maelstrom. If you’re reading Shakespeare (God help you!) you’ll come face to face with characters who are defined by their actions.

Any book, regardless of its status as contemporary or classic, worthy or worthless, can be read to see how a character is developed. Some authors manage this more eloquently than others but often this is entirely subjective. Those characters that I adore can be viewed by others as shallow and unconvincing. Those characters I consider cardboard could well be the ones that others find totally lifelike and realistic. The trick here is to take any story you’ve enjoyed as a reader—particularly those where you’ve liked, loved or connected with the characters—then revisit and review the story with a judicious eye on the author’s use of character creation. Take careful notes on how the characters are introduced, how they speak, how they act and interact: and try to work out what makes them credible.

Again, for different readers and writers this will be different things. The object of this exercise is to see how your favourite authors have produced convincing characters so you can use the same tried and tested techniques in your own fiction. That is not to suggest anyone should copy someone else’s style or recreate characters that have already been brought to life by another author: merely to say that we can learn best from those who have done a job we admire.

In Madelynne Ellis’s Passion of Isis [available at: Amazon.com / Amazon UK], the villain, Dareth Sadler, is an unconscionable bastard. Madelynne first shows Dareth as a panellist at a writer’s convention where his inner monologue is a rhetoric of bitching about his colleagues. He is presented as handsome, charismatic and successful. And he has no qualms about bedding two students who simply wanted him to sign their book. Furthermore, Madelynne subtly shows Dareth using the women solely for his own selfish pleasure. Admittedly, the chapter concludes once the students have been sexually satisfied, but we’re never left with any doubt as to whose pleasure Dareth has been determined to enjoy. As this delightful story continues, we are never surprised when Dareth sinks to new lows.

In John Preston’s classic Gay S&M novel, Mr Benson, we are introduced to the eponymous hero in a leatherbar. The story’s narrator, Jamie, is cruising the bars for "something different." He grows more and more perplexed as Mr Benson simply sits in a corner of the bar, watching without showing any sign of interest, pleasure or disdain. John Preston uses this first scene to convey an awful lot of character. Jamie is shown to be trying hard (probably too hard) while Mr Benson is the epitome of cool, calm collectedness. By using Jamie’s voice for the narrative, John Preston only allows us to understand Mr Benson through his words and actions and Jaime’s perception. Mr Benson’s emotions and motives remain as mysterious to the reader as they do to the constantly puzzled Jamie.

These are just two examples of how characters can be built by talented writers. The bookshelves are filled with countless more and trawling personal favourites will help any reader work out how they want to write.

There are main points to watch out for in character creation, starting with suitable and appropriate names. Pick a name that is right for the character’s personality. Victoria Ponsington-Smythe will be a very different person from Vicky "Smudger" Smith. Professor Richard Masterson is not going to be the same type of person as a character called "Tricky Dicky." Selecting the appropriate name is half the battle in creating a convincing and credible character.

Dressing your character accordingly—using clothes to either emphasise peer conformity or show an independent spirit—can often bring fictional characters to life in a way that makes the efforts of other writers look shallow and dull.

Physical description doesn’t always need to be detailed but it has to be consistent. In shorter stories, changing eye colours and fluctuating hair lengths are easy enough to spot during a second or third read-through and they can be appropriately amended at that stage. But in novels, those changing eye colours might only be noticed by a scornful reader with a loud mouth and a penchant for writing mocking and professionally damaging letters. For erotica it will only serve to puzzle a reader if the voluptuous heroine introduced on page one is flat-chested through chapter two and continues to alternate from an A-cup through to a DD as the story progresses.

Dialogue is such a tremendous part of character creation that it will be covered later as a separate topic. For now it is sufficient to say that each character’s speech and associated mannerisms should remain as consistent as their eye colour, height, weight and breast size.

Other elements of character creation include occupation, financial status and social standing. If you have any interest in astrology it can help to decide on the sign of the zodiac appropriate for your character and use the associated traits to help build a fuller more credible hero/heroine. It’s always possible to build a character from someone you know although this technique ought to be used judiciously to prevent accusations of libel or defamation.

Admittedly, this sounds like a lot to think about. Notes, some sort of database or recording system outlining each character in a story and reminding the author of who they are, how they appear, and a little about their background, have helped many writers to produce consistent works in the past. But this sort of tool should only be used as an aide memoire rather than a displacement activity for actually writing the story.

Other than that, enjoy the people you create—like them, understand their motives, drives and desires—keep them consistent and you’re almost guaranteed to produce vivid, credible characters.

Ashley Lister
December/January 2006

______
"The Write Stuff" © 2005 Ashley Lister. All rights reserved.

About the Author:  Ashley Lister is a UK author responsible for more than two-dozen erotic novels written under a variety of pseudonyms.  His most recent work, a non-fiction book recounting the exploits of UK swingers, is his first title published under his own name.
Ashley’s non-fiction has appeared in a variety of magazines, including Forum, Chapter & Verse and The International Journal of Erotica.  Nexus, Chimera and Silver Moon have published his full-length fiction, with shorter stories appearing in anthologies edited by Maxim Jakubowski, Rachel Kramer Bussel and Mitzi Szereto.  He is very proud to be a regular contributor to ERWA.
Email: Ashley Lister
Website: www.ashleylister.co.uk



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2006 Book Reviews

4 Erotic Ass-ets
Reviews by Ashley Lister

Amazons
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Bad Girls & More...
Reviews by Ashley Lister

The Best of Both Worlds
Review by Lisabet Sarai

The Black Masque
Review by M. Ellis

Blood Surrender
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Bound
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Bound to Love
Review by Ashley Lister

Double Dare
Review by Ashley Lister

Filthy: Outrageous Gay...
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Fire
Review by Gary Russell

Forbidden Reading
Review by M. Ellis

Leather, Lace and Lust
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Mr. Stone & Lessons
Reviews by Ashley Lister

Nina Hartley's Sex Guide
Review by Adrienne

Oedipus & Rode Hard
Reviews by Ashley Lister

Orgasms & More
Reviews by Ashley Lister

Passion of Isis
Review by Ashley Lister

Sex in Uniform
Review by Ashley Lister

Six Top Picks
Reviews by Ashley Lister

Stirring up a Storm
Review by M. Ellis

Sunshine and Shadow
Reviews by Lisabet Sarai

Surrender & Dying for It
Reviews by Ashley Lister

Swingers
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Wicked: Sexy Tales...
Reviews by Ashley Lister

Writing Naked
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Non-Fiction

America’s War on Sex
Review by Rob Hardy

Callgirl
Review by Rob Hardy

Covent Garden Ladies
Review by Rob Hardy

The Commitment
Review by Rob Hardy

Eroticism and Art
Review by Rob Hardy

Expletive Deleted...
Review by Rob Hardy

Female Orgasms
Review by Rob Hardy

Government Vs. Erotica
Review by Rob Hardy

Heloise & Abelard ...
Review by Rob Hardy

International Exposure
Review by Rob Hardy

A Profane Wit
Review by Rob Hardy

Secret Life of Oscar Wilde
Review by Rob Hardy

Sex Collectors
Review by Rob Hardy

Sex Machines
Review by Rob Hardy