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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


Wrong Reasons to do SM
by Midori

Hard Business: Writing Gay Erotica
with Greg Herren

The Importance of Character or, Who Am I Fucking?



The notion that one doesn’t have to create realistic characters in erotic fiction is, frankly, wrong-headed and the mark of a lazy writer. And as I have mentioned before, lazy writers generally do not get published. There’s nothing worse, either as an editor reading submitted work, or as a reader who has plunked down his debit card to buy an anthology or porn magazine, than to read stories with characters that have about as much depth as a dog’s water dish.

Fleshed out, fully developed characters are important in a work of erotica. The reader has to be able to identify with one of the characters; relate to him, sympathize, and understand who that person is. To me, there’s nothing more of a turn-off than reading a story in the first person with a narrator who, within the first two paragraphs, has already described himself as ‘incredibly hot, with rippling muscles from years of hard work at the gym, a handsome face that everyone looks at, and huge thick cock that (my) jeans can barely contain.” Blech. Someone who would describe himself in that way in real life would not be someone I would want to know—let alone have sex with. All I have learned about this character is that he is shallow, incredibly self-absorbed, and most likely incapable of having good sex anyway—he’d be too focused on himself to really pleasure his partner.

When I write an erotica story in the first person, I do not describe the narrator physically at all. I don’t give him hair color, rippling muscles, anything like that. The reason I don’t is very simple: it allows the reader to slip into the mindset that he is reading about himself. Erotica is all about sexual fantasy; so I always want my reader to imagine that this story is actually happening to him. I don’t do anything that will disrupt that fantasy into the story. I want the reader to see, feel and experience the entire story through the narrator’s eyes. I want the reader to identify with the narrator.

So, how does one build character in a first person narrative?

When I am creating a character, the first thing I do is try to figure out, obviously, who the person is. If they are out looking for sex or to get laid, why are they? Are they lonely or bored or just frankly horny? Why are they wherever they are when they have the sexual encounter?

In my story “The Pool Boy,” the story opens with the narrator getting ready for work and hearing his partner’s car back out of the driveway. He goes into a drawer to get something and discovers a parking ticket his partner got—while parked in front of another man’s house. The narrator then experiences a whirlpool of emotions: his partner has confessed to cheating on him, they’d patched things up, and the partner had sworn to never see the guy again. But from the time and date on the ticket, it is obvious his partner has continued to see the ‘other man.’ Our narrator then calls in sick to work, and sits in his kitchen and ponders his future.

All of this occurs in three paragraphs, but hopefully by this time I have established our main character. I have won the sympathy of the reader—most people have been cheated on at one time or another in their lives, and even if they haven’t been, it is a situation that everyone dreads having to face. I have also set up a major dilemma for our character: he loves his partner, but should he continue in a relationship with someone who has been lying to him? Time passes and he gets a little angrier, and finally decides to go out and lay by the pool to just relax and get a hold of himself.

And of course, then the pool boy arrives: a beautiful young man with no shirt, very little body hair, and a gorgeous tan wearing a pair of drooping baggy jeans. The narrator feels a very strong attraction to him, they talk, one thing leads to another and they wind up in the bedroom. But even as they have some truly incredible sex, the narrator is still thinking about his partner—and comes to an understanding that sometimes sexual desire is just that, and nothing more. After the pool boy cleans up and leaves, our narrator, calmer and more centered, calls his partner and says, “We need to talk.”

By creating all this background, and back story for the character, the reader not only is drawn into his world, but hopefully will sympathize with him. The character has also grown a bit through the course of the story, and manages to come to an understanding of his partner’s infidelity. There was no doubt in my mind—and shouldn’t have been in the reader’s, that in all likelihood, the couple will work through this and come to a better understanding that will strengthen, rather than destroy their relationship.

In my last column, "But Is It Still A Story," I said that sometimes a porn story is kind of like a one night stand, unless there is more to the story than just the sex. The same holds through with developing the characters. The more full-blooded and three dimensional they are, the more real they seem, the more likely you are going to grab the reader by the groin and write a truly memorable work of erotica.

It’s all about engaging the brain and imagination of the reader.

It’s very hard for an editor to turn down a work with characters that come alive on the page.

I always tell workshop writers that by the time you sit down to write the story, you need to know those characters inside and out. You need to know everything there is to know about them; if I ask you what their favorite color is, you should be able to answer without thinking twice. Make the characters live in your head, make them real, and then transfer that to the page.

Your readers will be very grateful.

Greg Herren
April 2006

"Hard Business: Writing Gay Erotica" © 2006 Greg Herren. All rights reserved.

About the Author: Greg Herren is the author of five novels and the editor of seven anthologies, including the bestselling FRATSEX and Full Body Contact. He also published a collection of his erotic short fiction, Wanna Wrestle? He has published in numerous magazines and anthologies, and works as an editor for the Haworth Press, which is launching a new line of gay erotic titles. He currently lives in New Orleans with his partner, editor Paul J.Willis, and their cat.

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