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Old 03-21-2019, 08:01 PM   #1
JasonClearwater
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Character development - hot or not?

Must be Tuesday.

So, I've tried a number of approaches to erotica now, some successful, others less so, but one thing I'm still curious about is the role of character development in creating arousal.

Do you, personally, find you get more tingle in your dingle when you get a character arc, or if you're reading about a plasticated stranger (porn-style)?

I'm not asking if you think character development makes a better story, or shows more skill, or has more merit... just whether or not you, personally, find a story more arousing if you know the character as a person?

And then, do you find it more arousing when the events match the personality (good things happen to good people), or the inverse (good things happen to bad people, bad things happen to good people).

I realise this will differ from person to person, but I'm curious about any and all opinions on this.
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Old 03-21-2019, 08:13 PM   #2
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I think character development is an essential part of any good story. Doesn't matter what type of story.

It doesn't have to be complicated. Character development doesn't mean aping Dostoevsky. Hemingway's short stories show character development, but they do so in relatively few words and with very little narrative about what's happening inside characters' brains. He illustrates character through people's actions.

For me, the thing that really gives an erotic story that extra tingle is the tension between the protagonist's character and the situation the protagonist confronts -- when a story person is confronted with a barrier to cross. A skillful author does two things: 1) explain why the barrier exists as a result of the protagonist's character, but also 2) explain why the protagonist nevertheless wants to cross the barrier and does.

I wouldn't agree with the good people/bad things description. I don't think that has anything to do with it. It's more the case that the hero of the story is seduced into doing something the hero hasn't done before, and a good story artfully narrates the process of seduction.
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Old 03-21-2019, 08:24 PM   #3
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For me, it's simple. The more I care for the character, the stronger the emotional response. To get that, it needs more than a short description and body measurements. I don't need a full biography, but at least a set of convincing motives should be in there. When we're talking long form, novel or series, it's nice to see characters evolve. Not only makes it easier to relate to them (which in turn amplifies the emotional response, including arousal) but it grants the author the welcome ability to switch up the sex, like the usually vanilla, monogameous girlfriend who, over the course of the series, finds herself drawn to her best friend and it culminates in a hot f/f scene under the shower, which THEN could lead into some soul-searching or guilt-tripping and eventually to a threesome with boyfriend and best friend.

Unless you're invested in the characters, you could write the most vivid sex scene but in the end it's just fancy gymnastics without the context and chemistry.
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Old 03-21-2019, 08:59 PM   #4
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Is it really the writers' reaction you want, or the readers?

If a story gets into sex before I know who the players are, then I'm gone. I don't think that's true for a lot of readers -- actually, the opposite is true for some readers.
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Old 03-21-2019, 09:09 PM   #5
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In reading and in writing, it's the characters I like to explore. Not what they do.

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Old 03-21-2019, 09:44 PM   #6
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For me, it's simple. The more I care for the character, the stronger the emotional response.
This. I have a habit, for the duration of a story's writing, of falling in love with my leading lady - if I'm writing her with enough intensity. When she is vivid enough to appear in dreams, which on occasion happens, that's usually a sign that she's complex enough. Also, dreams bring the added bonus, "Oh, so that's what she looks like. I didn't know that."

My emotional attachment to my male characters is much simpler - they're all variants of 'younger me' or 'wishful thinking me,' so I'm writing them from 'inside' anyway.
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Old 03-21-2019, 10:03 PM   #7
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All of my female leads are based on real women. I have a questionair I give to the dancer requesting the story and through that and some serious interaction I pretty well “Know” her before I begin to write her. My male characters are amalgamations of men I’ve known and also include some of my DNA. They are as real as my female leads.

My case is made easier by the fact that I principally deal with 2 or 3 main characters so I seldom, if ever, need to breathe life into too many characters and all of my work takes place in a very short timeframe, one to two days tops.

I have had girls read a story I wrote with fictitious names and with out exception they knew who the character was. I many instances I blurted their physical traits so that I could publish the story and it not home back to the dancer and the other girls still know exactly who I was writing about.

Writing about living people makes my job easier than most on this site, I think.

Oh and to your sub question I write to elicit an emotional response. In essence if it isn’t hot I’ve failed.
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Old 03-21-2019, 10:30 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JasonClearwater View Post
I'm not asking if you think character development makes a better story, or shows more skill, or has more merit... just whether or not you, personally, find a story more arousing if you know the character as a person?
Yes. A story will be much more compelling if I feel like I know the character.

It doesn't mean I need an info-dump with their life history and a detailed description, but I do need to know - what moves them, what do they fear?

Quote:
And then, do you find it more arousing when the events match the personality (good things happen to good people), or the inverse (good things happen to bad people, bad things happen to good people).
I don't think there's a simple relationship there. If anything, I prefer stories where the people aren't simply "good" or "bad".

I've known plenty of people who did both good and bad things, and often both of those were coming from the same place. Like the narcissist I knew, who was toxic to people around him including me, but also figured out that founding a charity was a great way to get his face on TV. Or the kind and gentle person who couldn't bring themselves to hurt anybody's feelings, which led to a massive clusterfuck that could've been prevented with a little boundary-setting.

I'm interested in stories that deal with that kind of nuance, with traits that drive both good and bad actions.
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Old 03-21-2019, 11:11 PM   #9
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Is it really the writers' reaction you want, or the readers?

If a story gets into sex before I know who the players are, then I'm gone. I don't think that's true for a lot of readers -- actually, the opposite is true for some readers.
Honestly, the writers. We're writing for an audience, but I assume we're also readers, or were at one point, and I can't ask the readers. They're not here.
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Old 03-21-2019, 11:23 PM   #10
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Quote:
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Honestly, the writers. We're writing for an audience, but I assume we're also readers, or were at one point, and I can't ask the readers. They're not here.
I think you ask the readers every time you publish a story here. If you get higher ratings and/or more approval by writing without character development then, for your style and category, maybe you should take that as reader input.

I can tell you all you want about what I think, and you might not have one reader who really agrees.

For my style and for the audience I seek, character development is essential. On the other hand, the early votes on all my stories -- say, the first six hours after it's published -- don't seem to agree with me. The readers/voters who hit the new stories as soon as they come out, which is the middle of the night, here, don't seem to care much about story qualities like character development. It's mostly later when the audience swings away from one-handed readers, that the score goes up, and people actually comment on story qualities other than "That's hot" (or not).
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Old 03-22-2019, 12:12 AM   #11
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I tend to write about people and stuff that happens to them. I'm not sure that my characters 'develop', but they 'encounter' and they 'react'. Also, I realise that I tend not to write about 'bad' people. I do write about flawed people, but not - or at least not often - about bad people. I have met quite enough of those in real life.
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Old 03-22-2019, 03:15 AM   #12
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Answering as a reader:

Do you, personally, find you get more tingle in your dingle when you get a character arc, or if you're reading about a plasticated stranger (porn-style)?

Most of the time I try to read 'stories', and feeling a tickle in my pickle is nice, but not what I'm aiming for; in long stories, when there's constant sex, it even puts me off.

Sometimes, however, when I'm out of patience, or on a 'F**k it and me too' kind of level where I want to let off some steam, I prefer the straight-to-the-core kind-of stories; those don't have to be realistic, although it does put me off when things go completely off the rails.

I'm not asking if you think character development makes a better story, or shows more skill, or has more merit... just whether or not you, personally, find a story more arousing if you know the character as a person?

Not always; when I'm in a nasty mood, it's easier not to have too much of a bond with those persons. F**k them! No strings attached.

And then, do you find it more arousing when the events match the personality (good things happen to good people), or the inverse (good things happen to bad people, bad things happen to good people).

I hate it when good things happen to bad people (not people with a bad streak, but thoroughly bad people that cannot get my sympathy) and the other way around; I don't mind for story building, but I'm a sucker for HEA. I like to sympathize with the characters, and feel bad when the good ones get screwed.
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Old 03-22-2019, 03:24 AM   #13
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Quote:
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This. I have a habit, for the duration of a story's writing, of falling in love with my leading lady - if I'm writing her with enough intensity. When she is vivid enough to appear in dreams, which on occasion happens, that's usually a sign that she's complex enough. Also, dreams bring the added bonus, "Oh, so that's what she looks like. I didn't know that."

My emotional attachment to my male characters is much simpler - they're all variants of 'younger me' or 'wishful thinking me,' so I'm writing them from 'inside' anyway.
This is so much me. Well except switch the sexes, I fall in love with the male and the main female is some sort of me.
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Old 03-22-2019, 04:39 AM   #14
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Development? As in, changing? Or just slowly revealing a character? I try to write players emerging over the course of the tale. My model is Heinlein's STARSHIP TROOPERS; we're 3/4 done before we learn the narrator's ethnicity, but we watch his mental changes throughout the book. I also try to leave unresolved hints of a player's background. Let the reader add 2+2 for that.
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Old 03-22-2019, 06:03 AM   #15
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Characters based on real people.

I only began submitting stories twelve months and so far nine stories. Four of the female characters and two of the males are based on real people and because of that I’ve found it easier to see them in my mind.

My next story, again in bdsm, has three character all based on people that I know. Not that the main female character is actually a dominatrix but as far as physical description it’s easier to see her and describe her and the softer side of her character is easier to imagine. The male character is also someone I know and I can imagine him in the position of visiting a domme, although as far as I know he’s never done it, because of his personality.

Perhaps all that because I’m new to writing and I would be interested to learn if the more experienced writers base some of their characters on real people. Did they do it just when they started and no longer do it now they’ve got a few stories under their belt or do they still (occasionally) base characters on real people?
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Old 03-22-2019, 06:13 AM   #16
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I think character development is an essential part of any good story. Doesn't matter what type of story.
Just the opposite. I don't give a flying toss about the character's background. When I used to read or watch movies/TV so long ago, I hated 'character development'. I'd be getting into the story and suddenly it would go into some boring tangent about what happened a thousand years ago when the character was a tot and spend the next 8 hours explaining how they got to the 30 minute remainder of the story.

I can't even begin to count the number of movies or shows I stopped watching or books I put down because of that. So, I just stopped watching and reading all of them.

More than a short paragraph or a couple of hundred words and I'm gone.
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Old 03-22-2019, 06:21 AM   #17
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Porn style for me with erotica. I might give a brief description or a little bit about things they do or like. I save the longer descriptions for other types of writing. Such as my novel that has a lot of humor and some erotica in it. In that case, I think the descriptions help in terms of the humor.

I have attempted to read some stories here that have such lavish descriptions that I get lost in the details and just don't want to read the rest.
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Old 03-22-2019, 07:40 AM   #18
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Perhaps all that because I’m new to writing and I would be interested to learn if the more experienced writers base some of their characters on real people. Did they do it just when they started and no longer do it now they’ve got a few stories under their belt or do they still (occasionally) base characters on real people?
I'd say about half of my characters (I've not sat and counted) are based on real people (either who I know now or from my past) and every story has some true event in it somewhere (including, I'm pleased to say, an assortment of sex scenes - but equally many of those are fantasy).

The conversations over the café counter in the first and the third Floating World stories, for example, are just about verbatim; the opening sequence in Floating World - Madelyn is based on a real encounter in the street (she really was a Maddy). Other characters come racing up out of my psyche, with no role model that I know. I've written cameos for a few folk I know here at Lit, too; they've all spotted themselves .
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Old 03-22-2019, 08:10 AM   #19
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Has anyone ever seen the 2001 movie 'Freddy Got Fingered?'

I wouldn't recommend you do ANYTHING depicted in this film, however it did give some very sound advice on creating fictional characters.

In an early scene, the lead character Gord (played by Tom Green), an aspiring animator, attempts to sell his cartoons to the head of an animation studio Mr. Davidson, who tells him that while the drawings (mainly of cartoon animals) are good, nothing is actually happening to make them interesting or engaging. Davidson then advises Gord that if he wants to be successful as a cartoonist, he needs to get inside the animals and figure them out.

Gord of course gets this completely wrong, hollowing out the body of a dead deer, getting inside it and wearing the animal carcass on the road, where he is hit by a logging truck. While hopefully nobody reading this will do what Gord did, Davidson's advice is very good. You need to know your characters, why they act the way they do and you must apply these to your character development if you want readers to be engaged by them.

For example, my character Madison from 'Spoiled Princess Hates Camping' is a spoiled brat. If I say simply, 'Madison was really spoiled' is this adequate? Will it draw in readers? Does it make the character interesting? No.

To make Madison interesting and for her to appeal to readers, I had to get inside the mind of this spoiled 18-year-old girl and figure her out, and portray her thought processes, actions and background as to why she is the way she is. For example:

Why is Madison so spoiled? She is the only child of rich parents who had fertility problems, with her arrival a miracle.

What actions past or present does Madison undertake to show she is spoiled? She gets a large allowance and her father pays her credit card bills, she treats the domestic staff badly, she has a variety of tactics (bursting into tears, petulance, fake niceness, playing one person against another) to get her way and lives a pampered life of luxury in a Manhattan apartment.

How does Madison think? Madison sees herself as superior to other people, is entitled, materialistic and narcissistic and sees even the most minor things she doesn't like as a huge drama.
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Old 03-22-2019, 09:42 AM   #20
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What an intriguing question!

I don’t think I have a dingle (maybe a jingle?) but there’s a balancing act for getting my jingle’s tingle.

Some stories don’t need so much detail. I lose the tingle when I get frustrated. And I get frustrated when a writer goes on ad nausea about commonplace, commonly understood details—the character’s concerns/successes at work, the taste of an Italian dinner with red wine, nuanced banal observations, and florid descriptions of hair, makeup, clothes and lingerie etc… when in context of a short trope about a night out and romp in the sheets, those details are, very likely, not moving the story forward. To me, it’s like putting a really long fuse on a dud firecracker.

My preference is stories where both the character and plot arcs are well enough developed that just the interactions alone are sexy, regardless of whether they’re rolling in the hay. To me, that’s largely what makes the story erotic; these kind of stories have that “rush,” like a runaway crush on someone at work or school. I love that feeling, and can read those stories over and over with repeat or similar tingle. An example of that, for me, is The Human Condition by jfinn.

I get the most jingle-tingle when the events are interesting. And when the events are complex enough to suspend my disbelief, pull at my heartstrings, teach me something and/or expand my horizons, then the tingle is particularly satisfying.
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Old 03-22-2019, 09:46 AM   #21
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If I had to pick one central theme for my entire body of erotica it would be characters experiencing powerful transformations through their sexual experiences. Therefore, for me personally, character arcs are my bread and butter and are presumably now what those who read me consistently are looking for.

As for whether I find an intimate look at a character arousing? Absolutely. I don't know if the "plasticated stranger" thing is just mimicry of what people have inherited from porn before coming to erotica, or what. However, I find that a good story with well-developed characters can create so much more sexual tension and interest.

What makes a sexual situation for me especially arousing is knowing how a particular character is experiencing that scenario, which depends on their personal history and psychology, knowing what's at stake for them, what they fear or long for, etc. I try not to overdo it, I'm not writing novels here, I just want to give the character enough detail for some semblance of vividness and life. However, seeing the situation from their eyes, living vicariously through them, that's the stuff of really good erotica for me and what I always hope to achieve in my own stories.
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Old 03-22-2019, 11:22 AM   #22
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Just the opposite. I don't give a flying toss about the character's background. When I used to read or watch movies/TV so long ago, I hated 'character development'. I'd be getting into the story and suddenly it would go into some boring tangent about what happened a thousand years ago when the character was a tot and spend the next 8 hours explaining how they got to the 30 minute remainder of the story.

I can't even begin to count the number of movies or shows I stopped watching or books I put down because of that. So, I just stopped watching and reading all of them.

More than a short paragraph or a couple of hundred words and I'm gone.
I'm not sure if we disagree as much as you are suggesting. I believe character development is essential, but I don't equate that to extensive backstory, flash backs, prologues, and narrative about how the character was raised, etc. Sometimes all that stuff works, and sometimes, as you suggest, it can get tedious.

All that's needed is to establish that there is a character. Not just cardboard. The character must, at the beginning of the story, have an unmet need. There's an obstacle to the fulfillment of the need. The story concerns how the character confronts and deals with the obstacle. A skillful short story can develop a character in this way in under 2000 words.

To me, sex in a story is much, much hotter if I feel like the characters having it have a little depth, seem lifelike, rather than just one dimensional figures. It doesn't take much, really. Just a few nuggets introduced by the author to flesh out the character are enough.
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Old 03-22-2019, 02:46 PM   #23
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All stories (and their authors) have distinct needs. Players may need more or less or zero backgrounds, depending. A narrative may need more or less inquiry into thoughts and motives, depending.

Motive is crucial: WHY do they do that pervo stuff? Maybe the reason lies in Freudian drives, Reichian orgone theory, recent trauma (physical-chemical-mental). The WHY may need many or few words, depending.

Some players are deep. Some are cartoon cutouts. Some just ARE; maybe we learn some background, maybe not, depending. What does the story NEED?
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Old 03-22-2019, 04:53 PM   #24
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To me, it's not so much about developing the character, but it's more about creating a character(s) that's realistic and readers feel like they can imagine them.

It's so much hotter that way, with little traits, a personality type, etc...

Even if the story is 5,000 words you can still do a ton with characters, such as personality with dialogue, references to career (which tell a lot about a person) and little details about looks or dress.
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Old 03-22-2019, 06:14 PM   #25
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I don't want to read about one dimensional characters, and I sure as hell don't want to write about them. But I guess that wasn't the question.


I'm sensing a gender split in responses.
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