4 Steps to Build Character Profiles for Your Erotic Fiction
Anyone who says writing is easy, I recommend they seriously try it.
From someone who adores writing, writes as part of a career, and holds a qualification in writing, it is not easy! So, you can stop putting yourself down when trying to write that story, under the guise of, “Writing is supposed to be easy!”
So, you want to write a story. You’ve got the idea in your head and a rough idea for your characters. But how do we build on that? How do we take our characters from two-dimensional archetypes to three-dimensional human beings?
Here are four writer-approved techniques to do just that:
Hot-Seat Your Character
While this might sound a deeply erotic task, I can assure you that for the most part, it isn’t. Like 20 Questions, we ask our characters questions that may sound bland and irrelevant, but will, in fact, be the foundation on which your characters can be built. Such as:
- What is their favorite color?
- Where did they grow up?
- Are they close with their family?
- What are their favorite foods?
- Where in the world would they like to visit?
- Are they religious/spiritual in any way? If so, how does that affect their outlook on life and relationships?
- What is their sexual orientation?
There are many of these questions you can “ask” your character, and then of course, with erotic fiction, move on to sexually themed questions. In erotica, of course, finding out what our character’s sexual and kink-based preferences are (these can be sexual or non-sexual) is of the utmost importance. In this case, you’d be looking at questions such as:
- Do they have any kinks?
- Are they Dominant, submissive, or like to switch?
- Do they like impact play?
- What are their soft and hard limits?
- What vanilla sex do they like?
- Do they have any interest in sex at all?
- Do they partake in kink outside the bedroom? I.e. a D/s dynamic with rules and punishments?
These questions can be as basic or in-depth as you like. They can form basic traits a writer needs to know about their characters, like looks, to complex nuances, such as how a particular memory/event affects them now. The more questions you ask, the more you will find out.
One Character Can Inspire Another
Ok, this has served as inspiration for me many a time: basing your character off an already existing character. While this doesn’t work for everyone, I find this really works for me in the sense that I get a lot of my aesthetic inspiration for characters, or the character as a whole, from an actor, model, or already existing fictional character.
My primary example is a character called David “Deacon” Kaye, from the TV series SWAT. His likeness (actor Jay Harrington’s gloriously gorgeous salt and pepper hair and beard) has served as a basis for many of my characters, in particular, my OC, Silver Fox, in my Indulge series on my blog.
To me, the character of Deacon, both aesthetically and in certain traits he holds, regarding family and his very clear protective streak, caters to a lot of the traits I like in my male, Dominant characters: I want a gentleman.
Think about characters you like, have inspired you or you wish existed in real life because they seem like the perfect person for you (we all have that one character!) and what you want to see in the characters you write. What did you like in those characters that you want to see in yours? Do they like the same things? They might have a few things in common!
Find Out What Your Character Wants
This is a big one and will be subject to change as your story progresses. That’s the beauty of crafting your stories: Things will change. That can also be a stressful part of the writing process. So, don’t beat yourself up. Go with the flow and listen to what your character wants.
It might sound a bit nuts, but it really does work. Writers will tell you about that one chapter, that one paragraph, that one piece of dialogue you originally planned for the character, but your character folds their arms, shakes their head, and says: “No, I’m not doing that. I want to do (x) instead.”
So instead of fighting against the current, go with it. Listen to what your character wants. Does he want to settle down and start a family instead of being the loner you depicted him to be? Write it down, but keep your original notes so you can compare, change, and adapt when a plotline, or character trait, changes, because sooner or later it will.
Knowledge Is Power
Time to channel that infamous meme of Charlie from It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia.
I say this with caution: Don’t snow yourself under with too many notes about your character. Been there, done that and it just causes unnecessary stress. So, when we write our character profiles, make them as clear, concise, and detailed as you can. As my former writing lecturer and dissertation supervisor once said to me: “Your readers don’t need to know everything about your character, but it helps if the writer does.”
Creating a new, fully formed human takes time and work. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. The more you know about your character, the better, so you can fully flesh them out on the page and go back to notes to cross-reference, add, take away, and create anew. The more you find out about them, the easier it will be when the time comes to write those words: “Chapter One”.
What’s important to remember is: while it might seem like an uphill battle at times, you’ve got this. No go forth and get to know your characters!