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'07 Authors Insider Tips

by Louisa Burton
Formatting Your Manuscript
Scams / Choosing an Agent
Pitching Your Novel...
From The Call to Published...

Hard Business
From Greg Herren
Who Is Telling This Story?
Itís Work, Not A Hobby
Where Ideas Come From

Sexy on the Page
With Shanna Germain
Plotting Erotic Fiction
Seducing Your Muse
Creating Characters...
Description, Action & Dialogue
Fucking on Paper
Ten No-Nos of Erotic Fiction
Climactic Moments: First Draft
Critique Groups
Revising Your Erotic Story
Finding the Perfect Markets...
Just Submit Already
Rejections and Acceptances

Two Girls Kissing
With Amie M. Evans
Verb Tense Confusion
Coming Up with Story Ideas
Attend a Writersí Conference
The Fundamentals of POV
Should I Sign That?
Etiquette for Authors
Erotica is Serious Work
No Body Writes for Free...
Shameless Self Promotions
The Myth of Writer's Block

The Write Stuff
From Ashley Lister
The Time is Write
The Beautiful People
A Book by Any Other...
Synopsis: the Necessary Evil
Erotica or Porn?
Feedback Whine

2007 Smutters Lounge

Ashley Lister Submits
by Ashley Lister
What's it like being a writer?
An Apology to Salespeople

Get All Worked Up
With J.T. Benjamin
About Secrets
The Perfect Fuck
About Choices
The Age of Consent
The Kingmaker
Kids and Sex
The Price of Beauty
The G.O.P.
All Worked Up About Hate
Real Men

Pondering Porn
With Ann Regentin
Good Sex: A Physics Lesson
Meet Frankenstein
Thoughts on the Orgasm Gap
The Very Bloody Marys
The Doomsday Erection
Online Threesome Porn

Sexy on the Page
by Shanna Germain

Naked Men and Sultry Women: 
Creating Characters that Live, Breathe and Come

Shanna GermainIíve always believed that one of the main differences between porn and erotica is the "realness" of the characters. Of course, thatís not the only differenceóplotting, voice and technique all make a difference.

But itís often the characters we remember long after weíve forgotten the plot. Think about the Story of O. What comes to mind? For me, itís always O herself. Sure, I know she had a lot of sexual exploits, but itís her vulnerability, her exploration of her desires, her physicality that I remember best.

The basics of characterization, such as eye color, hair color and clothing are often talked about and are easy enough to write. There are also many forms out there that are designed to help you know your character inside and out, from where they were born and their first sexual experience to their favorite color and rock band.

While these details are important for you to know as the writer, itís what you do with the details that really matter. Thereís a difference between choosing physical traits arbitrarily ("Hmm, letís see, I havenít had a blue-eyed blonde-haired narrator yet) and choosing them to carefully illustrate character, conflict and theme. The goal is to choose details that are not only specific to your character, but also show something about your character, as well as the larger theme or idea of the story.

Here are some things to think about when creating (or improving) your characters:

Names: You already know that the names of your characters are important. So donít pick any old Tom, Dick and Harry. Baby name books are abundant, and will give you the history, ethnicity and meaning of names. Also, be aware of the echoes and impressions that names carry. Brooke and Lily say as much about lineage and class as Moonbeam and Rainbow. Which isnít to say you canít switch them up: How would your sexy dominatrix lawyer handle it if her given name was Daisy?

Body: If you spend time looking at people, youíll quickly realize that a blue-eyed blonde really is a stereotype. And stereotypes are one of the things that keep characters from coming alive. So, how do you make your bombshell into a real person? If you want to show that your character is appearance-oriented or insecure, you could make her eyes so blue that itís obvious sheís wearing contacts and put barely-there roots in her blonde hair.

The other advantage of this type of description is this: if your narrator is seeing this hot blonde woman and noticing her roots and fake contacts, then that says something about him as well. Maybe heís an optician. Maybe he prefers natural girls. Maybe heís Hugh Hefner and is looking for his next girlfriend.

Only You: I often give my characters something that no one else has. In my story, "Pierce Me," (Slave to Love; Cleis Press) the narratorís boyfriend has an old earring hole in his ear that never quite healed. Most people would think itís a freckle, but because the narrator knows him so well, and knows his past, she recognizes the hole for what it is: a risk that he took that didnít quite work out. This theme of risk and chance runs throughout the story.

Scars, piercings, tattoos, a birthmark on her lip, a mole on his cheek, a cock that swings to the leftóall of these can say something important about a character, especially if used in a way thatís unexpected. Give that sweet librarian a pierced labia or make your acid-dropping rocker afraid of needles and watch what happens. Just make sure itís in characterómaybe your librarian had a dom lover who asked her to get pierced or itís the secret thing she always wanted but didnít dare to do until she turned 30.

What they Carry: What your character wears, carries, uses and buys all tell the reader something important. In erotica, common props such as condoms, sex toys, wedding rings, stockings and heels or lipstick are all used to convey character information. Again, the trick is to choose the props that are important, and to give them enough detail to make them unique. After all, one personís treasure is anotherís trash. Donít give your character a dildo. Give her a giant purple dildo that was a present from her ex, the one who had a fetish for fisting.

The contents of your characterís purse, bag or wallet can also show a lot about them (why only extra-extra large condoms?), as can the condition of various objects (is the bag cheap, but in pristine shape? are his jeans pressed?). Going one step further by using unexpected details can increase the complexity of your character and surprise the reader.

"Tell" to show: In almost every story Iíve read, a character nods, gasps, giggles and closes their eyes. While these descriptions work to show action, theyíre also common and do nothing to really lift your character off the page.

One way I get beyond that is by giving every character of mine a "tell." Originally a poker term, a tell is a dead give-away of how the character is feeling, what theyíre thinking or some other internal happening. In my story, "Breaking," my character "shuffs" his feet whenever heís nervous. Thus, instead of saying "he was nervous," I can give readers the vision of his feet moving back and forth and theyíll know exactly how he feels.

Sometimes, a character might know their own tell and try to control it. Other times, just as in poker, they may be unaware of it themselves and itís only the other characters (and the reader) who knows what it means. Characters can have sexual tells as well. I once dated a guy whose toes curled up every time he was close to coming. Although I havenít found a character to use it on yet, itís one of those details that Iíve stashed away for a rainy day.

Donít forget the Sex: The final step in creating a real, live sexual character is, yes, the sex. This means sexual body parts as well as sexual experiences. How many times have you read about nipples that were the size of a coin, rock-hard cocks or orgasms that crashed like waves?

Like nodding and giggling, these are a sort of a writerís shorthand for appearance and action. Work hard to find ways to make your characterís sexuality unique. If nothing else, this is the perfect excuse to watch a lot of porn, read Playboy for the pictures and check out online sex sites. Youíll quickly realize that every cock and pussy is different, as is every personís orgasm. And before you know it, youíll have a million ways to describe the light blue veins that run along the underside of his cock, or the way that her nipple hardens when he brushes it with his thumb.

As for creating a unique orgasmic experience, check back next month for my new column, Fucking on Paper, where I offer five rules for sizzling sex.

Other Places to Create Quality Characters

Shanna Germain
February 2006

"Sexy on the Page" © 2006 Shanna Germain. All rights reserved.

About the Author: Shanna Germainís erotic stories have appeared or are scheduled to appear in dozens of publications and anthologies, including Absinthe Literary Review, Aqua Erotica 2, Best American Erotica, Best Bondage Erotica, Heat Wave and She is a fiction editor for Clean Sheets and a poetry editor for the American Journal of Nursing. You can see more of her work, erotic and otherwise, on her website,

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'07 Book Reviews


A for Amour / B for Bondage
Review by Ashley Lister

Best Women's Erotica '07
Review by Ashley Lister

The Butcher, The Baker...
Review by Ashley Lister

C is for Coeds
Review by Ashley Lister

Cream: The Best of ERWA
Review by Ashley Lister

Cream: The Best of ERWA
Perceptions by Cervo

Coming Together for the Cure
Review by Lisabet

Review by Ashley Lister

F is for Fetish
Review by Ashley Lister

Got a Minute?
Review by Ashley Lister

He's on Top
Review by Ashley Lister

Love on the Dark Side
Review by Angelika Devlyn

Lust: ...Fantasies for Women
Review by Ashley Lister

The Mammoth Book Vol 6
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Naughty Spanking Stories
Review by Ashley Lister

Quickies 1
Review by Angelika Devlyn

She's on Top
Review by Ashley Lister

Sixteen of the Best
Review by Ashley Lister


Amorous Woman
Review by Lisabet Sarai

The Boss
Review by Angelika Devlyn

Burning Bright
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Call Me By Your Name
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Review by Lisabet Sarai

Review by Ashley Lister

Dark Designs
Review by Ashley Lister

Equal Opportunities
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Review by Angelika Devlyn

Review by Angelika Devlyn

Gothic Blue
Review by Ashley Lister

Review by Ashley Liste

The Lords of Satyr: Nicholas
Review by Helen E. H. Madden

Love Song of the Dominatrix
Review by Angelika Devlyn

Review by Angelika Devlyn

Riding the Storm
Review by Lisabet Sarai

The Silver Collar
Review by Ashley Lister

Review by Ashley Lister

Suite Seventeen
Review by Ashley Lister

Sweet as Sin
Review by Angelika Devlyn

Tiffany Twisted
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Top of Her Game
Review by Angelika Devlyn

Whalebone Strict
Review by Ashley Lister

Wife Swap
Review by Gary Russell

Wings of Madness
Review by Angelika Devlyn

Gay Erotica

Historical Obsessions
Review by Erastes

Homosex: 60 Years of Gay...
Review by Erastes

Mammoth Book of New Gay...
Review by Erastes

Review by Lisabet Sarai

Lesbian Erotica

Iridescence:...Lesbian Erotica
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Sex Guides

The Path of Service
Review by Ashley Lister

Secrets of Porn Star Sex
Review by Ashley Lister

Touch Me There
Review by Ashley Lister


Concertina: An Erotic Memoir...
Review by Rob Hardy

Daddy's Girl
Review by Ashley Lister

Dirt for Art's Sake
Review by Rob Hardy

Entangled Lives
Review by Lisabet Sarai

Impotence: A Cultural History
Review by Rob Hardy

I, Goldstein: My Screwed...
Review by Rob Hardy

In Praise of the Whip
Review by Rob Hardy

Insatiable: ...Porn Star
Review by William S. Dean

Letters of a Portuguese Nun
Review by Rob Hardy

Mississippi Sissy
Review by Rob Hardy

Ron Jeremy
Review by Rob Hardy

Virgin: The Untouched...
Review by Rob Hardy

The Year of Yes
Review by Rob Hardy