Adding Character to Your Characters

Who doesn’t love turning to a horny stories forum for unsolicited writing advice? I know, I know. But I figured this would be a great opportunity for anyone interested to share a few quick thoughts on how to develop your characters.

Obviously, not every story needs developed characters and sometimes you really just need a blank slate to get his brains fucked out in less than 1,000 words. But for most stories, even if you want to turn your character into a fully brain wiped literal blank slate, it can help to give a sense of who he is at the start of the tale.

Some random ideas:

  • it can be easier to get inside a characters head in first person stories, but for third person stories, don’t be afraid to let your characters’ feelings influence the narrative. Sure, Brody has impecable abs and immaculate hair. Does he know it, or is he indifferent? Would he admit it to his friends? These three quick takes convey some physical info but say very different things about your character. “Brody’s abs glistened in the sunlight streaming through the window as he pushed a lock of flowing golden hair away from his handsome face. His roommate was in the living room, watching.” Vs “Brody hesitated to take off his shirt despite the sweltering heat. His roommate had been acting really squirrelly every time he saw Brody shirtless lately, and openly gawking at his six pack. Brody didn’t see what the big deal was, washboard abs or not— it was just muscle.” Vs “Brody stripped off his sweaty shirt and headed confidently for the shower. He tried not to savor the reaction from his dopey roommate, who seemed to be almost drooling. Brody wasn’t interested in him or anything, but he loved knowing how his glistening abs and flowing blonde hair never failed to get his normally talkative roommate completely tongue-tied.”

  • Here’s another way POV and characterization can be put to use, even in 3rd person stories. Ok, you have a character targeted for some steamy content down the line and it’s important to let us know how very, very hot he is. Does everyone see him this way? Your slender, toned, soccer player jock might (currently) look like a pipsqueak in the thoughts of the burly football captain who will eventually be dominating him. Your gorgeous A&F model hunk might be actively turning off the talent agent who is so caught up in policing his own masculinity that he refuses to admit a man can be attractive. And your hulking, muscled rugby jock might just be a dumb piece of meat to the nerd who is planning to finally put him in his place for endless bullying. You can always get into a different (and more effusive) way of describing them later in the story, either as they way they’re viewed by people around them evolves or as you pull back to a more omniscient POV.

  • Pick one core trait (physical or otherwise) for each character before you start writing. I like punning the trait or just matching it with their name to help me keep it all “straight”, sometimes keeping it or revealing the pun in the story, sometimes just keeping it to drafting. Brock is dumb as a rock, Tom is a toady, Jonah has the whale of a cock. You can control-f and replace their names later or ignore this entirely if it feels too cutesy. Keep their core trait in mind and try to let them show through when they have the spotlight. It’ll help your reader keep track of who’s who. Diverse body types, traits, and personalities all help— names alone won’t cut it when you’re describing ten or even three nearly identical fraternity brothers or soccer teammates in an action scene. Having very different names helps, too— in a story with Frank, Fred, Felix, and Steve, I’m only going to be able to keep one of them straight in my head as I read.

That’s all I’ve got this second. Would love others to chime in on ways to develop character in our stories.


To your first paragraph: I remember reading a story where the author was describing a character in a very casual manner. I remember something about a bit of hair hanging over one of his eyes that he had to flick up from time to time. And other casual attributes, leading this reading to think it was a regular guy. But it wasn’t; it was a snide nasty guy. So if you’re going to have a nasty character, ALL of his attributes that you chose to describe have to be in the service of the character: piercing eyes, sullen dark hair, angular nose, etc.

Actually I love the stories that dispense with (most) physical description and just use dialogue to indicate character. M. Greene is great at this as is Swizzington (and of course Rubbrsome).


I agree that less is typically more when it comes to physically describing characters. It kind of detracts from the story when characters are introduced with what is essentially a dry reading of their character sheet.

That being said, if you intend to physically describe a character, you should do it early. It’s annoying when a character is not described, or under described for long enough for me to build a mental picture of the character and then 5 pages later the author decides to suddenly ‘character sheet’ them.


I will often go a step further and make their name a part of their physical description.

“His name was Richard, but we called him Horse Dick – no reason.”


As a firm believer in (or accidental adherent to) existentialist pantsing, I find that my most organic and interesting characters arise as a dialectic between the events of the story and whatever seeds I may have planted in the characters themselves. That is to say, I put a bunch of characters in an interesting situation, watch shit unfold, and realise in the process “oh! that’s what this character is!” And of course it’s only then when the whole character, backstory and all, unfolds for me.

Everyone is a product of their surroundings in many ways, I think, and I’m interested in exploring the effect of circumstance and history to a character’s life. But the whole problem with pantsing is that, if you only figure things out halfway through writing the whole story… well, you’ll probably have to go back and rewrite everything.

Did I write the entirety of a 30k word (erotic) novella before finally comprehending my protagonist’s character arc, only to go and rewrite a quarter of the story to make sure that was fully coherent? Maaaaybe. Did I write another so many words of a different novella-length story before discovering that, actually, one of my main characters had had next to no personality the whole time, I’ve just discovered something smashingly cool about him, and fuck, should I go back and rewrite everything? Maaaaaybe. (Is that one still sitting un-rewritten on a backburner? Yes. Sad.)

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Don’t worry. You’re in the best of company.

Tolkien rewrote the early chapters of LOTR about 4 times, and it wasn’t until he finally started writing the journey through Moria that it dawned on him that the rather anomalous hobbit character “Trotter” was in fact the Man Strider/Aragorn, and I’m not sure that even then that the “heir of Isildur” part dropped into place at that point.

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I just thought I’d drop this here because I think it’s relevant to the topic of “adding character to characters”. Generally speaking, us gay guys aren’t enthusiastic about female characters in gay erotica. I recall a while back Absman mentioned that he’d found writing around (or not writing at all) female characters to be limiting, so he’d abandoned that restriction for his current novel and given Applejack a girlfriend.

So this very long and long-running story on nifty that I started reading has a whole chapter devoted to a flashback with one of the main character’s high school friends who is gay, as well as his girlfriend, because the character is “straight”. But of course, straight in the way that we all frequently find super hot in erotica.

I just wanted to hold it up as an example of a female character that is done very well and doesn’t detract from the gay erotic aspect of the story while deepening the reader’s insight into the pov character. All done without refrigerating the woman, making her into a harridan or villain or anything of the sort.

It’s not my favorite chapter of the story, but it is a very writerly chapter, if you get my meaning.

Definitely a good starting place if you were ever thinking about working female characters into your stories but wanting to avoid some of the worse tropes.


Thank you for the mention. Happy to talk about this. AppleJack and Mia turned out to be a whole lot of fun to write. They both have the same geeky sense of self-deprecating humor, so had an unexpectedly easy interplay.

Is short, with her family fortune on the line, they choose action. AppleJack jokes that if they have good sex, they should marry. She takes him up on it.

While in human form, a centaurs’ genitals are enhanced, so there ended up this element of physical comedy in the sex scene. She’s an equestrian who mercifully studies yoga — she rides him.

It ended up being a good scene. It’s sexy and light.

(Although it tested my memory. It’s been since 1989 that I had m/f sex…)

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