Making your characters interesting

Hi all
I’m wondering what people’s thoughts are on how to make characters interesting.
I really like my stories to give you some reason to like the characters and get invested while also getting to the hot parts quickly. Doing both at once can be difficult sometimes and I’m trying to pin down some ideas about what hooks you about a character.
Is it that the character has a particular challenge? That they’re funny and witty? That they’re hot? That they’re nice or a good person?

It’s easy enough to do, but I dislike when stories start out by the narrator explaining how sad the main character is. “Charles was super average and was so tiny/gangly/childlike/whatever that no one would ever be interested in him.” Yeah, I get it. But also as a reader I’m not interested in him.

When I watch movies, it’s often the sassy friend that I enjoy watching the most, even if they’re assholes. But then the strong, silent type, with some mystery, can be compelling. Or the character with some huge challenge to overcome from the beginning.

I’ve got a story in mind about two guys meeting on a train. One of them has a Chronivac and is hunked out and sexy as fuck. He’ll be easy to write. The other guy, who will first person narrate, is a virtual blank to me. Because he’s not what I’m interested in :joy: I’m wondering if anyone has ideas on how I can make him interesting. He can’t be the strong silent type. He can be mousy and small and lacking confidence, but those things alone don’t make him interesting to me.

Would he be interesting if he had a stutter? If he was a virgin? If he wasn’t a virgin? Is studying nuclear physics?

Maybe I’m approaching it wrong and it would be better to put him in some challenging situations. He’s eating something on the train platform and gets food on his shirt. Getting on the train, he steps on mud. Walking through the train, someone spills their coffee on him. His reaction to all of that could be interesting maybe and then by the time he meets up with hot guy, he’s ready to explode. Oh, and maybe to heat things up, he’s super super horny before he gets on the train and his emotions are high.

Think I just rubber ducked myself there :slight_smile:

My ideas aside, I’d love to hear thoughts and ideas from anyone else about what makes a character interesting. Do you try to make your main character interesting in your stories? How do you do that?

Do you need to make the 1st person narrator that interesting? I’m reminded of Christopher, the autobiographical narrator of Christopher Isherwood’s “Goodbye to Berlin.” He’s far less interesting than Isherwood was in real life, partly because his function in the narrative is to observe the more colorful characters who surround him in Weimar Berlin; at one point, he actually says, “I am a camera.”

Now, if your story is mostly about the transformation of the 1st person narrator, then I think you will need to flesh him out a little bit, in order to give the reader a better sense of who he is before and after he gets Chronivaced.

I’d like there to be some chemistry between him and the other guy, and ultimately for the Chronivac guy to be interested in the narrator for a relationship.

I’m kind of going for what AKA does in a few of his stories where the super muscled guy likes the other guy and helps him explore his sexuality. So I’d like the narrator to be somewhat interesting / relatable.

I guess another approach which would be par for the course with a romance novel approach would be to make the narrator UNlikable instead. The hunky guy could really like a challenge and to break ice.

I think you’re misinterpreting “interesting.” Yes, a character may be interesting or not, but if they’re of some significance in the story, then you have to establish the relationship of the reader to the character. I agree with you, that telling the reader what to think is just poor story-telling. Rather, an author should describe things he does as a way of conveying character.

I have to say your description of movies is somewhat naive. In a good film, every element of what you see and hear (noise and dialogue) is carefully planned and thought out. Even so-called “boring” characters are carefully worked out in detail. The same is true for good authors.

Since you mention the characters meeting on a train, I can’t help but think of my two favorite train films which also happen to be films directed by Alfred Hitchcock, THE LADY VANISHES and STRANGERS ON A TRAIN. Particularly in the 1938 film where there are more characters, each one is carefully drawn, even if they have minimal dialogue. There are so many books on Hitchcock and the ones that discuss these films point out that every detail is carefully selected as a means of conveying narrative. Of course in a film the visual elements underscore characterization. In a story authors use description - not describing how they feel or how they are, but describing how they look, how they interact with the world around them as a means of coming toward that characterization.

He can’t be the strong silent type. He can be mousy and small and lacking confidence, but those things alone don’t make him interesting to me. Would he be interesting if he had a stutter? If he was a virgin? If he wasn’t a virgin? Is studying nuclear physics?

This is the wrong way to go about it. Whatever attributes he has should be the means by which you gain characterization. So you want mousy and lacking confidence? Off the top of my head:

Herman shifted his legs to avoid people tripping on his foot. Whenever possible he chose the aisle seat since the window view sometimes made him squeamish. He turned the page of the train magazine (he had never gone along with the fashion of reading ebooks, or e-zines, or virtually any e-thing). “Excuse me - I’m going to the food car” said the lady at the window. “Oh!” exclaimed Herman. “I’m so sorry” he said, although there was nothing for him to be sorry about. Flustered, he quickly got up from his seat to allow the window lady access to the aisle. Once she had left he sat down and only then realized that his erratic movements had made him lose his place where he was reading.

Well that’s a bit wordy - I like to minimize text - but I hope you get the point of what I’m trying to convey. I generally don’t go for describing what people wear but if I did with Herman, I’d describe him wearing a sports jacket that’s 2-3 years out of style, an unwashed shirt jeans and some well-worn unshined shoes.

Hope this is of some help! Good luck!

What I’d do is figure out why the hunk wants to change him. Is it because he has a good soul the hunk is attracted to? Is he smart, funny, kind, or maybe just into the same hobbies? Or is he an asshole and the hunk wants to punish/“fix” him like in some of your previous stories. Maybe he has a wish and the hunk decides to grant it his own way. Possibly he’s nothing special but the hunk is changing the whole car and he gets caught up in it.

Figure out what the hunk wants, and you’ll know who he wants.

@nycboot I was characterizing bad movies :slight_smile: I understand what good movies are and can be :slight_smile:

I think I am approaching this the wrong way and you and @BlindSeer0 have given me things to chew on.

I am still curious what makes characters interesting to readers, but that’s probably much too vast of a question. BlindSeer’s suggestion to approach from a specific angle (specifically, what is the hunk attracted to and why) is where I should be able to come up with something that works and can drive the story.

In this case, the Chronivac is going to be incidental, and probably make this a bit different than my usual. I’m thinking the hunk will use the Chronivac to give them privacy and do some other stuff to make the scene hot, and eventually when the narrator asks enough questions, the hunk will make some changes to the narrator on request, but that’s about it. I’m thinking in the end, he can allow the narrator to make the choice: have the hunk make some permanent changes and forget about him and the Chronivac, or go with him and see where a relationship could go.

That’s pretty insta-love tho, so I want to work out some details. Also a pretty risk free decision to make. I’ll have to figure out how to add some stakes. Maybe the narrator’s in the closet and the hunk doesn’t date closet cases, and the narrator will have to take a step to take himself out. That could work. The hunk even explain that he’s not helping him out with it. He’s interested in dating guys that are their own men and can deal with their problems without waving a magic wand.

It sounds like this was solved (in which case, hooray!) but I figured I’d add my quick thoughts, in case they are helpful—

When thinking of characters for erotica stories (and especially shorter stories), I do try to make the characters engaging to the reader, but without giving the appearance that I’m trying, if that makes sense. I aim to keep my efforts sleek and non-intrusive — aka, I don’t want anyone to see the hand behind the puppet! I do find that the little things can speak volumes, when done right.

What I go for the most, usually, is giving each character a point of view. Aka, the sort of thing where I could plop them into a room of strangers, and they’d immediately have an opinion, and often a plan of action too.

The point of view doesn’t even have to come out very bluntly. But it will inform the way the prose “sounds” when I’m writing it. It’ll affect even such little things like what the character is noticing in a scene, or how they’re choosing to act or react. (I remember someone pointing out to me in a book how that narrator always notices people’s voices, or if the birds are quiet that day or loud; and it’s because the narrator is a musician, and so he parses the world through sound more than most. It was a subtle thing, and the writer never announced that they were doing it. But it was there to be noticed if one wanted to notice it. And it definitely shaped the point of view of that novel.)

For myself, it’s not that I come up with the point of view fully-formed and then push the character forward like a little wind-up man. A lot of the time, I’ll have a sense of it at the start (like, this character will be a little sassy; or, this character will be a little cocky; or the character will be insistent that they’re not that kind of guy, even though they totally are that kind of guy). But I’ll discover a lot of their full point of view based on what I’m writing them doing. It expands as I write, and that’s how I know I’m doing my job right. If the character I’m writing does something that feels off, or feels like it’s creating a point of view that is muddled or inconsistent or just bland as hell… then I’ll undo the action I wrote for them. Sometimes I’ll rewind and undo a lot! I’ll try again, with a different tack, to see if I can find the “correct” actions & observations that feel “right”.

As for whether that character comes off as interesting — I think that depends a lot on the story & situation they’re in. I usually look for a perspective that rubs against the plot, in a way that creates interesting friction. An active and curious character is great, if they’re stuck in a mystery that they can’t manage to unravel. A passive character would be boring in that situation, but a curious character would explore it, and maybe even get in trouble in fun ways. Meanwhile, a passive character would be perfect in a story where their inaction creates tension in others. (Like a story from the POV of a passive jock protagonist, where there’s a kid who is bulled by the protagonist’s roommates, all while the protagonist feels bad but does nothing… and then, the bullied kid gets his hands on a Chronivac…)

Personally I don’t think there’s a definitive way to make an interesting character. There are a couple of ways to make sure they have some kind of depth, but that doesn’t instantly make them interesting. There’s the whole Je ne sais quoi thing to it where you can point out what makes you like a character in one setting over another. But doing something like, “giving the character a stutter” or “making them the strong silent type,” isn’t making them deeper. It’s only giving them a gimmick.

Gimmicks aren’t bad but they can be distracting if they are used in a story where they are completely useless. They don’t necessarily make the character ‘deeper’, only gives them something to define them as. So if the character has a stutter because of something like abuse, it can make them deeper. But it also depends on how it’s written. If the author simply says, “they were abused as a child and words don’t come out as easily,” it might not be as interesting as slow methodical scenes that may not even be around then entire plot. Scenes like his father yelling at the character with a stutter to fucking spit it out. Other characters yelling at him when he can’t form words. Or mocking him behind in earshot to make sure that he knows they don’t like him because of his stutter. And then sprinkling those throughout the book and letting the reader realize it on their own instead. As a reader it’s usually more fun to pick up on clues and then be told why than it is to be told why and then it never be addressed again.

I also always think it’s important to make sure you know what the character wants. And why they want it. For the train idea, understanding if the character wants to have sex with the other guy, would there be a reason why he wouldn’t/couldn’t. And then try to work around that reason for different situations for the character. Does he have some kind of internalized homophobia or does he think that someone as hot as this guy would never want anything to do with him. There’s dozens of other things you could do, but given those two options it’s more important to understand the differences in the type of story you would create as well. With the internalized homophobia one, it’d be about him overcoming his self hatred while with the second it’d be about him gaining some kind of confidence. It’d give different situations where it would be him coming to accept that having sex with other men is perfectly fine by showing other guys doing it in front of him and enjoying it. Or for the the confidence one, him slowly being encouraged and learning to come out of his shell a bit more by seeing other people be so open and brazen about it. Or even him asking questions and getting answers that he didn’t quite expect to receive.

I don’t think characters are necessarily interesting because of who they are but rather the challenges the creator puts in front of them. It’s obviously important that they should be consistent in their choices or actions, but also important to challenges what the character believes themselves to be. Or at least challenges how they see themselves. And then then intrigue comes from whether or not you are able to make those events stand out and then that makes the character stand out as well.

Idk, I hope I explained myself well. I feel like I’m a bit rambley and all over the place so I hope I at least make some kind of sense… :sweat_smile:

I think you’re on to something here. I do roleplaying games and a lot of people like to give their characters and NPCs accents or similar mannerisms. But those are just gimmicks and while they’re fun, they don’t make the character any deeper or complex. What does that is giving your character motivation. If you know what your character wants, and what they’ll do to get it, you’ll have a 3 dimensional character that your audience will want to invest in.

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I agree! I think what makes a character interesting is their motivation. WHY are they doing the things they do? Why are they for/ against what’s going on in the plot? I try to find entertaining ways to explain a character’s backstory that gets them to believe whatever they need to to motivate them in my story.

Isn’t the whole purpose of writing erotic stories to get to the hot part? I mean let’s face it, and I’m not being snide or sarcastic, but we’re not writing great literature. We’re writing porn which has as its main, and probably sole, object is to get a reader boned and off, right?

In porn stories the characters are always the usual stock characters. The straight jock humbled, the nerd that wishes to finally get the better of the hotter guy, the hypnotist who gets to seduce sexy straight guys, the bully that’s finally overcome etc.

The actual readers of our stories aren’t interested in liking the characters. Let’s be honest, they want to identify with a character getting sex or imagine your character that they’d secretly lust after in real life gets screwed.

Again, not being sarcastic, but let’s keep it real about what we’re posting on this site… porn!

Kyle Cicero stories on Telemachus12.com

Best example of what you are saying.

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That’s what you see in this site. Others may see it differently. You may wish to “keep it real” all you want, but please allow others to explore various other facets in their writing.

I think you can put the soapbox away. Next time really read the reply. I was not criticizing anybody. I was simply expressing an opinion. So are you basically saying you can only express an opinion in a forum if you agree with your opinion. I thought that was the purpose of a forum was to exchange ideas and I did. I don’t think anything I said was in any way an attempt to censor which, yours obviously was.

Idk I wouldn’t actually agree with that. Sure, there are some who just read a story to get to the sexy bits, but to me, the stories with well thought out and thoughtful characters are the ones I go back to. I sometimes do want a story that focuses more on a ‘deeper’ character than just a set up and then a pay off. Like it’s fun to read about hypnotism and the chronivac, but I also like reading about characters who use those things to overcome/fail to overcome personal flaws or limitations that they put on themselves.

Also usually when I feel closer to the main character, the ‘hot part’ is a lot hotter. There’s only so many ways to make a scene sexy, but if I don’t care about either character in the scene then I usually don’t finish. I like the feeling of intimacy. Obviously this isn’t the same for everyone. Everyone takes something different out of a story but I don’t think that someone who wants character development (especially over the course of a book) can’t be an ‘actual reader,’ is overly reductive.

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To each his own. Some people come here to have a quick wank, others want to read an inspiring story and the mind control element just excites them. And again others want to have both - a nice mind control setting, which can be elaborate and very exciting - and then a nice sex scene (involving controlled guys… :slight_smile: ) bringing them over the edge.

I’d count myself in the last group. And everything is fine, as long as people find what they’re looking for.

No need to become :angry:

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What’s funny about what @Cracker says is that I get it. I want to read a hot story and the rest is just stuff that gets in the way of that. The problem is, for my kink, I need the rest of the stuff. I love reality alteration stories where one character gets transformed into something else and everyone around them is oblivious. For that to work and be hot for me, it requires that I see what the character was like before, and it requires other characters to interact with that character before and after the change. All of which means I still have to care about the characters. Just reading some dorky guy got poofed into a jock doesn’t do it enough for me.

Yes, I do think we’re just writing erotica, and the point is ultimately to get off. But for me, especially the older I get, I need more of the rest to make the hot stuff hot. Or often, to make it much hotter.

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I think @ MonsterMash62 that you expressed in much more concise terms the point that I was making. I once asked Cicero, who’s writings I really enjoy, what makes for writing a good erotic story.

He wrote back and said, “When writing look down from the screen to your lap.If you’re not aroused while writing it, you can pretty assume your readers won’t be too.”

So ultimately you do have to have characters, and some type of story to draw the reader in, but if you focus on writing a story that gets you aroused writing it, then no need to worry because your characters will be interesting.

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The artist Tom of Finland said something similar. If, when doing a drawing, his dick wasn’t hard, he’d start over until it was.