Guest Blog from Bel Anderson- Thinking Erotic Shorts & Characterisation

March 27  |  News  |   Kay Jaybee

I have a first timer to my blog today, and very welcome she is to. It’s the wonderful Bel Anderson! Over to you hun!

Hi Kay, thanks so much for having me here!  It’s great to be between the covers with you in the new Smut Alfresco anthology!

Today, if you don’t mind, I’d like to pick your readers’ brains – and yours too – on the subject of…

Erotic shorts and characterisation.

This is something that is on my mind a lot, mainly because I recently read a review on of an anthology which includes a story of mine and the person who reviewed it was complaining that the characters in most of the stories were ‘like a joke’. OK, this person didn’t like the anthology at all (fortunately their review was preceded by a very good one or I might have been really upset) but it did make me stop and think.

Now, I know everyone is looking for something slightly different from an erotic short story, but before that it hadn’t occurred to me that I needed to make a character in a four thousand word story, which consists mainly of people having sex, particularly rounded. Wrongly, perhaps, I had assumed that the main reason for reading these stories is a bit of titillation. I’m talking here about the sort of erotica you might want to read with your partner or on a saucy night in alone, not beautiful prose necessarily – just a rollicking good dirty story.

I have to admit that my characters in the story in question aren’t particularly rounded, but neither are their characters non-existent. I have a rather conceited Lord of the Manor who enjoys admiring his own, magnificent cock and feels an almost constant surging in his loins; a supposedly innocent maid who he has hand-picked to serve his needs if only she knew it; and his prim, nervous wife who comes to life amazingly once her new maid has taught her a few tricks. There is, I hope, also a moment or two of mild humour. Fine, I thought, for a short erotic tale (and so did the editor, I imagine!)

Apparently not?

Personally, I’m not looking for complicated characterisation in a short erotic story. A novella or a novel is a different kettle of fish altogether and then, of course, we’d all be expecting believable, well-rounded characters. In a short story, there isn’t that much room to characterise fully without taking up valuable sex-space. A hint of character does for me – but maybe you don’t agree?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!


smutalfresco (2)Bel's book 2Bel's book 1

Bel has previously been published in anthologies by Xcite books, has recently had a story published in Smut Alfresco and has one in the upcoming Smut by the Sea Volume 2. She is working on a non-erotic novel and also an anthology of erotic stories.

You can find her blog here:  and her work here:


Thanks Bel- That is a very interesting point you’ve raised, and I can imagine you’ll get a range of different answers to that question.

Personally- well, I firmly believe that whether the story is short or long, every character has to count. They have to be as rounded as the word length will allow. Obviously in a work of flash fiction this is harder to achieve, but if all you want is “wham bam thank you ma’am”, then read porn or watch a movie.

I’ve had criticism in one particular novella for a secondary character not being rounded enough. I was fairly surprised, because I really hadn’t seen her as vital enough to worry about in the grand scheme of the book- it seemed I was wrong! Not a mistake I will make again! Now I have a rule- if the character can’t be rounded, it goes!

But hey- that’s just by opinion!!! So- what do you guys think???

Do drop us a line,

Kay xx



Posted in News. Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to Guest Blog from Bel Anderson- Thinking Erotic Shorts & Characterisation

  1. As a writer & a reader, I think in a dirty short, as long as you give enough insight into the character that you know what they’re feeling, that’s plenty. As Bel mentioned, it’s a short, not a novel. A snack not a full course meal. Let it be what it is.

  2. Anthony Polson says:

    I think the answer is “It varies”. It varies between authors and between readers. There isn’t a right way and a wrong way.

    It also varies between sub-genres. ‘Erotic romance’ definitely requires good development of characters whereas ‘Erotica’ needs less. Whether you can get by with near-zero is moot but personally I don’t think so. For me, there must be as much development of characters as the author can practicably fit in. Some authors do this, others don’t bother. To me, that takes their work to the very border between erotica and porn. But there are some readers who crave for this.

    I think the golden rule should be to write what you feel works for you and accept that inevitably a lot of people won’t like it. We are authors. We put our name (or pen-name) to our work. We should be true to ourselves and not cynically attempt to second-guess what ‘the market’ wants when we write.

    (I’m an aspiring writer who has completed the first draft of a full length novel and is now editing it. Before starting to write, and also before editing, I have read several erotic hundred short stories, a few novellas and about ten full length novels.)

    • Kay Jaybee says:

      You certainly have a good point there- you must write what feels right to you. x

    • Bel Anderson says:

      Anthony, I agree. There is a difference between erotica and erotic romance – and then there’s porn! I find the story dictates the amount of characterisation – but I always try to give the reader a good idea of what the person is like even if it’s a quirky little habit or trait. Thanks for your comment and best of luck with your novel!

  3. Bel Anderson says:

    Thank you for having me, Kay. And thanks for adding your view! Bel x

  4. I must admit that when I’m reading (even) a short story, I do like a little insight into the characters. The who’s and why’s and wherefore’s. But, of course, if the plot is exciting it sweeps all the characters along with it . . . and both of you certainly do achieve that!!!

  5. Ian Jade says:

    This article highlights precisely one of my chief turn-offs in any genre, although it does seem most prevalent in erotic fiction generally. Frankly (and this will sound harsh) the character descriptions given above do sound like a joke. (A Lord, his young wife and their serving maid walk into a pub . . .) You instantly know what to expect, then promptly stop thinking about them. No matter how much or how little of those characters make it through into the story, the fact that they are so stereotypical, and examples of stereotypes that are commonly used at that, leaves the reader with little reason to finish the story. We don’t have the same drive to find out what happens to them, how their relationship will affect them, and whether they will change as a result.
    Writing predictable characters like this forces the story to move in predictable ways, or else you spend more time explaining later why they are suddenly acting out of character.
    I think the rule for characterisation has to be “as much as the story needs to make sense.” It’s possible to write short stories with very tight focus and no real characterisation beyond the most basic of identifiers, but as soon as you begin to give characters choice and freedom and decisions to make, the reason for their actions becomes vital to the story, and needs to be shown.

    • Bel Anderson says:

      Fair point, Ian – but I feel I must point out in defence of my stereotypical characters that this particular story was very tongue-in-cheek 😉 hey didn’t have a lot of time to develop because they were doing rather a lot of other stuff… 😉 To be honest, it was one of my very early stories and I probably wouldn’t write something like that again, but it’s been really interesting to hear people’s thoughts on characterisation and it’s been very useful too! Thank you.

  6. Ian Jade says:

    Apologies for the formatting there. Don’t know what happened!
    I feel better for knowing it was intended to be tongue-in-cheek; without having read it that’s a tricky judgement call.
    The point I was trying to make regarding characterisation was that the amount of time spent on a character doesn’t necessarily correlate to that character’s depth or “roundedness”. You can sketch an interesting and unusual character in just a few words, so long as you include the information needed for the plot to progress. More to the point, you can devote whole pages to “fleshing out” a stereotype, and provide reams of back-story, but unless you learn more about that character than you can extrapolate from the two-line summary, the character will still feel flat. In short, every character should break our expectations of them at some stage unless the story demands they be a true cliché.

  7. Cara Thereon says:

    I think you can bring out a lot in a few words if the aim is to really make the reader love the character, race to finish, etc, but that always seems more likely in novels because you have time to make your character “real”. I also think that if its a scene, a snippet, then the focus isn’t bringing out this character, but focusing on the emotion or sensations of the scene (and I protest anyone calling that porn). When I’m reading or writing a short, I’m not focused on the characters always. It almost seems silly to critique a story that’s meant to capture a moment on the grounds of character development. I don’t want to know their backstory half the time anyway.