The Life of a Literary Slave
Who the hell ARE you?
By Sascha Illyvich
So, who the hell are you? What kind of a person are you? I mean, are you honest, thoughtful, caring? Are you the hopeless romantic? The charismatic kinkster with just enough evil in your heart to do just a few borderline dirty things? (Think Professor Chaos from Southpark and that’s what I mean!)
I ask this question because it helps define us, and ultimately our characters. Much of the time we spend as writers, is spent crafting our stories to fit a theme, spec sheet or some plot we have a new spin on, but less of our time is spent on characterization. Much of the literature put out today, whether it be character driven or not, could benefit from reading articles like this; the authors themselves would do well to evaluate themselves. Yes, I have done this time and time again.
If we search online, or read past articles in this column, we find resources that ask us for detailed character sheets with everything from age to hair color to why the characters act the way they do. Those are wonderful tools designed to help us come up with memorable characters who capture our attention because we, the authors know who they are. There are even software programs that are designed for this job as well.
At some point, if we’re really in a heated moment, we end up mirroring “Mind Fuck” a short story from the Herotica series by Kelly Conway where the characters really come alive for us, and may even give us that proverbial mind fuck.
So they talk to us. Sometimes they interact with us. Anything to get us moving, making them do what they should, or shouldn’t depending on the scene. Again, we’re still solid here.
Sometimes, our characters ask us about us. What do we tell them? After all, our integrity, the process of being complete, is being called into question by our subconscious, or the characters we’ve created. Consider this hypothetical scene where the male submissive is a writer, and is working on a hot BDSM novel.
WRITER: “Damn, I like the way you punished him in that last scene, Mistress. It was really hot.
Mistress: “Thank you. Now, how about you. What is it that you want from me?
Mistress: “You heard me. What does the lowly writer want from his mistress?”
“WRITER: “Nothing. You can’t give me anything, you’re not real!”
Mistress: “You’re talking to me. Now, come on, you know who I am. Be a good pet and tell me about you.”
WRITER: “The damn I am!”
Now, you know I bow down to one mistress and her name is “Current project.” She could be any novel, story or whatever that I’m working on at the moment. And obviously, this example is severely oversimplified. But again I’m still stuck with the question, who am I?
Why is this relevant? I after all, am the one creating those characters. I need to see them for who they are, entirely in my own world before I can make them a part of yours. They need only be concerned with other characters thoughts and actions from the story. But they’re not.
And ultimately, neither are we.
So, we sit down and begin to think about ourselves. Maybe we open a file and craft a character sheet after ourselves, detailing our goals, dreams, strengths and weaknesses. After some time, we get bored or decide to move on back to our own story.
Suddenly, our characters leap off the page, our dialogue flows faster, smoother and we start to incorporate other traits into our storyline and character that we hadn’t thought of before. We’re crafting better fiction and creating less of a headache for our editors who constantly berate us with “give us more feeling” from our characters. We start to create a better picture because our writing becomes personal.
With introspection, we force ourselves to take a look at our world around us and remove the filters that we routinely put up to block out things we don’t want to see. We remove the self imposed filters that mask our own pain, so we can craft that final scene with the hero leaving the heroine because they’re having an affair that has to end.
Tears can flow, smiles can shine, feelings can be felt. And our prose only becomes that much more personal. Readers like “personal.”
I recently received a comment from a reader who mentioned a quote from Picasso where the reader mentioned that when Picasso painted a portrait of a sad woman, he became that sad woman. The reader remarked that I became the Mistress in my work. Of course, gender bending is hard to do as a writer (or is it?) but I was grateful for the compliment. He was right. In order to make Mistress become real to you, I had to make her real to me. I had to interact with her like she was my friend, my lover, maybe even my Mistress. How would I react to her punishing me? What would I say to her when she rewarded me?
Kinky fiction isn’t any different. If anything, it’s more intense. We have our realities, and then our feelings of course. And then the emotion of lust or love, depending upon definition, plays into everything. If Mistress says to me, “On your knees, stroke your cock” am I hard from the thought? Do I feel the humiliation that I should?
Does that translate into great fiction? Of course it does, as long as you know who you are.
Editor's Note: I won't lie, M. Christian was an important influence in the early days of erotica and my career so the title of this post reflects advice I gave under following his example 14 years ago. You're welcome Chris. You can come out of my basement and see the sun in seven years...
Editor's Note Part II: Harking back to early days: Mistress Kitty and Trent is a re-released collection of femdomme erotica/romance Sascha Illyvich wrote eons ago but still has a soft spot for. Find out why
Edit's Note Part III: You really want to read hot contemporary romance? Amazon.com has STUCK by Sascha Illyvich