This is a romance / erotica rant and will be, at best, semi-organized in presentation.
I am tired of all the beautiful people in romance and erotica. Come on. In these genres, everyone’s physically attractive. I get that it’s part of the fantasy, but when I look at real people in the real world, such as a near 60 year-old martial artist with the body of a god, romance characters are often Ken and Barbie. Indistinct and unoriginal.
Characters are supposed to feel real.
Yes, I know that characters aren’t real life, but they’re supposed to feel real. And romance people are like fairy tale princes and princesses (sometimes literally.) They are beautiful, but unreal, action figures made to depict the same story, over and over, with slight variations.
The romance story can’t change that much. Overall, you know what generally happens. So, in order for the story to be fresh, it means the characters need to be fresh. Real-feeling characters give an element of reality to the story, and readers will be more willing to bond with a character that is convincingly human.
I often run into real people who spark my sexual imagination, such as T, the 19 year old Radio Shack employee who helped me with my video game setup. I noticed him when I walked into the store and was delighted to find him a true gaming soul-brother. As he enthusiastically recommended games, I noticed his black-lashed and slightly tilted eyes, and the sharp intelligence of his look.
Of course, I idly wondered what it would be like to have sex with him. The thing is, I could have crushed him. He was so thin, so small. Compared to my stocky farmgirl frame, he was probably at least 20 pounds lighter than me, and considerably younger. I wondered what his sexual philosophy was… if he was a good lover… if he had a small penis to match his build.
Then, there’s a waitress in a restaurant I always go to. She has long, brassy-brown, straight hair done in kind of a warrior princess or elf style. Most of it’s hanging down, but a little of it’s pulled back away from her face in braids. She’s in between pretty and cute — small, soft, and healthy-looking — but she has a slight hawk’s nose, giving her a rather fierce appearance.
I keep wondering how she isn’t cold; she wears barely-there black pleated skirts in all kinds of Chicagoland weather. Does she come in jeans and change for her shift?
Are your characters interesting outside of the genre?
Characters like these make me interested in their stories, both sexually and nonsexually. (And remember, you’re writing a story first, not a “romance story.”) If the reader is interested in your character first, your story will be more powerful for it, no matter if you’re writing mystery, erotica, romance, or high fantasy.