Minimalistic Descriptions in Short Stories
I often argue with myself about how vividly to describe characters in short stories. Many readers and editors like to see pictures painted of what characters look like. That’s all well and good, but when writing a piece that’s only a few thousand words the on-page real estate becomes more valuable than it is in a longer piece.
There’s also the issue of what kind of fantasy you’re writing to. In a novel my job is to paint a complex picture of a world and the way characters interact with it. I want the readers invested in the characters I spent so much time getting to know. In short fiction, I see my job a little differently. Let’s be honest. Good erotic fiction is literature that also happens to be masturbation material. It’s sexy, smutty, and intended to get the reader all hot and bothered. It’s about good stories that couldn’t be told without sex. I’m happy to do whatever is within my power to help the people of Earth get off more often, and I try to take ownership of my art by calling it what it is.
Don’t think I’m knocking the craft, either. It’s not easy. When most writers have 2,500-5,000 words for a short story it all gets to be, well, “plot.” In short erotic fiction you have to establish the characters quickly but still believably, then write a steaming sex scene that continues to develop the characters, then tie it all up pretty quickly.
I think the goals of short erotic fiction are supported by allowing the reader to picture themselves in the story. My inner debate revolves around how much to lock the reader into my vision of a character when I want them to slip themselves into the story. Whatever my vision might be, it’s not likely to be a description of the reader.
For my part, I’m going to do some experimenting with the batch of short stories I’m working on at the moment, and see what kind of responses I get. It’s nice to have Twisted Erotica rolling to the point that I know I can get at least a few thousand sets of eyeballs on anything I publish there, and hopefully I’ll start seeing more comments.