The Laundry List

The name may not allude to this, but the laundry list is a commonly-made mistake among most first-time writers, whether it be writers of erotica, smut, or other genres. It’s an understandably easy mistake to make, but it’s still enough to turn off any reader from the get-go. I mentioned this in an earlier post where I explained a few things to help take your writing to the next level, but I’d like to give this one a bit more emphasis. For those of you who don’t know, this is the laundry list:

My name is Ashley and I’m 24 years old. I have brown hair, hazel eyes, 5′ 3″, and have 32DD breasts.

enough-internet-dean-winchester-supernatural

It’s describing the character in your story by listing out all major identifiers all at once as if you were writing a bad dating profile. For most, they’ll stop reading as soon as they read the laundry list no matter how good the rest of the story may be. It’s important to describe your characters, of course, but there are much better ways to go about it. For starters: don’t feel the need to describe your character right off the bat. You can always add details to them over a couple paragraphs. Here are a few methods to keep in mind.

Allude to their appearance

You don’t always need to use a literal identifier to describe what someone looks like. The English language is full of really great adjectives, similes, and metaphors you can use instead. Someone with dirty-blonde hair could be described as ‘sandy-haired’. If you want to describe a woman in your smutty story as large-breasted, you could say something like: “He was fairly certain the top two buttons of her shirt had never been buttoned.”

This example describes one aspect of a character’s appearance, while also keeping the story moving with actions, thoughts, and a segue right into the next part of the action. And it doesn’t have to be placed at the start of the story. In fact, you could put that sentence anywhere in a story.

Avoid numbers

This is divided into two parts. The first being that you should literally avoid typing any numbers into your story. I don’t know why, but saying ‘thirty-two’ instead of ’32’ is much more visually satisfying to most readers. The second part is to avoid descriptors that use numbers such as a person’s height, weight, waist, bust, etc. They’re unneeded, and most people don’t immediately know what the difference between a size 24 waist, and a size 28. You see this most often from smut writers describing a woman’s breast size. Slipping a little-ways back to alluding a character’s appearance, there are other ways to give your reader an impression of a character’s appearance.

Base your characters on people you know, and flaws

Nobody feels more real than real people, and real people are much more identifiable than a lot of characters. Not every curvy woman is going to sway as she walks, just ask your curvy friend. Not every hot guy will have the abs you see on romance novels either. People aren’t perfect, and almost never are. Even those who go through expensive plastic surgery to look like Barbie and Ken look terrible from all the plastic surgery. And yet, you may desire these people, or love them, either because of or despite their flaws.

Your characters should be no different. they should have flaws in their appearance and in their personality or quirks. This may seem like a daunting task when creating a story persona, but many writers find it easier when you describe someone you already know. Their entire persona is already in your mind! Rather than think of descriptors to use, write what makes these people unique.


What other techniques have you used to describe a character, other than what would be used in the laundry list? Did you struggle with flat character descriptions when you started writing? I know I did! What advice would you add? Please let me know in the comments below.

  2 comments for “The Laundry List

  1. Posy Churchgate
    June 29, 2018 at 7:02 pm

    I agree with this totally, I find myself thinking “newbie” or “clumsy” if people give clothes sizes in a character description!
    To support your post I site the example of a recent story I wrote where I based the secondary character on a friend of mine, and everyone said how easily they could visualise her!
    I always bear in mind what a great writing teacher told me – “show don’t tell” so i’d rather say “her blouse strained to contain her breasts” – we then know they are big! Who cares if they are DDs, Es or whatever cup size? I agree, not many of us can visualise these measurements anyway.
    Yeah – ditch the laundry list!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. July 3, 2018 at 3:05 am

    Great ideas! I’ve been working on cutting out the word “that” and being more attentive to word choice.

    Liked by 1 person

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