Naming characters for your spanking BDSM romance

Dominant Dom… are we all a little tired of hearing about Dominic the Dominant yet? I am. I feel mean, but I have to try not to laugh every time anyone uses it. It’s never quite done it for me. I know, I know, it’s an extremely popular name for male characters in BDSM and even some spanking (non-BDSM) romances, and most people probably don’t care, and there have been one or two books which I sort-of liked which did this (but I didn’t like them enough to remember titles/authors years later), but I just struggle to see past the ridiculousness of it. I mean, should the female character be Submissive Submeera? When the Dominant male is called Dom or Dominic I have to work extra-hard to like a book.

Anyway, naming a character can be a tricky business. Male leads need to be strong and sexy but lovable. The name needs to fit the setting of the book.

I name my characters (at least, the main ones, the bad guys, and any with a significant role… can’t say I do this for every last character) the same way I named all my pet rabbits (and I’ve had 8 of those): I look through baby name lists, figure out a shortlist, then take a mental break for 5 minutes (making a cup of tea, switching the laundry into the tumble dryer, vacuuming the carpet, petting one of my bunnies…) and usually during that time, I find one or two of the names from my shortlist are playing around my mind more than the others. If it’s just one, I go with that. If it’s two, I’ll cross out everything else on my shortlist then think it over some more, imagining my character being called each of the two names, until I have one name.

When I took creative writing classes 12 years ago (I was underage, but I showed up anyway and they never asked me to leave so I tried not to draw attention to the fact I was there), I was told three “golden rules” about naming characters:
Firstly, that in a short story, all characters should be named (I disagree, and I’ve seen it work really well in some short stories where one or other of the main characters has no name). Secondly, I was told that you should never give more than one character in a story the same first initial. Thirdly, I was told that the first name and last name should never begin with the same letter.

Well, all this advice was for women’s fiction (that undefinable genre) and I don’t think it’s all true for spanking or BDSM romance. Nameless characters can be sexy and mysterious, especially in short stories. In longer books, if it’s natural for two characters to have a first name beginning with the same letter, what’s the issue? In real life, plenty of people have the same name, let alone the same initials! As long as the story isn’t all characters with the same name or same initials, and as long as each character is unique and interesting, I personally don’t see the issue with occasionally breaking these three rules. I mean, if a reader is confused about which character is doing what, it’s probably not the names that are an issue.

But where do I find inspiration for naming characters when I get stuck? Different name websites have different names (and a lot of the time, the origins/meanings don’t agree between different sites). Here’s some fabulous sites I use for picking names:

This one shows you which names were popular last year (that might be a good or bad thing). If you want to do more historical research, the social security agency in the USA keeps a historical list of popular baby names which is searchable here
For a great international list of names (which includes American names and names from further afield), Nameberry is great! Here’s their list of girls names and their list of boys names! They even have a list of unisex names, too!
Emma’s Diary is more aimed at British names, because guess what? People have different names in the UK to the US (and common American names would get you viciously mocked on the playground in the UK).

Another good source of ideas is to Google some characteristic you want your character name to convey, e.g. “strong, modern boys names” because chances are, there’s a thread on a parenting forum somewhere! Here’s an example for “strong modern boys names” from Netmums. I’m not sure I like any of those names for characters, let alone human beings, but I’m a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to actual baby names for real live babies, so each to their own.

When I’m choosing a name, I usually do it after I’ve already written a profile for my characters, because that way I know if a name sums up the “feel” of the character or not. Some people start with the name and work backwards. When I’m really stuck, I have been known to throw out my entire list and just mix up letters until I find something that sounds right, although that’s not a great solution for historical romances (but I find those easiest to come up with names for).

Do you have any tips for other spanking or BDSM romance authors for coming up with character names? Let me know in the comments!

Lots of love,
Katie xxxx

Articles in this series:
Spanking writing prompts
Erotic romance: Where should the story begin?
The main spanking scenarios for spanking erotic romance writers
Erotica words for spanking and anal sex writers in BDSM erotic romance
Naming the characters in your BDSM erotic romance
How to make a Twitter advert for erotic romance authors
How to make your erotica or erotic romance advert shine!

Erotic romance: Where should the story begin?

Today, I’m going to talk about where to start a story in romance writing, and then I’m going to look more specifically at where the story should begin in erotic romance, using some very well known examples from across the literary spectrum. All the links on this page will take you to Amazon, where you can use the “Search Inside” function to read the opening paragraphs of each book for yourself.

When J.K. Rowling first submitted Harry Potter to a literary agent, she was told to cut the first two chapters and start with chapter three. I guess we shall never know what those first two chapters would have been about, but I would imagine they were a detailed description of the night Harry got his scar. The first chapter of Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone (aka Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone) is unusual for a number of reasons I’ll discuss in a future article. For now, we are looking at how stories start.

The first chapter of Harry Potter, in case you don’t know, follows Vernon Dursley around as he overtly has a very normal and boring day, and it’s tempting to think that means it’s okay to start a story with a normal, boring day, but underneath the surface of chapter one, there is a lot going on; Vernon notices strange occurrences because wizards are celebrating the defeat of Voldemort. Tension pulls us through the chapter as Vernon gets increasingly frustrated by all the things that clash with his values as the day goes on, highlighting just how important it is for him to feel normal. This shows us just how badly it’s going to go, when a wizard dumps a baby on his doorstep with a note saying, “sorry, your crazy sister in law is dead. Have a baby.”

Harry Potter, of course, is not a romance, and it’s certainly not an erotic romance, but it is a good benchmark because it’s the best selling series of all time (the best selling book of all time, I believe, is the Bible).

Regardless of your religious views, the Bible is an excellent example of where to start your story. Genesis, the first book of the Old Testament, opens with, “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light.” We didn’t get three chapters about how lonely God was, or how bored he was, how he went about his normal day in his usual existence, or how he had yearned to create a universe of his very own… we really don’t know anything about what God was like before he created the universe, and while I’m sure some fiction writers have written books about that, I’m not sure I’d want to speculate.

In a Victorian example which is closer to modern romance than the previous examples, Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott, begins with a conversation between four young ladies. The opening line is, “‘Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,’ grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.” Immediately, we know the time of year is probably near Christmas, and we want to know why there won’t be any presents.

The fact of the matter is, you can go back in time as far as you like, and choose anything from any genre, but all good books start with something happening. This is contrary to what some people advise for romance, however. I’ve read articles that say you should start with the heroine and hero’s normal lives before they meet one another. YAWN! No-one cares! Maybe in the 1990’s this was still good advice. Examples of bestselling books published in the 1990s are Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander, and Barbara Taylor Bradford’s A Woman Of Substance. Both books start with the heroine’s normal life… or do they?

Let’s look in more detail at the beginnings of both books. Outlander doesn’t begin with Claire (the heroine) sitting at home packing to go to Scotland. Nor does it start with her getting on a train with her husband. It starts with her already in Scotland. Something has already happened; she’s already left her normal life and gone to Scotland on holiday. It’s a very long book; I’d guess over 300,000 words, looking at the thickness of my copy, and yet, it doesn’t begin with reams of information about the heroine. It starts with her doing something, and information is interspersed, trickle-fed to readers between things happening, so they don’t get bored.

A Woman Of Substance is a bit less fast-paced. It starts with Emma (the heroine) getting her brother and father ready for work, before she makes the journey to her own place of work. It’s a historical novel set in Edwardian times, but Barbara Taylor Bradford doesn’t get bogged down in the minutiae. We get enough information in the opening to know that Emma is working class, that she works at a grand house, that she has to struggle in her daily life, and that she is contemptuous of the upper class people she works for. The opening isn’t mindless activity for the sake of setting a scene, so much as showing the character through the scene. Even the conversation she has with her brother about buttering bread has a point behind it.

Both these books were published before the internet was a common distraction, before everyone had mobile phones, when more people still browsed bookshelves and read magazines. Both books were bestsellers and both were adapted for television. More importantly, both these books were published before the Amazon “search inside” preview and online blurb basically determined whether anyone bought the book or not.

Things have changed. Outlander is still in print. A Woman of Substance is now out of print in the UK, and it’s not selling very well in the US, either. You can’t even buy it in the Kindle format. Why isn’t it selling so good these days? A Woman of Substance has a strong beginning but it’s not fast paced enough to keep up with the demands of the modern reader.

In a modern romance then, the story will generally start where: 1. Something has changed in the heroine’s life. 2. That something should then propel the heroine toward the hero.

In erotic romance, you have the added element that readers are expecting sexual tension. Quality in this genre is often uncertain, because unscrupulous publishers have put out a lot of books that aren’t very good, so now readers are more hesitant to buy erotic romance books. They need to know, from the outset, whether this book is going to deliver.

A good example of how to start an erotic romance is the number one bestseller Claimed by Her Mates by Grace Goodwin. It starts with the heroine, Leah, experiencing a four-way. There is virtually no information about her looks, her backstory, or any of that stuff; Grace just dives right into the heart of the action and we learn so much more about Leah’s character from this. We learn that she is submissive, that she likes strong, dominant men, and that she might have fantasized about being dominated but had never actually experienced it until now. In fact, the whole Interstellar Brides series is full of perfect examples of how to begin an erotic romance story.

My advice is to start the book with a big, interesting event that will show the reader what to expect. The first few paragraphs have a lot of information to subtly convey to the reader; when is the story taking place? Where? Who is the heroine? What is she like and what is she doing? How does she meet the hero? And hopefully, when all these questions are answered, they will answer the biggest question every reader has: Why should I read this book?

Lots of love,
Katie xxxx

Articles in this series:
Spanking writing prompts
Erotic romance: Where should the story begin?
The main spanking scenarios for spanking erotic romance writers
Erotica words for spanking and anal sex writers in BDSM erotic romance
Naming the characters in your BDSM erotic romance
How to make a Twitter advert for erotic romance authors
How to make your erotica or erotic romance advert shine!

Spanking Writing Prompts

A writing prompt is something that helps you get started with writing something. There are a lot of them on the internet, and magazines often do them as well. They’re great if you are stuck for ideas when you want to write something, and they’re supposed to fire up the imagination so you can write something based on the prompt.

I’m part of a writing club that occasionally posts writing prompts on Facebook. They have nothing to do with spanking and they have no idea I’m a published author let alone what sort of things I write! I like the club, but I find the prompts they produce are not very… prompty. They’re aimed at people who want to write something edgy and super-modern (which is no bad thing, I just don’t write like that).

After reading their most recent set of prompts, it struck me that I’d never seen any prompts for spanking fiction. So, I thought I’d make up some (semi-serious) prompts to help people get ideas for spanking stories. After all, the more the merrier, right? I’ve tried to design them all so you can imagine what happened before, or next, or give them any context you want. Complete the sentence or write 500 words… they’re your prompts now.

  1. “Before I spank you, young lady, I expect you to…”
  2. Mabel was standing on the top rung of the ladder, trying to reach a…
  3. When she was pulled over, she was driving at 80 because…
  4. The experiment was a great success…
  5. “But I only brought eight kittens home…”
  6. The most humiliating way to spank someone in the entire universe…
  7. She had never wanted to find out whether birch or willow was worse.
  8. “Daddy, I have something to tell you…”
  9. A long, thin package arrived in the mail…
  10. How do you spank a naughty superhero?…

Have fun!

Lots of love,
Katie xxxx

Articles in this series:
Spanking writing prompts
Erotic romance: Where should the story begin?
The main spanking scenarios for spanking erotic romance writers
Erotica words for spanking and anal sex writers in BDSM erotic romance
Naming the characters in your BDSM erotic romance
How to make a Twitter advert for erotic romance authors