Girls Write Out
Sunday, February 22, 2009


I remember reading a romance novel years ago that had blond hero. Now, nothing against golden boys, but there's something in me that prefers tall dark and handsome. For the rest of the book, I stubbornly pictured the hero as with dark hair. If I was going to spend five hours with these people, daggonit, they were going to look the way I wanted them to.

Fast forward to present day when I'm writing love stories. Every time I picture my hero or heroine, I ask myself, what does the reader want, and I have to confess. I'm just not sure. 

Tradition says the heroine and hero of a love story must be attractive. Do you agree? Or is it only necessary that they are attractive to one another? Do you have a preference to long or short hair on a heroine? What about the hero? Are glasses taboo? Tall, short, thin, chunky? bearded, stubbly or clean shaven? I'm talking about the hero here.  

I find photos for my characters and look at them as I write. This is the hero and heroine of my Work In Progress, tentatively titled Summer House. I like that they're attractive, but not so over-the-top gorgeous that they don't looks like real people. 

Denise Hunter  
posted at 8:39 PM  
  Comments (21)
 
 
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21 Comments:
At 11:00 PM, Blogger Cathy Shouse said...

If those two aren't over-the-top gorgeous, I'm thinking your standards are way higher than mine.

They are gorgeous to me. She has perfect skin. He is a polished version of Johnny Depp's Jack the pirate.

I'm mixed on how I want the characters in books to be. It would be hard for you to make everybody happy. But sometimes it does seem all the characters in books are gorgeous and I can't relate.

On the other hand, lately I've read about a ton of red-haired women with curly hair and that is getting old. I'm thinking the writers are trying to break the mold on the writing about women who are Barbies with long straight blond hair. The personality traits are more important than appearance for me.

Cathy

 
At 8:27 AM, Blogger Denise Hunter said...

Cathy, I have yet to write a curly red-haired heroine, though I admit to being tempted. I think you're right. We just want to write a different looking heroine. However, I tend more toward brunettes as heroines than blonds.

 
At 8:42 AM, Blogger Colleen Coble said...

NOT over the top gorgeous? Um, you need glasses, D. LOL

I prefer tall, dark and handsome too but I sometimes write them blond or with auburn hair. But it's hard to think of them other than dark. LOL I'm all over the board with the woman.

 
At 8:56 AM, Blogger Denise Hunter said...

Okay, they're gorgeous, but they look real.

I used to get my photos from the JC Penney catalog and they were gorgeous too, but they looked like models. Okay they were models but still. I want a real expression and I don't want a cheesy smile on their face.

 
At 9:22 AM, Blogger Valerie said...

To be honest, I end up picturing something altogether different when I'm reading anyway. It doesn't really matter what the description says... :)

 
At 10:07 AM, Blogger Mary @ Giving Up On Perfect said...

I think I am a pretty shallow reader when it comes to the appearance of the hero and heroine. I want them to be attractive! But like you said, too, not TOO attractive so they seem unreal or unattainable. And I definitely like tall and dark - stubbly if possible. :)

Then again, I don't think reading about a blond hero would keep me from enjoying a book...

 
At 11:11 AM, Blogger Denise Hunter said...

I don't think that makes you shallow, Mary. My editor (the wise Ami McConnnell) once said, "We're walking in the heroine's shoes a long time . . . best we're feeling pretty as we go."

That makes a whole lot of sense, especially when your realize reading fiction is, on some level, escapism.

 
At 1:42 PM, Blogger Allie said...

I haven't read the other comments yet....

I resent that the H/H have to be absolutely attractive... and that publishers force the issue. I want them to be attractive to each other... yes, but not everyone should look like they stepped out of a Hollywood movie.

Now, they shouldn't be the ugliest ducks in the pond either....One of the things I like about watching shows on BBC America is that the actors all look like every day people. They aren't ugly and some of them could win Miss Universe.

I'm ranting with no real direction .... LOL (tired).

Um, what was the original question again? *sigh*

Make them attractive to each other. :)

 
At 3:12 PM, Anonymous Hannah said...

I agree with the other comments: that couple IS gorgeous. However, I don't think it's an over-the-top gorgeousity. (Made the word up myself. Like?) They still look natural, just really beautiful natural. ; )

I tend toward darker heroes. I'm not sure why, guess my brain just finds "dark" as a synonym for "handsome". Ironically, the hero for my current WIP has dirty-blond hair. For me, the heroine can look however the author imagines her, as long as she isn't hunchbacked with warts crawling over her nose.

My favorite descriptions in books are eyes: green, brown, gray... I love the imaginative ways authors can describe eyes and their movements.

 
At 5:13 PM, Blogger Krista Phillips said...

I don't think H/H need to be drop dead gorgeous, and love it when they have something little that makes them peculiarly THEM, you know? What I DON'T like is when the author makes a big ta-do about them being not attractive. For me, when I'm reading I'm in this dreamland where I put myself in the heroine's shoes. I so do NOT want to have the narrator telling me how ugly I am but, by golly, I've got a great heart!

But that said, a heroine with glasses that annoy her and the hero thinks they're adorable, now that I love. Or freckles or something else that stands out and makes them uniquely cute. (heroine trying to suck in the blubber on her belly to fit into size 22x jeans... really not a picture I want while reading... and I say this knowing that I have a good deal of fat to suck in to fit into jeans at times too!)

I tend towards the tall dark and handsome too, but my current WIP has a blonde hero. It's different, but he's fun and crazy, and is SO a blonde.

 
At 5:20 PM, Blogger Leticia said...

I have read books where the heroine was not attractive, but a godly woman and that was what attracted the dark, tall handsome hero.

I, for one, like reading stories that have the men who are not devastatingly handsome, but have a ruggedness to them. Some have even had scars.

The best part is reading that they are god-fearing men and searching for a god-fearing woman. Which is why I was a huge fan of Kansas brides, Janette Oke's books, and so forth.

 
At 5:23 PM, Blogger OK Chick said...

I like that they're attractive, but not so over-the-top gorgeous that they don't looks like real people.

I agree.

 
At 5:45 PM, Blogger Megan said...

HA These two are georgous! But, I think most people make their own mental pictures anyway. I like my men tall dark and handsome, but if he's blonde and a romantic here....I'll take him anyday!

I think as long as you don't use negative adjectives to describe them (i.e., fat, frumpy, craterface, etc.) that the colors of hair, skin, etc. won't matter.

No one wants reality when they read a book...otherwise what would be the point!?

I think these two are perfect for your next book.

 
At 5:47 PM, Blogger Rel said...

Hey, this is a subject my book club discusses regularly! Us Aussies see a trend for American writers to have beautiful characters in books which mirrors US movies and tv. Watch a bit of British TV and you will see many, if not most of their characters are not "pretty". It is quite a cultural thing. Having asked numerous authors, editors, etc the reason usually seems to be that beauty sells.

Personally, I like characters who have something that makes them less than perfect looking - a crooked nose, a scar, eyes a bit close together! And yet, they are still attractive to their H/H because they have that something that appeals beyond their appearance. See Tamara Leigh's description of her heron in Splitting Harriet - just perfect!

And please, don't use "devastatingly handsome"!! It is so overused ;-)

That being said, I'm a "tall, dark and handsome" fan too - just like my hubby - LOL!

 
At 6:25 PM, Blogger Barb said...

I like characters who have foibles just like everyone else. One character I enjoyed was Whitney in the Whitney Chronicles by Judy Baer. She had some weight to lose and was still attractive to men. I also think the description of the eyes can be overdone. "His eyes were such a deep blue, she wanted to dive in and get lost in their depths." Gag! Just my opinion.

I also agree with those who mentioned the BBC/Australian shows. Case in point, Amanda Root as Anne Elliott in Persuasion. She looks rather plain in the beginning, but grows in beauty as she experiences love.

 
At 9:28 PM, Blogger Vanessa said...

I like it when the characters are authentic. Not everyone has great looks and a perfect shape. Glasses are not necessarily ugly, even though many people think so. I agree with those who mentioned the BBC. I can relate more to those characters than to the gorgeous ones.

 
At 12:01 AM, Blogger Beverly said...

As a redhead, let me just say I have loved encountering heroines that go a level or two beyond Pipi Longstocking!

I also think that genuinely flawed characters who are attractive are just as hard to develop as it is is to communicate a message without preaching. I have enjoyed the wit and honesty of struggling heroines with bad hair days and too many pounds. I have also been extremely annoyed to read about over-weight heroines seriously bemoaning their pant size, only to find out their angst is having to move up to a size 12!

The books I read and keep for my girls to read when they get older are the ones that have heroines I would be proud for them to emulate (well, that's a no-brainer!) I want well-grounded examples that are not apologetic for being pretty, can laugh at themselves,and can see past charm and good looks to true character.

All that said I think I agree with the other comments and kudos to those of you who are writing redheads into your stories.

 
At 5:24 AM, Blogger SketchGirl said...

I think their perfect. He looks quite ruggedly handsome and she looks great too. I think looks and personality are what help me to picture their appearance. Nothing worse than picturing someone who is quite handsome in appearance yet has a terrible personality it makes them seem quite one-dimensional.

 
At 9:19 PM, Blogger Kristin said...

Oh give me fake and gorgeous: Hugh Jackman, Colin Firth, thank you very much. LOL I have enough reality at home.

 
At 11:49 AM, Blogger Kristin said...

By the way, where are those people normal? In Hollywood? LOL Actually, I like the kind of character who is beautiful on the inside, but that makes them shine outwardly and you think they're gorgeous.

 
At 11:02 AM, Blogger Kay Day said...

I actually prefer that the characters in books don't have much description so I can picture them the way I want.
It drives me nuts to be reading and picturing a tall dark guy, (I'm with you on that) and then half way through the book it mentions his surfer-boy looks or something.
If the book describes him as rugged, or as looking good in a suit, or whatever, that's good, then let me fill in the details.
If the woman is petite or tall I can still give her long red hair if I want.
Although, sometimes I guess the hair and such can play a part in the personality.
Ok, I've rambled enough.

 

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The Authors
Kristin Billerbeck
Kristin Billerbeck is a proud Californian, wife, mother of four, and connoisseur of the irrelevant. She writes Christian Chick Lit; where she finds need for most of the useless facts lulling about in her head.

www.KristinBillerbeck.com

Colleen Coble

Colleen Coble writes romantic suspense with a strong atmospheric element. A lovable animal of some kind--usually a dog--always populates her novels. She can be bribed with DeBrand mocha truffles.

www.ColleenCoble.com

Denise Hunter

Denise Hunter writes women's fiction and love stories with a strong emotional element. Her husband says he provides her with all her romantic material, but Denise insists a good imagination helps too.

www.DeniseHunterBooks.com

Diann Hunt

Diann Hunt writes romantic comedy and humorous women's fiction. She has been happily married forever, loves her family, chocolate, her friends, chocolate, her dog, and well, chocolate.

www.DiannHunt.com

Hannah Alexander

Cheryl Hodde writes romantic medical suspense under the pen name of Hannah Alexander, using all the input she can get from her husband, Mel, for the medical expertise. For fun she hikes and reads. Out of guilt, she rescues discarded cats. She and Mel are presently taking orders from four pampered strays.

www.HannahAlexander.com

 
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