Monday, November 14, 2011

Writing Hotness

I read a lot of YA novels where the heroine is described as beautiful and body-perfect, and the hero is some combination of gorgeous and devastatingly handsome, with a big helping of rippling abs on the side.

Now, I like reading about beautiful people as much as the next person. (Hello, RORY. Mmm.) But I'm with Beth Revis here - it's not the physical descriptions that make characters hot. In fact, in my writing, I try to  describe the beauty and brawn only as much as necessary.Only I know exactly what my characters look like in my head. 

Why? Because what's attractive to me may not be attractive to someone else.  And, in most cases more importantly, the way a character acts speaks louder than how a character looks.

Remember your first love? Junior high crush, high school boyfriend, college sweetheart? Remember how AMAZING and PERFECT he was? Remember how it felt to hold his hand, to kiss him, to hear him say "I love you?" And, now that you think back on it, remember how maybe his skin wasn't perfect, or he had kind of a weird haircut, or he was a little too short for you to wear heels when you went out, or maybe his jaw and stomach weren't so chiseled? 

And, most of all, remember how he was the CUTEST GUY EVER?

(Yeah. Me too.)

I guess my point is this: Non-gorgeous, non-buff people fall in love every day. They enjoy making out and...other stuff...just as much as the hot people. And to them? The people they're in love with look absolutely, totally, wouldn't-change-a-thing perfect. 

Most importantly, I don't for a second want one of my sweet teen readers to think that because she's really tall, or has frizzy hair, or wears a size 18, or WHATEVER, that she's not every bit as desirable as the heroine in one of my books.

(And that, watching all the sweet Buckeye couples striding through campus hand-in-hand, way more of them look like this:

Than like this:
And that, no matter what they look like, their love story could be absolutely incredible.)

See, at the end of the day, jaws and muscles and tallness and jeans size are all pretty irrelevant - the only thing that I care about is that my readers know how the characters see one another. Are they attracted to each other? Does the hero think the heroine is beautiful? Does one character want to rip the other's clothes off?

If we agree on the answers to those questions? I've done my job. 

Now! For the fun part (for me at least...)
I want to introduce you to two characters in my WiP, ONE. 

Here's how I describe Leni, short for "Helen":
She is beautiful, the sort of beautiful that knows it can stop anyone in his tracks. She’s tall, with strawberry blond hair so brassy-bright it almost glows, and curvy. Her skin is kissed with gold, then dotted with a spray of freckles.

She looks like the freaking sun itself blew kisses at her. She is the kind of girl that guys like Elias want to be with, always are with. She is a prize. 

And here's Daniel:
Daniel, nearly as tall as Elias, sits at the concrete table with pebbled legs, and looks up from his textbook, jerking his chin up in greeting again. His hair is jet black, and his skin is the color of cinnamon mixed with coffee. His eyes are black, too, but they flash fiercely when they look at me.

Those are pretty much the only physical descriptions of them in the book.

Now, here's part of a scene I wrote between them that does not appear in the book. (Let's just call it character study, okay?)

Slowly, Daniel turns his head to me, and I laugh out loud, then  throw my arms around his neck. His arms circle my body in response, and joy and excitement flood me all at once. I pull back just enough to look at him, and he whispers, "You did it. You really did it."

"We did it," I say, and the joy of it all propels me forward, and I crush my lips against his. I pull back after a second, cheeks flushing crimson, and look down.

I can't believe I did that.

I freeze, wait for him to stop, to push away, to finally tell me after all these years that he doesn’t feel the same way. But he deepens the kiss, takes a deep breath in through his nose, pulls my body closer to his.

Daniel's hands tremble against my waist. My breath shudders out of my chest. The space between us, or what's left of it, is so charged that I can hardly believe this is real.  It must be a dream.  It must,  it must,  and if I don't wake up now,  my heart will fly out of my chest and drag me out of sleep.   

But then his lips move to each of my eyes, then my jaw, then my neck, and I know that my heart couldn't possibly go faster than it is now. Yet he's still kissing me, and my body still aches to be even closer to his. 

Now. Do you have a picture of these two in your head? Yes? Good. So do I. One of the below pictures matches up with my idea of each of them, but any could work given the descriptions.

So, take a look.What do Leni and Daniel look like TO YOU?


  1. WHOA!!!!!!! that was an awesome scene you shared, and it's NOT in the book? it should it really should :)

    I agree that personality is what makes someone attractive.

    I spent all weekend online looking for pictures of my characters, and I'll be honest, they're all beautiful. I think it's natural to be attracted to physical beauty, but I hope that in my story their personalities shine brighter.

    Great post!

  2. Great post. I couldn't agree more. I think it's so important, especially in YA to not get hung up on looks. It's one of the things I really hate about Twilight, that whole Adonis thing. Ew. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Actions speak louder than a model's face. Your characters sound awesome AND real.

  3. I'm sucked in. To be honest, I was too caught up in their innocence, transforming in front of my eyes - from friendship to something more. Great post.

  4. Just passed out reading that scene, seriously people are looking at me weird because I fell on the floor, you have no idea how insanely awesome that scene is! *blushes and freaks out*

  5. Oh, how I love this post. I totally agree on the physical features! It's all personality that draws people together, I think. I especially love how the pictures at the end all fit in with your physical descriptions! That's the coolest thing EVER!

  6. You already know how I feel about this, but I'll say it again anyway--personality > looks ALWAYS. (Having the looks too is nice, though.)

    And it still amazes me how you manage to find so many PICTURES. It takes me forever to find pictures of any of my characters >.<

    Also! I gave you a blog award. ^_^ You should go check it out.

  7. Is it terrible that I didn't think my first boyfriend was cute at all? I dated him because he was nice, and funny... but in the end I just wasn't attracted to him.

    I get what you mean though- when you love someone, they may not be beautiful to everyone else, but they're beautiful to you, flaws and all. Kind of like my husband appreciates my junk in the trunk :)

    If you ever read The Body Finder - there was zero physical description of Jay, except that he's hot. At first it drove me crazy, but it allowed me to paint my own picture of Jay. However, I like to let readers know what I see when I look at my characters. No one's vision is going to be the same anyway, so... hmmm. Maybe Kimberly Derting had the right idea.


  8. I love that seen. Too bad it's not in the book. I totally agree with your thoughts on description. I think it's so much more effective to let readers come up with the details on their own.

  9. @Cristina - Thanks lady! She's not the MC, so this just wouldn't appear at all. I just wanted to write a steamy scene for my CPs. (Yes, it gets steamier.)

    @Shell - I know, right? One mention will do it! And thanks. :)

    @Mina - Aren't you a doll? Thank you. :)

    @Alexa - Hahaha you are hilarious. You haven't even read the whole thing. *muah*

    @Peggy - You flatter me! I love the whole "what do they look like" thing - my CPs always disagree with me on what my OWN characters look like. :)

    @Chessie - Yeah, I find pictures, but only one of them is what they LOOK like...

    @G - This is the rainy day scene I have saved for the next time someone has a rough day...

    @JEFritz - Thanks!!!

  10. I love your post. I totally agree that we shouldn't get caught on looks. Especially I think it's funny when an author does this well, and I talk with friends and our opinions are so different. I think this works best because then the reader can insert their own perfect guy!

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