Looks Aren’t Everything…

Or are they?

On one of the writer’s loops to which I belong, we’ve been talking about our bodies. I’m not going into any more detail than that, other than about myself.

Five years ago, I lost about a hundred pounds through changes in my eating and exercising habits. I’ve kept off all but about fifteen of that (and I really kind of needed those extra fifteen to keep from looking like a skeleton). Unfortunately, because of losing such a drastic amount of weight, I now have a drastic amount of extra skin.

Some of you are probably sitting there wondering what this has to do with romance novels. Quite a bit, actually. Do you own some romance novels? Skim through them and find physical descriptions of the heroes and heroines. Especially the heroines.

Usually “slender” or “slim”, right? “Petite,” sometimes. Unless you’re reading one with a BBW heroine, which some publishers look for. Even then, though, the woman is usually described in terms that imply beauty.

So where are the realistic-looking characters?

I confess, I’m guilty of this myself. My heroes often have “muscular chests” and are tall. That’s the physical form that does it for me, so it’s what I usually write. My fiance has a muscular chest and is tall. Of course, he also has a potbelly. So I really ought to include that feature in more of my heroes.

I try to be a little less beauty-focused with my heroines. They’re sometimes too tall to be called “petite”. Not usually stick-skinny. One or two of them have “small breasts”.

When we write romances, we want the characters to be appealing to the reader, and that includes physically. There’s a certain standard of beauty in our society, and to an extent, we as authors are expected to meet that standard with our characters’ descriptions. Truthfully, though, as a reader I don’t really relate to the petite, gorgeous, big-breasted, tiny-waisted women that seem to populate some novels. I don’t look like that, and I like to read about characters who meet my version of realistic.

I know some publishers encourage authors to have realistic-looking characters. Not that I’ve done a huge amount of research in the area, so someone can feel free to smack me down if I have this wrong, but I’d guess that with all the talk in the news about how unrealistic people’s body images can be nowadays, some publishers are trying to avoid falling into that trap by having characters with bodies that might be similar to those of readers.

If you’re an author, do you prefer to write about standardly beautiful characters, or those who look like people you might meet in your neighborhood? As a reader, what do you prefer? Inquiring blogger wants to know.


4 responses to “Looks Aren’t Everything…

  1. Thanks for this post, Karenna! Glad to see another author portraying folks the way we really are. Don’t have to be ‘perfect’ to be beautiful.

    Good blog!

  2. First of all…congrats on losing the weight! Even if you have some extra skin, it’s an accomplishment that is awesome! I’ve been struggling with weight since I gave birth to my son three years ago. I have the round belly syndrome that is directly related to stress, so when I pick up a romance (or write them) I picture myself as the heroine and escape into a world of happy ever after. So skinny heroines don’t really bother me because for the few minutes I can find to read, I’m able to lose myself and I actually feel better about myself. Now, I probably need to read less and exercise more, but that’s a whole different issue….Thanks for the great thought provoking blog!

  3. My first book, Windswept Shores, will be out in June. My heroine Megan is an older woman, 42, and had plastic surgery. The hero, Seth, is 30. He falls hard for Megan, and don’t like the surgery scars that criss cross her body and though she would have looked better as God had made her.


  4. Great article. I LOVED it.

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