Posted on

Tired of the beautiful people.

This is a romance / erotica rant and will be, at best, semi-organized in presentation.

I am tired of all the beautiful people in romance and erotica. Come on. In these genres, everyone’s physically attractive. I get that it’s part of the fantasy, but when I look at real people in the real world, such as a near 60 year-old martial artist with the body of a god, romance characters are often Ken and Barbie. Indistinct and unoriginal.

Characters are supposed to feel real.

Yes, I know that characters aren’t real life, but they’re supposed to feel real. And romance people are like fairy tale princes and princesses (sometimes literally.) They are beautiful, but unreal, action figures made to depict the same story, over and over, with slight variations.

The romance story can’t change that much. Overall, you know what generally happens. So, in order for the story to be fresh, it means the characters need to be fresh. Real-feeling characters give an element of reality to the story, and readers will be more willing to bond with a character that is convincingly human.

For example…

I often run into real people who spark my sexual imagination, such as T, the 19 year old Radio Shack employee who helped me with my video game setup. I noticed him when I walked into the store and was delighted to find him a true gaming soul-brother. As he enthusiastically recommended games, I noticed his black-lashed and slightly tilted eyes, and the sharp intelligence of his look.

Of course, I idly wondered what it would be like to have sex with him. The thing is, I could have crushed him. He was so thin, so small. Compared to my stocky farmgirl frame, he was probably at least 20 pounds lighter than me, and considerably younger. I wondered what his sexual philosophy was… if he was a good lover… if he had a small penis to match his build.

Then, there’s a waitress in a restaurant I always go to. She has long, brassy-brown, straight hair done in kind of a warrior princess or elf style. Most of it’s hanging down, but a little of it’s pulled back away from her face in braids. She’s in between pretty and cute — small, soft, and healthy-looking — but she has a slight hawk’s nose, giving her a rather fierce appearance.

I keep wondering how she isn’t cold; she wears barely-there black pleated skirts in all kinds of Chicagoland weather. Does she come in jeans and change for her shift?

Are your characters interesting outside of the genre?

Characters like these make me interested in their stories, both sexually and nonsexually. (And remember, you’re writing a story first, not a “romance story.”) If the reader is interested in your character first, your story will be more powerful for it, no matter if you’re writing mystery, erotica, romance, or high fantasy.

4 thoughts on “Tired of the beautiful people.

  1. I agree. In fact, I almost never read het romance, because the heroines are always so physically perfect. I can’t identify with them at all. I read mostly m/m which does away with the awkward female gender role assumptions, but still, yeah, I’m attracted to interesting people, and I’d like to see more of that in the men I read about. Give me a quirky nose or an imperfect body attached to an active mind over magazine handsome bland any day.

  2. I have more issues with the perfect heroes than the perfect heroines, though they’re both disengaging to me. The men are so often presented as what my friend and I call “BDAs” — short for Big Dumb Animals who are “tamed” by the heroine. How embarrassing! I’ve read some M/M, back when it was new, but the novelty wore off. M/M is chock-full of beautiful people types as well, but if you’re new to M/M, you don’t know what’s conventional, and what isn’t. Soon, I realized that M/M was still just romance or erotica, and therefore subject to the same me-too thinking.

  3. Another thought-provoking article! Thanks, Kat, for those links. I can see what you mean here in the same way that I understood your point with the eye article. I think writers need to be reminded to really look and remember the unusual, quirky, real-life details that are beautiful in their own way, because that’s the stuff like the sharply intelligent eyes or the braided hairdo and fierce nose that is going to stand out in the readers’ memories, and we writers always forget this and do the Ken and Barbie descriptions. In m/m romance, there’s a lot of bland perfection as you mentioned, and we readers even have difficulty finding m/m written about anyone older than say … 38, let alone someone slightly overweight or with thinning hair. Not much diversity unfortunately both in body type and ethnicity. I hope that changes in the future!

  4. Again, thanks for your feedback. I hate to say it, but as a fierce CP I can do no less: a lot of it comes down to being stuck on character types — not necessarily standard genre stereotypes, but the character ideas that the authors like. Personal stereotypes. You know, “I love a man with light green eyes…”

    This is fine, but it doesn’t translate into real “living characters,” as I call them. And that does the story a great disservice. The character type may be intriguing, but if the characters aren’t convincingly real, the reader will never fully believe in the emotional truths you’re trying to convey in the story.

    There was nothing hotter than that 60 year old martial artist, I have to tell you. I watched him practice in the snow, wearing only a Speedo. He looked like he was made out of carved, polished wood, and moved in a powerful, but unhurried way that you would not find in a younger man.

    I’ve also noticed that most romance characters’ ages stop around mid 30s. I would also like to see variety, but I think there’s some validity to keeping romance characters young, though — generally, the drive is much stronger to date/find mates/have sex. However, one’s sexuality doesn’t stop just because the drive goes down, and I find the mental aspects of human sexuality much more interesting than the physical ones.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *