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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.

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Romance Issues: Sparkling jewels & glistening portals!

So many romance books appear to be obsessed with eyes.  Every major character in romance books has some kind of extraordinary eye color, whether it’s vivacious aquamarine, smoky whiskey, cool ice gray, startling emerald, or unreadable obsidian.

I’m so sensitized to this facet of romance lingo that I start to laugh every time I read about someone’s sparkling pools of azure.  The only time I’ll accept strange eye color is in fantasy or science fiction, but I’m on my guard at finding a hint of any description that should properly belong to something like a unicorn, fairy, or elf.

Human limits, please, unless describing were-tigers.

Human eyes are eyes — expressive, yes, but realistically people’s “glistening orbs” run the spectrum between dark gray-blue, watery blue-gray, dull green, light brown, dark brown, and nearly black.

Yes, I know it’s part of the romance genre for the hero and heroine to have magnificent eyes, but when no human currently on the Earth has topaz orbs that seem to glow from within with a mischievous light, it pulls me out of the story to wonder exactly when everyone in the book got dosed with acid.

What color are Kate Moss’s eyes?

Characters do not have to have outlandishly beautiful eyes to be beautiful themselves.  Even the most beautiful people in the world have eyes of plain brown, blue, and green.  I think that giving a hero or heroine extraordinary eyes tends to be a lazy shortcut for deeper characterization, though there are exceptions, of course.

Think of the people you love.  How would you describe their perfectly normal — and yet unique — eyes?  My best friend’s eyes are…

  • rather large for her fine-boned face, since she is a petite 5′ tall
  • widely-spaced, giving her a little bit of an alien look sometimes
  • almond-shaped with rather heavy lids and fine black lashes, due to her Italian heritage
  • a dark, clear brown in color
  • framed by eyebrows that are arched in an expression of intelligent surprise

When she laughs, her eyes do transform into crescents, but she still looks at you directly to share her humor.  She is very expressive (Italian!) and rolls her eyes a lot.  She does a lot of outdoor stuff, so her eyes have fine lines around the edges from squinting.

Her son’s eyes are quite different.  Even at less than a year old, his light blue eyes with almost no lids sit rather flat on his soft face — I call him the googly-eyed baby because he looks like a soft blond teddy bear.  His eyes are always round, like a stuffed toy’s, and he doesn’t squint much, even when he cries.  His expression always seems to be one of casual, accepting observation; he doesn’t have the sharp edginess of his mama.

Do this for a couple of people you know well.  It is possible to make characters special, stunning, unique, and brilliant without describing their eyes like a jeweler does specimens.