Monday, April 19, 2010

A Character Thereby Complete

He is also handsome...which a young man ought likewise to be if he possibly can. His character is thereby complete.

I was perusing my Pride and Prejudice the other day and came upon this. Although Jane Austen meant sarcasm to drip from Elizabeth's lips and off the page, I think she hit on a young adult fiction truth.

Oh the handsome teenage hero!

I know there may be exceptions, but I'd say that most young adult heroes I've read rival Edward's granite abs. And I confess that my two heroes (how will she choose!?) are nice-looking.

Of course the hero has other attributes: He's smart. He's witty. He's caring. He is IN LOVE WITH THE HEROINE! However, these you often discover as you read. When the hero first enters the book, don't we want to know what he looks like?

Why? WHY? Because the teenage girls need to fall in love with the hero? Is this the quickest way to their heart? (So what are we telling them exactly?)

I'm not about to uglify my heroes, but it made me think and wonder after everyone else's take on this phenomenon of handsomeness.


  1. For me I've always liked the handsome to be kind of vague. I've never gone for the traditional built kind of guy in real life, and so when I write, I choose a feature or too and focus on that and leave the rest for them to fill in. Then he really is perfect. There just aren't many books where skinny guys with glasses end up being the romantic interest.

    But you are right, I think too many times it is all about the way someone looks, when there are so many other important qualities to consider.

  2. Good question! Maybe it's because we all have a different opinion of what cute is, so it's easier to make the guy over the top hot so that he attracts every girl reader across the board?

    I guess it's time one of us writes a book about a nerd who wins the girls. Because like my husband says, the nerds are the ones who rule the world. :o)

  3. My Nano (that's been sadly neglected since November) features a guy who could be considered a nerd. I fell in love with a skinny guy who wore glasses when I was fifteen, and it was interesting to see which of my friends gave me a bad time about it and which ones were willing to trust me and give him a chance. Of course, I thought he was good looking. :)

    Actually, the hero of my YA fantasy has a short guy complex. Interesting.

  4. Mim-I was actually thinking about just this after I wrote the post-that I do notice some books will describe the character (by discussing a few nice features) without screaming HE'S HANDSOME!! And if he IS handsome, we the reader have a feel for this (without the author telling us) by how the heroine and other people in the book respond to him.

    And skinny guys with glasses. Ha. Read Myrna's comment.

    Jackee-I agree. Nerds do rule the world. And by the time I was in college, I figured out that the nerdy ones were the real catches. (Don't tell my husband.) And you are right...there are a lot of different opinions as to what is attractive.

    Myrna-I LOVE that you wrote a nerd. I'd love to see that book published and see your nerd the next teenage idol.

    Al-I totally agree. I've read plenty of genres without the handsome hero, although in young adult I've noticed most of them are attractive. Most of them. I've read some where the looks have not been a focus. And it still works.

  5. Hmm, this is interesting actually. I love handsome heroes when I read, but I also kind of like awkward, sweet heroes. I think I tend to write the latter mostly.

  6. It's like the movies—we don't care to see ugly people kiss:P Hey, even the "nerds" in movies are pretty good looking. No zits or crooked teeth or bad smells, etc.

    That said, my books tend to have more realistic looking people. Some pretty ones, but a variety.

  7. Natalie-An example I think of a not-necessarily handsome hero who is sweet and awkward would be Meg Cabot's Michael Mascovitz in Princess Diaries. (Although they did make him a little hunky in the movie.)

    And Natalie-I haven't read your characters but I've seen your illustrations, and handsome or not, they are all very well dressed. And I want them to take me shopping if that's okay.

    Very true about the kissing :)

  8. I was thinking exactly about this this morning!! I've got a love interest in this book and have gone about trying to make him appealing physically in order for readers to love him, and wondering if that's necessary.I don't want him to be cliche.

    I fell in love a bit with Logan from Some Kind of Normal - and he's everyone's favorite character so far. Yet I never made him handsome. In fact, other than a mohawk and being tall and lanky, I didn't really describe his physical attributes at all. It was definitely his character.

    So how do we as writers bottle that and make appearance less important? By describing them less and relying more on action and dialog and other characters' impressions of them?

    An interesting idea I'm wrestling with myself!

  9. I think it largely depends on the audience you are targeting.

    But otherwise, hero's exist in many surprising forms.

  10. My YA WIP will have a 17 year old MC and yet he will never be seen by his love interest. I'll still describe him, but it's going to be tough to develop a love between two people who never meet. I'm up for the challenge though.

  11. Heidi-I fell in love with Logan, too. And if you wrote a YA fiction with Logan as the hero, I would really appreciate that.

    Christopher-It definitely depends on the audience.

    VW-Wow, that does sound challenging...and intriguing. I hope you make it work.

  12. I just read a book where all they could do is go on and on about how handsome the boy was and how pretty the girl was. They never mentioned any other connection between the two besides their attraction.

    I would like to read a book where they don't fall instantly in love at first sight.

  13. I love when the author makes you fall in love with the guy not because he's so awesome looking, but because....I dunno.....he's just so....fall-in-love-with-able.