Monday, February 28, 2011

The Beautiful Ones

If you remember Aaron Spelling, raise your hand... Just kidding, you can put your hand down. I know thanks to the 90210 redux, and Tori's ubiquity, that name is pretty familiar.

Well, Aaron Spelling was a funny-looking fellow, something like a taller, skinnier Hobbit.

His famous quote about what makes successful TV is this: Nobody wants to watch ugly people do stuff.

OK, I made that up.

He didn't say those exact words, but the creator of The Love Boat, Fantasy Island, Charlie's Angels, Dynasty, Melrose Place, 90210, Charmed, 7th Heaven, etc., etc., etc. built his career on beautiful characters. (And I really did read that he said something like that quote; I just couldn't find it.)

The man was a gazillionaire, so clearly, he was onto something. And true confession, I don't prefer movies or TV shows in which bad stuff happens to a bunch of unattractive people. I like the pretty, rich people to suffer.

I especially like it when they suffer in fabulous ways--like in slap-fights in the lily ponds out behind their 5,000-bedroom mansions. (link)

Why am I bringing all this up?

Because I write YA romance-assorted-sub-genre books, and all of my main characters are attractive.

JRM went through a nonstop-request phase that I write an ugly character with a big nose in one. So I relented, and naturally, when he read it, his comment was, "This character shows potential. She should take a more prominent role..."

How do you guys feel about this?

I think there have to be at least a few drop-dead gorgeous characters for the stories to work at the pace they must follow. Sure, it's not realistic, and unattractive people make up 95 percent of the population according to Jerry Seinfeld (link).

But is this wrong? Exclusive? Reinforcing stereotypes?

Personally, I just think it's fun. And if I'm not having fun writing, I can't expect my reader to have fun reading what I've written...

Sometimes misery is appropriate to the story. But for the most part, I'm in the entertainment business.

Also, if I need Character A to fall in love with Character B by Chapter 3, for better or worse, one or both of those kids'd better have something eye-catching going on. Yes?
Super-Congrats to Tami-Hart (also my super-critter), Michael, and Myne for advancing to Round 2 of ABNA!!! I am so psyched for you guys--let us know if we need to vote or anything. (And if anybody else made it, let me know!)

Also, keep me in mind as I prepare to send my revision back to R&R Agent 2 this week. I have absolutely no clue how that will go, and my brain is so fried. But surveys say, it's ready.

Have a great week, reader-friends! Til Thursday~ <3


Melissa said...

It's a sad but true fact that people don't really want to read about ugly people falling in love and doing stuff. That being said, I think having perfectly gorgeous characters gets better pretty freaking quickly. The two hottest guys in my book, both have something *wrong* with them physically that makes their perfection, a little less, well, unrealistic. For example, the one's back is mangled by raised and bumpy scars from something that happened to him when he was younger - you'd never know that from just looking at him though. But that's pretty extreme. Something small like, a nose that's a little more to one side than it should be is good enough to satisfy me. Or hell, even uneven eyebrows. I'm just not really into the whole absolutely perfect Edward Cullen type beauty. But I do need them to be pretty good looking overall. Does this make any sense? I dno. It's four in the morning and I'm tired :P

Unknown said...

Anna and the French kiss has a good example of a not so perfect love interest. He's short, has crooked teeth, etc... My mom and I both agreed that we pictured him differently throughout anyway.

Good luck sending your stuff in!!! Eeee!

Stina said...

I like good looking characters too, but I don't dwell on their looks (whether it's in a book I wrote or am reading). Okay, maybe I do for the love interests. But that doesn't mean they aren't flawed. Even the "perfect" characters have flawed.

Good luck with the R & R. :D

DEZMOND said...

well if you're writing YA books you should definitely be more careful with your characters. I always said that YA should be written only by responsible people who know what kind of influence their work can have on young people. Teens should not be taught that the world is better when it consists only of physically beautiful people. They should be taught to feel good in their bodies and to respect themselves. Creating books like TWILIGHT in which all the characters are top models is extremely bad for teens. Why adding to the sadness, suffering and tears of all the sweet geeks, overweight kids etc. who are taught by modern world that being beautiful isn't an inner but external thing.
That's why you have to be careful, Leigh and saying that you personally love just beautiful people isn't an excuse.

I am known as someone who often promotes beauty, but I always try to balance it - so I write about people who also have inner talents.

Matthew MacNish said...

Hmm. So first of all I watched that video and those people really need to clean their pool. There was plants growing in it, it was so dirty.

Now when it comes to attractive characters, I think it depends on genre. You write romance, and romance between ugly people is pretty boring. Actually romance between pretty people is boring too, at least for me.

In the books I write, which have lots of sword fights, ugly people are fine. They're interesting because you can also make fun of their ugliness.

vic caswell said...

well, i kind of look at it differently. being the opposite of jerry seinfeld, i think that there is beauty in everyone. sometimes it is just buried a little deeper, and sometimes you have to get to know them better to see it, but the insides of a person transforms their outsides, and when i look at them all i can see is beauty. even physical characteristics- there is no such thing as physical perfection. what you find beautiful i might find boring, but pretty much everyone has something physically beautiful about them- whether it's pretty color of eyes or a nice smile or sweet freckles.
also, i find unique characters more interesting. love stories that go beyond physical attraction- now that's interesting!
the characters i write are varied. some are "too skinny," some are "too fat," some are nerdish, some are athletic, some are physically scarred, some could be defined as plain, but to me they are all beautiful.

Ellie Garratt said...

I'm not sure how I feel about this. On the one hand I do enjoy watching the films where impossibly good-looking characters end up in all sort of trouble. And when I picture both main characters for my sci-fi novel, Dreaming of Sleep, they are attractive.

On the other hand I love actors/actresses who do not fit the mould, like Steve Buscemi. I guess we call them character actors. A lot to think about!

Thanks for dropping by my blog yesterday.

Carolyn Abiad said...

Personally, I don't like the crooked nose bit. Feels like the deliberate hand of the author - I like to play with short, plump, scrawny, hair issues, etc... average-ish adjustments. Pocked skin? Maybe. I guess cute is important and downright ugly is just hard to play off naturally.

Tracy said...

I like beautiful characters. If I'm going to willingly give up 8-10 hours of my life reading about someone who doesn't actually exist, then the percentages of our world don't have to apply. ;o)

The only thing I don't like is when every single person in the story is ungodly beautiful. Sometimes people (guys and girls) just need to be cute.

S.A. Larsenッ said...

This is an amazing subject and one that I've often pondered. At its core, society is very vain. The truth is ugly sometimes and we'd rather avoid admitting it by watching some supposedly attractive people doing really stupid stuffs on some reality show. Makes us feel better.

That's the truth.

But, what really makes someone attractive? I ponder this all the time. Just like what makes 40 old or 60 or 80? It's what we make of it. I think we can do the same with our characters. In a self-absorbed society, we just have to try a lot harder to sell them.

Tracy said...

Well, we all do it; our characters are ones that draw people close to them, a luring quality to say the least. Is it right? I think it depends on the story next book is going to be about a transgender individual and not many people would say that is luring; however, the 'luring' and draw is in the personality!

thanks for asking...

Colene Murphy said...

It really is true. I mean, it is sad, but we like to live vicariously through characters and we want them to be pretty! I donno, that's just my guess.

Old Kitty said...

I guess it would depend on the story perhaps? Jackie Collins must have glamourous women and gorgeous powerful men among other things or else it won't be a Jackie Collins book. Or a Danielle Steel or a Barbara Cartland. Ahem. LOL!!

But if the story has say, disaffected youth at its centre then being perfectly beautiful may be a drawback.

Also I suppose it also depends on one's definition of ugly/beautiful and how you'd like these portrayed in your stories.

Enjoy your writing! Take care

Deniz Bevan said...

The thing is - are you characters actually labelled as being gorgeous? Or is it just that the couple that fall in love refer to each other as beautiful?
I, for one, never really thought Luke Perry or Jason Priestly were all that attractive. Sure, they've got "aligned/straight features", as my mom would say, but she says it in Turkish and it doesn't translate well), but they're not my type. So I think it's fine if character A can't get over Character B's broad shoulders or dark eyes - I can well believe that the two are in love and find each other beautiful. And I'm sure they have flaws in others ways, or that some of the other characters in the novel don't find them to die for.
Otherwise everyone would be falling in love with everyone else [g]

Kari Marie said...

It's true. Part of reading fiction is getting lost in the fantasy world. I got the real world covered. Too perfect is annoying though.

Hart Johnson said...

You do know JRM channels me, don't you? I had trouble setting it up, but when he says stuff, just picture me behind him nodding.

Seriously though, I have REAL ISSUES with gorgeous people for the most part.If they are there, they HAVE to be the bad guy at least 90% of the time. And if they AREN'T the bad guy, they need to have some REALLY ROTTEN things happen to them or a dark past they are trying to move past. Not a fan of rich either (the schmucks--nobody deserves to be rich. They either undeservingly inherited money or screwed over a lot of people to get there and I HATE THEM *cough*).

That said, I think most of my MCs are attractive, just not unusually attractive... I think almost EVERYONE in real life is attractive to SOMEONE. I jsut can't tolerate the attractive to EVERYONE and don't believe for a minute that people who ARE attractive to everyone ever learn to be NICE. (there is not peer correction for bad behavior. I've met a couple who are very SHY who are nice and drop-dead gorgeous, but mostly, beautiful people are jerks.)

That's my story and I'm sticking with it (thanks for the congrats, by the way!)

Tara said...

Spelling was a genius.

I've pondered a lot on the Beautiful People subject, having grown up in an area where they abound. I enjoy reading about pretty people. But, I think it's all perception.

I have a range of characters - all pretty in their own ways. People are attracted to different types. I like my boys tall and lanky, others prefer them stocky and muscle-bound (gag, sputter...why?). See?

One person's treasure [cough]Brandon Boyd[cough], er attraction is another's scrawny oddity ;)

RaShelle Workman said...

Leigh - Good luck with your agent. I hope it goes well for you, too. And, yeah, it's a whole lot nicer to read about people making out or whatever (LOL) when they're good lookcing.

As an aside, I think about Napolean Dynamite. I could only sit through the entire show once, but I love, love watching certain parts. None of the kids are attractive physically, but that movie -LOVED. (the moon boots at the end)

Theresa Milstein said...

The YA book Uglies is an interesting way to look at a society's obsession with attractiveness.

As a kid, I loved Charlie's Angels. As an adult, I loved Charmed.

Lydia Kang said...

I have a tendency to write about protagonists who are beautiful only to their love interests, but think they themselves are just ho-hum.
It's a recurrent theme of mine, I think.

This is such an interesting conversation!

Jennie Bailey said...

Interestingly, my MC is attractive, but not 90210 attractive in my current WIP. She does suffer. At the hands of the most beautiful woman you have EVER seen! Well, she appears that way...until MC can see past the facade - but that's waaaay late in the book.

Thinking good thoughts for you as send back revisions!