Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Hot or Not?

I've been following an interesting debate on Twitter recently about whether or not the male romantic leads in YA novels need to be hot.

Argument A: Not every teenage boy is hot. In fact, the vast majority of them are probably not hot. There are plenty of guys that are good boyfriend material who are not drop dead gorgeous. And on the flip side, just because a guy is super duper sexy, that doesn't automatically make him good boyfriend material. When it comes down to it, a lot of the hot guys are self-obsessed jerks. So making teen girls that are reading these books believe that they have to find a guy who is beautiful and swoon worthy is unrealistic and, frankly, ridiculous. Not to mention overdone.  

Argument B: Teen girls want to read about hot guys. They want to fantasize about their Edward Cullens and their Jacob Blacks. It's just a fact of life. If you write an average-looking character, teen girls will not find him swoon worthy, and your book will not sell. Simple as that.

These are obviously the two extremes of the argument, and there's certainly a place for middle ground. Which is around where I am. Because I very much agree that not all male leads need to be the stereotypical version of hot (like the otherworldly/godly beautiful boy, or the sexy bad boy, etc.). Not by any stretch of the mind. As long as your MC finds him attractive, that's the part that really matters. It's all in the description. The words you choose to have your MC describe this character. You can describe a character's traits that might not necessarily be included in the mainstream definition of hot, but if you do so well (i.e. endearingly, making it very clear that the MC likes this trait), I think that's wonderful.

Because really, what matters more in a book is who the character actually is. His personality. How he interacts with the MC. How he talks in general. His quirks. His flaws. How he overcomes his flaws. What he does when it's crunch time, and he has to either stand up and make the hard decision, or wimp out and take the safe road. All of that, ladies and gentlemen, is what makes a character truly attractive. Using hotness as a character trait, or more specifically, as the most important character trait, is just plain laziness.

Personally, I've gone both ways. The love interest in my book Diamond Tears, Robin, is definitely more cute than hot. For example, one of his traits that my MC loves/finds most endearing is that his hair kind of sticks up from time to time. Usually when he's upset, and therefore running his hands through his hair. Hardly the look of a one of these Adonis leads who always looks perfect all of the time. He has three older brothers who are big, beefy guys. And when compared to them, he comes off looking scrawny as hell. In fact, he's actually a tiny bit shorter than my MC. I know that a lot of women would consider that a deal breaker, but that's something I've never understood. Who the crap cares how tall a guy is? Do people seriously decide that someone can't possibly be right for them as a human being because their genes made them short? 

[If that sounded a bit ranty, I apologize. I may have mentioned elsewhere on this blog (and I have certainly mentioned on Twitter) that my husband is six inches shorter than me. And some people actually are incredibly shocked when they see us together, and think we're abnormal people for being able to "get over it." Still haven't figured out what there is to get over.] 

Anyway, then there was my absolutely beautiful vampire, James Quinn. This one was from flawed book number three, Hidden Stars. I made him a perfect, sexy creature from top to bottom. Why did I do this? Because it was fun. 

Why did I make Robin not a perfect, sexy creature from top to bottom? Because it was also fun. And I am absolutely in love with them both. So I guess my ultimate opinion is that I see no reason why we can't just have some variety. As long as your hot guys are more than the sum of their parts. Otherwise, I'm just not interested.  


  1. I agree. The most important factor is that the MC thinks their love interest is hot. For me, I give a basic description, then leave it alone. I don't like to be beat about the head and neck with physical traits. *cough*EdwardCullen*cough* My favorite of late is Sam from Incarnate. Hot. Hot. Hot. And honestly, I only read it a few months ago, and I don't think I'd be able to say what he looked like. (I think he had dark hair?) To me, hot and sexy is a personality trait, not a physical one. Well, now. In high school it was definitely physical. My BFF and I had a rather elaborate rating system involving M&Ms. Ahh...memories.

    1. Delia, that is a fantastic example! Sam is just about the hottest character I've ever read about in my entire life. And as soon as I read your comment, I started thinking about what he looks like, and realized I have no clue, either. (I also picture him with dark hair. Dark brown hair, to be specific...but is that because he actually has dark brown hair? Or is it because that's my preference in guys, so I'm just picturing him that way? Hmm....)

  2. I think I agree with you and Delia - the "hotties" that I think of from my fav YAs? Can't remember much about how they're described. It's totally about how they act.

    Although, Joe Fontaine's spider lashes and huge smile did stick with me, so....:)

  3. The male characters I've fell in love with in novels interestingly enough were never given too much physical description.

    Like you mentioned it's the dialogue and actions that paint the image in my mind.

    PS I always thought Ron was a better catch than Harry.

    Great post!

  4. I believe that actually tends to be a deliberate choice. By describing someone too specifically, you will get fewer people who agree with what you think of as "hot". By leaving out most physical descriptions, and instead describing intangibles, readers will fill in with their imagination what they think of as a "hot" character, and it will appeal to far more readers.