Saturday, June 21, 2008

Diversity of characters in romance

I want to start off by thanking everyone for making our launch week so fun! We really appreciate all the support we've had the past week and hope we continue to entertain you here at Three Wicked Writers. Regina's contest winner for yesterday is Ivette! Please contact Regina at

Now to my post for the day...

I was visiting a romance group when I saw a discussion where a reader mentioned that she wanted to see more books with "big" women, women with more curves, with meat on their bones and who aren't shy about it. Another reader replied to that thread by saying that she preferred books with skinny heroines because she can relate to them, and to HER they are more realistic. In her words if the heroine is heavy she finds herself thinking, "No way would the hero really want her" and ends up putting the book down. While I completely disagree (regarding that opinion not only in books but also in real life) I still respect her right to that opinion. She has her own ideas, as do I, and you as well. Most likely they're all going to vary in one way or another. But her opinion did get me thinking in a number of ways. I think it obviously helps feed the negative self image for us heavier set women. For myself, though I'm not completely happy at my current weight I don't let it rule my life. I'm proud of who I am and I have a wonderful husband who loves me and supports me in every way. He thinks I'm sexy just the way I am. He still fell in love with me despite something that some people consider an imperfection. But I can't help but think about the people who don't have that positive self image. Who want that man who will love them but think, "No way. He would never really want me." I think romances help with that way of thinking. Part of the reason I love romance so much is because of the diversity of characters. Yes, bigger women are outnumbered by more petite heroines but books with bigger heroines are out there. Just like there are books with black characters, white characters, red heads, blonds, mix-raced relationships, single moms, older characters, younger characters, blue collar or white. There is a diversity in romance novels that calls to me not only as a writer but as a reader. I may not be able to relate to a super skinny heroine or a wall street woman, or whomever for whatever reason but I can relate to them as a woman. That's what's important to me. I relate on the feelings of attraction to someone new, the first kiss, insecurities in a new relationship, so many different levels. I don't have to relate on all levels and just in my opinion, physically I don't really have to relate at all for a book to be realistic. That's the job of a writer to make the book and characters realistic no matter what (and I'll say it again, why isn't it realistic for a bigger woman to be with a gorgeous, muscled man?). Plus, those diversities, or those little things that may not happen as much in real life CAN happen in a book and that's part of the beauty of the story, isn't it? That the guy from the wrong side of the tracks can get the "spoiled" little rich girl or the heavy set woman can win the heart of the town hunk. That is part of the reason WHY I read romance.

We want escapism, right? Diversity? Characters that are like us and characters that aren't? Isn't that part of the fun?

To all of us our ideas on what is or isn't realistic in a book is different. This was her opinion, mine however differs on what is realistic and what isn't. What I want to know from you is do you like books where a couple that seems impossible really isn't? Books about people and couples different than the ones we see everyday? Heroines who aren't conformed to a strict idea of what society considers beautiful?

Man, I do. What is beautiful to me might not be to you but that doesn't make either of us right or wrong. It doesn't make my idea of beauty more or less beautiful than someone else's.

Okay, I better stop now. It's late and I could talk about this forever!


Regina Carlysle said...

Great post, Kell and let me say right off the bat that some of the most BEAUTIFUL women in the world are full figured. I'll never forget reading a comment by the actress Elizabeth Hurley about Marilyn Monroe. She said...I don't get it. She's fat! Ummm Excuuuse me? Nope, I don't think so and neither did millions of men in her day. Neither did they think Sophia Loren was fat. She's as beautiful now as she was then. And um...AVA GARDNER? One of the sexiest women of her day, bar none.

See? I can get on a soap box too, Kelley!!! SNICKER. Frankly there are a lot of us full figured women running around in the world and we have friends and lovers and are found attractive by the opposite sex. I think seeing heroines as only one-dimensional is a huge mistake. As writers, we should craft more diverse characters. As diverse as the world we live in.

And one more thing. I have a rubenesque/paranormal in the works right now. YESSSSS. I think it'll be a blast to write. And YES, the large lady will have lots and lots of hot sex.


Laura J. said...

I agree. It doesn't bother me if the heroine is a full figured woman. There is way too much emphasis put on the "ideal" woman and I'm sorry but skin and bones is not only not ideal looking but unhealthy and that is a very bad message to send our daughters. Beauty is suppose to come from the inside and I think when we can believe that we are beautiful we are more beautiful. I would rather read about a full figured heroine is beautiful on the inside and comfortable with her self than a skinny twit who is about as deep as a parking lot puddle.

When woman like Elizabeth Hurley make comments like that I have to think of the saying that 'beauty is only skin deep' is true about them.

Now it wouldn't hurt if there were more "short" heroines. *g*

Anne Rainey said...

okay, I'm going to give my 2 cents here and then I'll shut up. LOL, when I read, I don't really care if she's skinny, curvy, or full figured. I don't focus on her figure at all. In fact, I'm usually too caught up in the sexual tension, the conflict, the fast pace of the plot to care whether she's a size 5 or a size 20.

However, when I write, my heroines tell ME what size they are. I don't set out to make them all over the top gorgeous. Sometimes they think of themselves as plain and dull. Sometimes they think of themselves as tomboyish. Sometimes they're comfortable in their own skin and they could give a damn what others think of them.

For my own writing, it's all about developing the character and focusing on what lies beneath the surface. What are her likes and dislikes? What is she afraid of? What's her struggle? Why does she need the hero? What will she learn by the time I'm done with her story?

So, when someone is reading my stories I want them to relate to the heroine because they share the same fears or have the same worries. Maybe they've had to struggle with a bad marriage, like Haley did in Haley's Cabin. Or maybe they feel less than feminine because they're the athletic type, like Ava in Forbidden Fruit. Or maybe they were raped, like Candice in Tasting Candy. With luck, the reader will be too caught up in my stories to care what size the heroine was. Does that make sense?

Okay, all done now. LOL

Kelley Nyrae said...

You ladies are like me, I could have gone on for days about this. It really bothered me. I hadn't heard that Elizabeth Hurley said that. Opinions like that drive me crazy.

You're right, Regina, some of the most beautiful women in the world are full figured.

Laura- I have a short heroine planned in a future book! Actually, she's blonde like you too, lol.

Anne-I'm the same way you are when it comes to writing my heroines.

Cindy said...

Hey Kelley, I have to say that I like books with all different kinds of hero's & heroines, be they big, small, deformed,it doesn't matter,I believe there is someone for everyone,especialy in a romance. As for as the big woman,not getting the man,I know better,I have two brothers-in-law & a brother & a son that are all attracted to heavy women & not to smaller type women,beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder.

Kelley Nyrae said...

Well said, Cindy!!

Laura J. said...

Kelley--YAY!!! Weight is something people can change if they want. Height, I've been stuck of 5'2" since 9th grade, but I've always lived by the philosophy that dynamite comes in small packages!

I just finished reading a short story about a full figured woman and I got to say the things the hero did to make the heroine realize she is a beautiful woman....well we should all have a hero like that.

Unknown said...

Hi! I agree with most of this, but for some of us weight isn't something that can be controlled. I have health issues that make it nearly impossible to lose pounds and the doctors are worried about me even trying. OK, that was my rant.

I never really cared about the build of heroine for the most part. I don’t remember ever finding a book about a woman who was more than a size 14 (the average size of American women) until this year. It was a really nice change and I do seek them out from time to time. I do know that there are men that love plus size women just as there are men who want those of us over the age of 40. It would be nice to see it a bit more often in romances, but the story should be more about the couple than the size of either person. I’m sure that men have the same issue with tall, muscle bound men when they are 45, bald and not an athlete.
I feel sorry for anyone who thinks that a man can’t be attracted to above a size 7. They are missing a lot of great people.


Fedora said...

I enjoyed your post, Kelly--I agree that I prefer a diversity of figure types and personality types in romance. I'll be more like some of them and less like others, but if the writer's doing her job, then I'll still be able to identify with her in some way--maybe it's her sense of insecurity, or maybe it's that she's struggling to balance family with work, or maybe she's feeling like she hasn't found the right man yet and is wondering if that's ever going to happen... Somehow it shouldn't matter what the heroine looks like, I should still be engaged to care about her. And again, I don't mind full-figured or gorgeous or auburn-haired or statuesque (all things I'm not), but no matter what the heroine is like, I HATE when it's repeatedly thrown in my face. I really dislike reading repeatedly about how heavy she feels or how she's thin as a rail or how she looks just like a movie star or how she's incredibly plain. Just get on with the story!!

Unknown said...

All my heroines are full figured and have some flaw as all women do. I want to write about real women and read about real women. I get reviews and reader letters hapy that I write about 'real' women. To typecase real life men into being only interested in the skinny woman is wrong and unjustified. It's sad/prejudiced if some people can only equate a certain body type and romance together. Books are a reflection of life. Look around, there are millions of people in love with someone who isn't 'perfect' but then who is?

Unknown said...

oh crap - look at those typos...too early in the morning to be accurate...

Kelley Nyrae said...

Connie said...
but the story should be more about the couple than the size of either person.

I agree. But it is nice to see the diversity as well, isn't it? I'm glad you've found some different books this year!

It's so imporatant that the heroine be a real woman, with real flaws. Love that you write that way.

Tonya said...

I agree that diversity is great to see in matter how or who it ends up on. I wouldn't mind seeing the hero even, with not the perfect body. It's about the connection and relationship that develops that brings emotion to me. =)

Great blog today Kell!

Regina Carlysle said...

Okay...back again because this topic drives me freakin' nuts. I'm ready for a hero with no hair. That's right! I want BRUCE FREAKIN' WILLIS...he's majorly hot and no HAIR. Love that.

I've read a few books with heroines who aren't stick-skinny and usually weight issues are a thing with them in the story. For ONCE..I'd like to read one where the heroine is full figured and considers herself waaaay hot. She's confident, sassy, funny and sexy. I haven't seen many like that. Hell, maybe I'll just write one.

I DID love Night Play by Sherrilyn Kenyon. Vane saw absolutely NO REASON why Bride should pick around at a salad when she was HUNGRY. What a man!

Bailey Stewart said...

Oooh, a subject after my own heart. Yes Kelley, I too like stories about real women - yes, I said it, real women. Look at your friends - how many of them have the perfect body. They tell us that the majority of American's are overweight - so where are the Barbie girls? Not in my neighborhood. But the point is, that this is fiction. Yeah, that's right - fiction. Which means it doesn't have to be realistic. Notions of what "size" a woman has to be to be considered beautiful changes so much throughout history. That's what Elizabeth Hurley didn't understand - that in Marilyn's day, the beautiful sexy woman was a fuller size. Marilyn, Betty Grable, Jayne Mansfield, Mae West - these were all considered sex sirens in their day. And look at Queen Letifah - she's gorgeous and I'd bet my bottom dollar that the men who go for her are not the geeks/overweight/out-of-shape men that most too-skinny-to-live women think that they are. Daisy Dexter Dobbs writes some great stories and none of her heroines are a size six. Or even a 10. They are REAL. Okay, I'll stop now because I could go on for days about this subject. This was a great post Kelley - thanks for letting us "myspacers" know it was here.

Kelley Nyrae said...

Love Vane from Night Play. He's one of my favorites in that whole series. Have you read Lori Foster's SBC fighter series? She has a bald hero in it.

You're so right! My friends come in all different sizes as does everyone else's I'm sure. Love comes in all sizes too! Queen Latifah is a perfect example! She's bigger than you typical Hollywood actress, beautiful, and confident.

Anny Cook said...

So Regina... I have a baldy for Kama Sutra Lovers, Hart is bald, Arik has looooong blond hair and Giosetta is a luscious plus. How's that for fulfilling all your dreams???

My characters are everything from bold and buff to bald and blue. I've written 'em all. Variety is the spice of life.

Monique Lamont said...

Here! Here! Kelly. Very well put. From another woman with curves from an AWESOME good looking man who loves me for who I am.


Kelley Nyrae said...

Glad you made it by, Monique!!

Amy Ruttan said...

I like diversity in my characters.

Lots of diversity.

It keeps things hopping. :)

Liane Gentry Skye said...

I absolutely love diversity in my fiction! The group that I want to see/hear more from is older women who are more likely to adopt a red thong than a red hat. :D

Actually shopped a manuscript that editors loved, but they felt the concept was a no go due to the heroines' ages. I still love that concept, and as an over forty reader, I absolutely cringe when a twenty year old editor says that *can't* be sexy.

*sigh* Silver haired men, acceptable. Women? Not so much. :(

Unknown said...

Thank you for a wonderful post! My first short story features a "thick" woman as well, inspired by Mia Tyler. Regina mentioned one of the most beautiful women of all time - Ava Gardner - and I must agree. Same with Sophia Loren - to me these women are so much more sensual than the skinny models they parade on the catwalks today, trying to make us think that what we're seeing is in some way "healthy".

That said, it amazes me that someone would put a book down because of the physical characteristics of the heroine. What about the story? The author? The beauty of the writing? Sounds to me that perhaps a better quality of reader is needed - rather than a different character. My two cents.