So the hubs and I were discussing my blog post for the day, which was going to be about “street teams” and the writer/reader relationship. It’s still a topic I want to blog about, but frankly, our discussion veered off and gave me the giggles, and I’m in the mood to have some fun today rather than be serious, so this is what you get instead. (You’ll eat it…you’ll eat it and like it!)
How it got started was talking about reshelving books, which led into a bit about how AA authors are relegated to the AA section. Hubs pointed out that AA crime/noir writer Walter Mosley is shelved in Crime. Hmm.
“Well, crime isn’t like romance,” I said. “Maybe AA romances are shelved in AA because there’s a feeling that white readers won’t be attracted to an AA hero?” (Okay, disclaimer time: This is simply conjecture on my part. I’m not accusing anyone of anything, I’m not saying I feel this way, I don’t approve of this shelving practice, and this is only a lead-in to today’s topic. I know you guys know that but I wanted to make it clear anyway.)
“So, what,” said the hubs. “People won’t read a book if the hero isn’t their type?”
“Well, I’m not generally attracted to blond men, so I look for books with dark-haired heroes and I’ll buy one of those before I’ll buy a book with a blond hero. And if the book looks really good and I can’t resist it but the hero is blond, I picture him in my head as dark anyway.”
Hubs shook his head. “That’s weird. You wouldn’t be interested in the story if the hero wasn’t attractive to you? You wouldn’t enjoy it anyway?”
“Well, if you look at naked lady pictures, don’t you have a particular type that you like to look at more than another type?”
The conversation degenerated a bit from there, with hubs suggesting outlandish social studies wherein the hair color of naked ladies is disguised and men are asked to grade the photos’s attractiveness level, etc. etc. From there it went to whether or not I picture certain actors and/or actresses in my head when writing characters (I don’t) and that there’s no way to be certain the face you describe is the face the reader sees, etc. etc. etc.
But it made me start thinking. When reading a books, of any genre, do you try to picture the character as described, or do you tend to put your own “face” on the characters? Do you like or dislike lines like “He looked like Brad Pitt”?
I dislike them. I think it’s lazy. But more than that, I think it limits the reader’s imagination. I want to give them room to play; I want them to have some freedom of interpretation. Not that I want things to be totally ambiguous; at this point hubs was suggesting I write character description like, “He was dark, or maybe pale, or short or tall.” Ha ha. So my description tends to be sketchy, just enough to give the reader an idea.
But even then, does my propensity for tall, dark heroes turn off those who like short, stocky blonds? Or does it bother you when you get only an outline? Does it bother you when you don’t get a description right up front (This is another issue; there are people who get upset when a character isn’t described right away while at the same time condemning every writer’s trick for describing. No looking in mirrors allowed, no thinking about the color of your hair as you push it out of your face, no “pale tresses”, no nothing. I agree with all of those–well, except for “She pushed her dark/pale hair out of her face,” because I think complaining about that is a little pedantic, although I don’t do it myself and don’t think it’s a huge deal either way. I mean, I may not think “I’m pushing my blonde hair out of my eyes” but if it’s in my eyes I’m seeing the color and I do know what color it is anyway)?
In other words, what do these people look like to you? Does that change as you get to “know” them better? Does their appearance have any effect on your enjoyment of the book?
A Couple of Endnotes:
The Book Roast blog is up and running! So please pop by and hang out for a while, there’s lots of cool stuff going on!
Thanks to all those who emailed or commented about my MIL. She is fine, doing very well.