We’ve all read those novels. You know the ones.
- The heroine has been riding in a covered wagon for two months when she meets the dashing cowboy who saves the wagon train. He finds her lovely in spite of the fact that she hasn’t washed her hair since late winter and it’s now well into spring.
- The heroine is lost in a storm in the English countryside. When the hero finds her the rain has made her hair spring into ringlets that cling to her cheeks and her gown is, err, also clinging to her curves.
- The modern-day heroine is volunteering in a community garden where she ends up working in the mud with at-risk children. When the hero encounters her he can’t resist swiping a smudge of dirt from her adorable cheek.
And I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with all that. Often, it works. As readers we don’t necessarily want to think about going to the bathroom, sweating, or having a really bad hair day. I don’t know about you, but I’m reading to escape much of that!
And yet. Here’s how I look after taking Thistle for a hike and helping my own personal hero with yard work. I went into the bathroom to start washing up and couldn’t stop laughing. Let’s see . . .
Her skin glistened while errant curls sprang from her brow. Her cheeks exhibited a rosy glow of health and Joe Dashing simply could not take his eyes from her.
No, I guess he couldn’t. Thank goodness my husband was working in another part of the yard and I was able to get myself into a semblance of order before he saw me.
So as a reader, how real do you want writers to get? I wrote a heroine who was fuller-figured than her peers and was absolutely covered in freckles. But she was still attractive–especially to the hero. I’m writing a character now with a significant birthmark who is otherwise stereotypically lovely.
What do you say? Do you want more physically flawed characters? Or would you rather preserve the illusion that there’s such a thing as someone who looks good all the time?
I think I’ll go with minor flaws, but I’m not giving any character I write hair like . . . well . . . like mine after a stint in the yard in the heat!