Sunday, December 13, 2009

Research: Tom Brady in a Wet T-Shirt

One of the toughest challenges we face when we write love stories is coming up with heros who excite our readers. Those making movies or TV have only to find someone who looks and sounds the right way to get the ladies slavering.

After all, when you can show your audience someone who looks like what you see above, it almost doesn't matter what story you put around him.

But when we write stories we have to make readers feel that kind of zing using only what our hero says, does, and thinks and what other characters can put into words about their perceptions of the hero.

This would appear to place us at a disadvantage, but it could be argued that if we do our job properly, the heroes we construct are more satisfying to us, emotionally, than are those pretty boys we see in films.

That's because when we read about them we engage with them so much more deeply. We know what they're thinking. We know what emotions they experience and how intensely they they experience them. We know how they think about their past and how they dream about their future. Movies rarely show us that.

What, after all, is Mr Firth really thinking when we see him looking intense in a photo? Does his soul resonate with the intensity we imagine him having, or is it just a trick of the light? Is he brooding about his wounded heart or fighting an attack of dyspepsia? Could the pain he so obviously feels be due to the poor performance of his stock portfolio? With the image, we never find out. In a romance, because we learn so much about the hero's inner life, we do.

Still, once we have written our hero and made him think and behave in ways that render him irresistible to our readers, we do have to put some work into conveying what he looks like. When we do, we have to struggle mightily to avoid cliches. Craggy brows, high cheekbones, and hair as black as ravens' wings do not distinguish our hero from all the other aspirants to the hero's crown.

So what does? In an attempt to answer that I turn to Google Images and hunt up photos of attractive men. Then I challenge myself to see if I can describe their faces or physiques without using any of the standard cliches.

Amid my researches I went looking for images to help me describe the Cavalry Officer hero of my WIP. Given how fit such a man must be I turned for inspiration to that modern warrior, Tom Brady and I did not come away empty handed. Peyton may be having a better year, but he will never look as hot!

How useful this particular research technique will be, only my eventual readers will be able to tell me. Meanwhile, as print-outs of hunks come to adorn every free surface of my office, the World's Nicest Man has suddenly adopted a new fitness regimen and is working very hard on his pecs.

There are days when it is really a lot of fun to be a writer of Romance!

1 comment:

Pamela Cayne said...

Yes, we live a tough life, don't we? I especially like it when the character you have in mind really matches the photo you find, and a whole new being is created. I would have never thought of sports stars--for some reason I just gravitate towards tv/movie stars. Thanks for giving me a new (and obvious!) place to look for inspiration!