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HM On Writing Stray Toughts

About Men-watching Women and Women-Watching Men and Everything In Between

People watch people. There’s nothing new in this, but the trend may have intensified over the last few decades. May I add that I’ve chosen the terms ‘woman’ and ‘man’, ‘hero’ and ‘heroine’ for clarity? With the gender diversification that is an important part of our world, it would be difficult to give everybody his or her due.

Every second cover of a romance novel presents broad chests and a six-pack, preferably naked. Throw in a few tattoos and the heartthrob of the twenty-first century appears. Opening such books, it is no surprise that the content matches the cover. The heroine is obsessed with the hero’s physique and sometimes it seems that his appearance is her only criterium for falling in love. The reader wades through broad chests, strong arms, and hefty built creatures, who often haven’t got much to say for themselves. If the heroine is only interested in a man’s appearance, no wonder that she gets into trouble.

Broad chests and rippling muscles are all very well, but other aspects may help to enlighten the reader to a character’s personality.

No doubt, this mirrors the situation in the world at present. At least, in the corporate world. Nobody who isn’t groomed to within an inch of his or her life should bother to seek an interview. It is good for the beauty industry of course. It is good for the nail salons and the beauticians, and all the other well-educated people who work in clothing design or peddle the newest diet. It is good for all the gyms that sprout all over the place. People get healthier through exercising and eating healthy food.

That is all good. All the same, many people can’t afford to follow the trendy diets or get the perfect haircuts. Some of these, especially the most vulnerable, get depressed and fat through being confronted with endless youth and beauty. They may be as worthy and as intelligent as those high-flying lookers. Don’t forget, some people just can’t or may not want to follow the trends. On that note, how can we forgo mentioning the surgeons that enhance or diminish body parts according to their clients’ wishes? Botched operations can ruin lives too. Is it worth it?

To return to the romance novels and their part in this. One could add Hollywood and – Bollywood films to the offenders. Don’t get me started on the advertising world. I digress. Is there anything as endearing as the floppy male with wit? What about people with eyes to die for? What happened to intimate talks and banter? A protagonist with pumped-up biceps can never cut it compared to a man or woman capable of a well-turned sentence. Am I wide off the mark here?

I agree that there is something restful in watching a beautiful person, regardless of sex. For me, that is something different from the current trend. Long and lean muscles seem more attractive to me, compared with the gym fabrications. Tell me what is wrong with a small pot-belly – if it’s combined with a soul? At the end of the day, how many men – or women – have ‘perfect’ bodies joined with an enjoyable mind? Of course, there’s nothing wrong with natural beauty, but it isn’t the beginning or end of the world.

Free us from heroines that can’t see a soul for a display of muscles. Free us from the hero who is attached to a mirror. Free us from heroines who spend their time shopping and believe that looks alone will engender happiness.

© HMH, 2020

11 replies on “About Men-watching Women and Women-Watching Men and Everything In Between”

A well argued look at modern trends in physical attributes and our attitude to them, Hanne. I agree with every point you make. Many young people (and some not so young) obsess over their appearance, which is not a healthy attitude to life. People with wit, a sense of humour, and a caring nature, are generally so much nicer to know. Seeing a half naked man (or revealingly clad woman) on the cover of a book is enough to put me off it before I even know the title.

Although I believe that people always cared about appearances, there’s no doubt that the current obsession has gone way over the top.
Those half naked poster guys are off-putting to me too.
As always, I’m grateful for your kind words and the interest you show in my work.

Unfortunately for a lot of people, it’s not until they themselves get older that they realize how important it is to have a sense of humor, to be wise and caring, and to just be a nice human being! Beauty fades, but your personality pretty much stays with you.

That is too true, Debi, but that’s the core problem too. We only wise up when it’s too late to develop an attractive personality, so if we didn’t have it from the start, we get caught in our own mistakes.

Yes, that is true. On the other hand, everything we do leads us on to new experiences and a possibility to gain wisdom.

This is so true! I have tried to minimize my “sins” in this area in of my books by eliminating how beautiful/handsome characters are unless they’re seen that way by another character. I hope you don’t mind my bringing up a specific book of mine—I won’t name it because I want to point out something I deliberately did. There are two minor characters, witches. The female is a lovely and man-hungry, she goes after the hunks. The other is a man whose hands, arms, and a shoulder were physically damaged. He saves her life, takes care of her, and she falls for him. When I wrote them, I decided they’d have a more prominent part in next, next book, and that I should strive for more characters like that. It’s important for us writers to reach everyone, not just those looking for the beautiful. Everyone has worth.

It is a good idea to give characters something to struggle with, whether it is of a physical nature or otherwise. The problem about building believable characters — something we all struggle with — is to give them depth rather than looks. I like your idea about the witches and salute you for thinking about these matters. I rarely describe my characters in full, wanting to leave something to the readers imagination. My approach is mostly to let their actions speak for them. I heartly agree that everyone has worth. Even those characters that make the reader mad at them. . .

I think I will make a point of trying to include disabilities in fantasy. In my second dragon book I tried to address elder issues, as well as having young dragons deal with elders respectfully in their family units. I had so much fun with baby dragons!

Fantasy dragons sometimes display almost human qualities, don’t they? They aren’t beautiful seen through human eyes, but that doesn’t mean that they haven’t their ideas of what constitutes beauty.
Disabilities have an important part to play in so many ways, and I too believe they need a place in modern fiction.

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