Prompted, in part, by this blog post I read, today I reflect upon beautiful characters.
Sometimes I look at the collection of people I’ve created and pal around with, and I wonder: Do I write an inordinate number of characters “having qualities that delight the senses, especially the sense of sight”? Are their looks a blatant reflection of what I wish my mind’s eye to shamelessly gaze upon?
To some extent, yeah, probably. But there’s more to the story than that.
Take my tailor / life coach, Edgwyn. I happen to find him unfairly attractive, but I recognize that he may not be everybody’s type. That said, a lot of ladies in his world are attracted to him, too. Part of that is due to his being reasonably handsome – facial symmetry, glow of good health, good hair, that sort of thing.
But what really gets the gals’ attention (and mine) is his smile – twinkly-eyed, friendly, full of genuine warmth and love. It’s a smile that says, “I like you. You’re important to me. I wish you every good thing in the world.” People are drawn to that. That smile is an outward manifestation of his heart. Can I help it if his inner beauty makes his outside all the more beautiful to me? Particularly when he looks an exhausted mess after doing philanthropic things way past his bedtime. (:
Meanwhile, in a magical Renaissance Faire, you’ve got one of my most physically beautiful characters… no, Will, I’m not talking about you. I’m referring to Allyn-a-Dale. Oddly enough, I didn’t intend to make him extraordinarily good-looking, and didn’t even notice that I had until a couple months after I’d written his first book. How’d that happen?? Well, I blame his childhood.
Allyn wasn’t raised around mirrors. The only face he saw regularly was that of his father, a.k.a. the supreme and unattainable standard for everything. Father’s face was beautiful. Every other face was therefore lesser. Allyn barely knew what he looked like, and he didn’t care. And that attitude subliminally influenced his author’s early perception of him.
So, what can we learn from all this? One might think the moral of the story is that characters’ looks don’t matter, since what the character, their fellow characters, and we on the other side of the page will see may not have much to do with their actual faces. Sure, I can concede some partial truth, there.
On the other hand, that very disconnect between what’s really there and what we see can be used to the writer’s advantage. You think I knew the psychology behind the Allyn example all along? Nope! I had to figure it out once I realized, “Hey, wait a minute… he’s gorgeous! How did he and I miss this??” The puzzle of his invisibly beautiful face forced me to root around in his mind and uncover just how badly life had messed him up. And that made really good material for his second book.
And Edgwyn’s just a shining example of what we should all aspire to be, but he doesn’t like it when I talk him up, that way, so we’ll cut this paragraph short.
At the end of the day – or at the beginning of this blog post – when I’m looking around at all my characters, the conclusion I reach is that, yeah, I’ve written some beautiful people. I’ve also written some more mediocre-looking people that still get a good share of my shameless gazing. Why? Because I love them, of course. And what you love is always beautiful, in your eyes.