Monday, September 12, 2011

He's sooooo hot...or not.

I read an interesting Tweet and a few blog posts to go with it regarding characters and their looks—particularly the appearance of male love interests in YA. Rarely do I see a male love interest described as anything other than gorgeous.
A tip for writers: Don't tell me he's gorgeous every other line.
This drives me nuts, because often my idea of 'hot' differs greatly from that of others.
Maggie Stiefvater did a great job of this in her SHIVER series. Of course Grace thought Sam was attractive, but Sam was never really described as being drop-dead gorgeous. In fact, he was skinny and had a kind of emo-kid look about him. And yet there was something about Sam that makes him far more gorgeous to me than most other male love interests I've read about, and it more has to do with his personality and Grace's reactions to him.
The real trick is to let the reader in on what he looks like (but, please, please don't spend every other page going on about it), and show us how the character observing is responding to that. Hell, maybe her love interest is hot to all the other girls at school, but your MC really isn't attracted to him at first because he isn't her type.
Attraction really can be a purely emotional thing. One of the most fun parts I had in writing HUSHED was watching, as the story unfolded, how my MC's perception of the person he (initially) loved transformed from the first page to the last as his eyes opened to the person she really was.
Someone you love will be more attractive than anyone else when he's sweet and fun and makes you feel like the luckiest person alive, and the hottest boy on campus won't be so appealing when you think the way he laughs is obnoxious and he likes shoving kids into lockers.  
Though this makes me curious, who're some of your favorite YA love interests (be them male or female), and why?

Also, also...edited to say: my first ARCs for HUSHED are now out in the wild!


  1. Hands down, Marcus Flutie from Meg McCafferty's Jessica Darling books. He has red hair, tattoos, and writes Jessica a poem that he turns into a song and sings for her at one point in the series. Just like you mentioned in Shiver, I loved Marcus because of the way he was described and the things he said to and did for Jessica. I still think of any hot guy as a "Marcus Flutie."

  2. That's a tough one. I have like all the mc that are guys for different reason. Looks are just a plus!

  3. Thanks so much for this! This is a great point that I think a lot of YA writers fail to miss. In my MS, I did this without even realizing it. I don't put much detail into my love interest's looks, aside from one aspect of them that my MC really loves (eyes for one, hair for another, smile for another). By focusing on this one aspect (especially the eyes) I can focus more on what my MC likes about their personality as well.

    I love Lend from Kiersten White's PARANORMALCY. Though he puts on 'glammors' or the appearance of attractive guys, Evie really isn't bothered when he's a pudgy kid with pimples either, because she's attracted to the real him underneath.

  4. Tiffany, I thought about Lend, too, for the same reasons! He sort of tested her to see if she just liked how he looked, and it was more than that. :)
    Thanks for this post, York. I love gorgeous boys as much as the next girl, but I don't need to hear every other page how they're as beautiful as an angel, etc.
    I can't count the number of times I've met an incredibly good-looking guy in real life, only to get to know him and eventually think he's not so hot after all...I'd like to see more of that reality in YA.

  5. @Elizabeth, oh my God, Marcus Flutie. He's topped my hottest-boys-from-books list forever. He's so fully realized, quirky and flawed, absolutely human.

    One of my favorite things about Marcus is that his attractiveness ALWAYS comes second to his personality. And his personality is blazing hot.

  6. I was thinking about Lend, but I'd say his attractiveness severely deflated for me after reading Supernaturally.

    Okay, since I certainly cannot give one answer to this question, I will make a list that is in no particular order.

    1) Jace Wayland from the Mortal Instruments series.
    2) Will Herondale from the Infernal Devices series.
    3) Jem Carstairs from the Infernal Devices series.
    4) Adrian Ivashkav from the Vampire Academy series.
    5) Dimitri Belikov from the Vampire Academy series.
    6) Peeta Mellark from the Hunger Games series.
    7) Every single guy from Sarah Dessen's books (except the dude in Dreamland....)
    8) Mason Ashford from the Vampire Academy series :'(
    9) Christian Ozera from the Vampire Academy series
    10) Shay from the Nightshade series by Andrea Cremer.

    Oh god...I'll stop there but there are so many moreeee!!!!

  7. I write Y/A. Yes, my mc is a good looking guy, but there is so much more to him. I flawed him a bit by giving him average height instead of the perfect 6' 1''. He's also a bit of a womanizer in the beginning.

    He's the type of character that grows on you through the story as his true personality is chipped away by his best buddy and girlfriend. And to spice it up more I added a triangle as both boys are in love with her.

  8. Ugh! The fastest way to get me to drop a book is if there is an "instant attraction" between the MC and the romance interest. I want to fall in love with the boy over the course of the book. I'm so sick of perfect boys who can do no wrong. My biggest book crush is a man who, for most of the book, is portrayed as a vain, selfish, cowerdly man who steals women's hearts.

    In my WIP, my MC is currently with an overpierced criminal mastermind and ultimately ends up with a tall, sort of geeky pianist with a prominate nose :-)

  9. I second "Every single guy from Sarah Dessen's books", but especially Wes. (I can't comment on Dreamland, don't think I read it)

    And with the first draft of my YA romance, even I was annoyed by my constant use of the word "perfect." ewwww (it has been seriously curbed in editing!)

  10. I LOVE Adam from Gayle Foreman's If I Stay books. There is very little physical description of him and we see more of who he is as a person and how he loves Mia.

    I don't need the OMG he's drop dead gorgeous to fall in love with a book guy, I just need enough so that I can imagine him perfect in my mind :)

  11. OH MAN! I so agree with you! I'm like "god, stop telling me how perfect his face is and show me some of his personality!"

    I really like Jem from the Infernal Devices. And Derek from The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong - she even says he's not as attractive as Simon, but she still likes him!

  12. Love these comments, guys! Plus, it's giving me some good book recs. ;)

    kathleenliz, my biggest book crush is described as beautiful...but he's also a coward and a complete and utter jerk! Go figure. And I'm okay with an instant attraction, so long as it's not overdone. In one of my MSs, the love interest clumsily tries (and fails) to flirt with the MC because he thinks the MC is cute. I'm not a fan of the love-at-first-sight thing, though.

    Sarah, EXACTLY! Less physical description and staring at one another, more interaction!

    Lauren, Oh, I adore Adam! I haven't read the second book, but he was darling in the first one!

  13. York, who is your fav?

    YOu know I'm a romance nut, but I def agree with you. I'm not big on instant love and though my boys feel good looking to me, I think it's because I love them. I don't think I go on about how gorgeous they are? You can probably tell me if I do since you read my stuff. LOL.

    On boys... I LOVE Justin from Tara Kelly's Harmonic Feedback. Awesome, awesome book and one I think you would like. You should check it out. I don't remember her ever mentioning how gorgeous he is, but to me, he's to die for ;)

    HUGE fan of Adam from If I Stay/Where She Went as well. He's prob my fav.

    Sigh. I am also head over heels for Jace... I can't help it. There is something about a sarcastic, tortured hero that makes me melt.

    I could go on... but I probably shouldn't.

    And who is this Marcus Flutie? Sounds like something I should read.