Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Chest Collection

Obviously, we're not talking about the wooden square boxes used for storage. No, we're talking about men and their fabulous bodies gracing the covers of many romance novels. The pictures above and below are courtesy of two of my writing friends: Rosie Murphy w/a Gabriella Edwards and Becke Martin. Rosie started the collection and Becke began posting them on her site. I couldn't resist getting involved. They've been generous in letting me use a few of their favorites for the purpose of this post.

We all have different tastes in the type of stories we like to read. The same holds true in our taste for the looks of our hero. We have preferrences we instinctively gravitate toward whether its blondes, baby faces, or tall, dark and handsome. When it comes to the look and feel of our leading man's chest, well, the differences continue. We go to extremes, liking the smooth and hairless to the furry bear like types. Personally, I like a light sprinkle of hair running across the chest, down the center, playing around the belly button and leading south. I'll pick tall, dark and ruggedly handsome every time.

Jenny Crusie said in a workshop at this years RWA Conference that we don't need to describe our characters in great detail because the reader sees in her/his mind their own version of the character. This is so true, I do this more with the hero, inserting my preferrences. The author can tell me he's blonde and slender, but you better believe in my mind I'm beefing him up and putting dark hair on his head and chest.

So, tell me your preferences. When reading a good romance novel what image is in your head of the hero you and the heroine are falling in love with? Take time to enjoy the pictures and then tell me about your hero, whether he's your real life hero or the leading man in your favorite novel.


Keri Stevens said...

This is a great, good thing you do this day. Thank you!

Becke Davis said...

Ah yes. I debated sharing these on my website. Some, the uninitiated, might consider them tacky. But I decided I owed to the romance reading public to share these wonders of the chest world. (I have mentioned this collection to my husband, who is of the opinion that these chests are air-brushed. As if I care! He can have his Jennifer Love Hewitt-types; I'll take the Chest Collection.)

I think it actually started with Rosie's penchant for bare-chested men in kilts. She was down in the dumps -- Imposter Syndrome had struck -- and I was looking to cheer her up. I searched "men in kilts" and discovered a whole new world.

I swear to God, men did not have chests like this when I was a teenager. Paul McCartney now:

And then:

(And didn't they just hate for us to be exposed to any male chest in those days!)

So, now that I've totally lost my train of thought, I'll just add one more favorite:

Rosie Murphy said...

LOL! Yes, do I remember that! I really don't want to sound so shallow, but all I had to do was look at a nice, beefy chest with the kilt hanging ever so low on the hip and BAM! I was revived. And Tina, I'm sure you can guess who I picture ALL the time. His initials are GB. *giggle, giggle*

Christina Wolfer said...

Rosie, you crack me up!

I'm sure we all agree with Becke in not caring if the chests are air-brushed. I read the post to my husband, not really thinking about my preferences, he looked at me very seriously when I was done and asked, "Do I need to shave?"

Tonya Kappes said...

My hero doesn't have a physical appearance for me. Though I like a nice chest, it just doesn't do it for me. I tend to write about the nice guy-the ones you hear about finishing last. As a matter of fact, I am a cherry with Jenny Cruise and I have heard her say that about description. I don't put a lot of value in what they look like by description either.

Michelle Buonfiglio said...

GB...GB...Our former president? Did he have a nice chest, Rosie? Cause I don't remember Barbara ever saying...

Thanks for this great post, Christina! I'm w/you on the hair thang. And while I'm not crazed about the trend in decapitating fully or partially the hero on covers (gosh, cause it's so unlike me to advocate the objectification of men or male body parts -- shush, Rosie) these covers you chose sure are perty.

Now, I do like a description and I've not heard many readers say they don't care, or that they make their own description of heroes and other characters. I've heard them say they disregard cover models. I've heard women say they use heroines as placeholders and manipulate some characteristics for comfort (um, like making a heroine, let's say, short, ,hypothetically speaking).

But in terms of heroes, I want to know what you as an author envision for the guy. As an 'intent' reader, I've found myself paging back, trying to figure out what the guy looks like, wondering why the author felt it didn't matter. Because there's a gestalt, for me, about looks, motivation, interaction, arc toward self-determination, etc. If a hero's not great looking, got craggy skin, is scarred, has unfashionable short/long/queued/cropped hair, etc., it tells me much about, for instance, how long he takes to groom, whether he's got a funny self-absorption w/his looks that the heroine will kid him about, is so not good looking that nobody understands why the heroine thinks he's hot....

But I don't want to have to imagine him. Because left to my own devices they'll all be dark haired, dark-green eyed and big in all ways. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Christina Wolfer said...

I’m glad you told me this. As your CP, I will quit insisting you need more description. You do have a wonderful way of getting the personalities of your characters across.

I agree that description of the hero tells me something about him, it gives me a feel about who he is and that sticks with me through the story. The flaws and/or differences go a long way in making the hero irresistible. But when I’m reading, if I don’t like the visual the author has given me with the description then I’ll find myself reverting to my preferences on a subconscious level.

As a writer, I have been surprised that my own hero’s aren’t all dark haired, green-eyed hunks, but they take on a life of their own in my head and usually it seems I have no control over what they look like – they are who they are. Even with that, I’m better off finding a picture to resemble my hero or midway through the story I find myself writing that she looked into his green eyes… oh, did he have green eyes? Hehehe

Thanks, Ladies, for stopping by and leaving a comment.

Christine said...

I know readers want to make their own images, but contest judges want lots of detail... where to draw the line?