Stevie Carroll (stevie_carroll) wrote,
Stevie Carroll

On Imperfect Bodies

A while ago I posted some links to pictures of different types of athletes showing off their bodies. Since then either I've become more aware of how many artificially perfect (by some people's standards) bodies there are out there in the worlds of stock photography and genre fiction, or the 'perfection' has become even more pronounced.

To be blunt, my reaction to most of the male bodies I see held up as examples of perfect musculature is first 'but what does it do?' followed by 'it doesn't look very comfy', and I've hugged an awful lot of very skinny goths in my time.

I'm writing about a character at the moment that I'm not actually going to describe in the text as 'somewhere between an oak tree and a grizzly bear' but it does strike me that I need to slip in a few more references to the fact that while he has muscular arms and legs from healthy (useful and constructive) outdoor pursuits, he's also suitably squishy around the middle. Plus he has an unruly hairstyle, a bushy beard, and body hair that doesn't follow any sort of tidy pattern. He's gruff, he's wary of getting to close to any one person (again), and although he'll go out of his way to help people, he's only randomly reliable because his priorities don't mesh with what people expect his priorities to be. Okay, I'm writing about friendship rather than romance, but I still think a character like that is far more interesting than a carbon-copy hero, especially if he doesn't change into an approximation of one one by the end of the story.

Female characters get slightly more leeway, where body shape is concerned, although I get the impression that a lot of genre writers and readers interpret 'plus-sized' as 'won't snap like a twig' rather than wanting a properly big (and curvy) woman. Likewise I've recently seen a writer enthuse about her imperfect character, who has had all those imperfections corrected before the start of the story and is left with only the insecurities that not starting out imperfect have left her with.

Where are the female characters with interesting, rather than perfect, features? Why don't we get the range of shapes, sizes and ages that I see at my local swimming pool? And as an aside why is a woman now considered a cougar (and I hate that word) if she's only a couple of years older than her love interest? Yes, I've written characters who are somewhat transformed by new clothes, or a new hairstyle, but generally that brings with it a whole new set of complications rather than suddenly making them noticed for all the 'right' reasons.

As another aside, what's with the insistence, even in some lesbian erotica, that every single character either has no body hair, or it's not mentioned at all? At least let the characters remain hairy in places that would be covered by an average-sized bikini that one could comfortably swim in! I've mentioned body hair in at least one sex scene, but now I feel like I should be explicitly mentioning it in every scene, rather than assuming people will read it as there if I haven't mentioned its absence.

So... Is it just me? Do other readers want to see my kind of imperfect characters? What human features do you most miss reading about in fictional characters?
Tags: on writing
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