Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Hair, Glorious Hair: What Kind of Do Attracts You?

Help Wanted: Romance writer in desperate need of new ways to describe hero and heroine's hair is looking for creative solutions from her readers. 

I've written about my weak areas as a writer. One of them is setting. I know I need to weave it in, but it's not my favorite thing to write about. I have friends who love to write about locations. They can wax poetic about rooms, interiors and exteriors. Me? I have to remind myself to layer that stuff in cause I'm happy being in my people's heads.

Another area I'm weak in is the clothing department. What the heck are these two people wearing? And why? I honestly could care less about their clothing choices, but I know I have to put them in something. They can't be naked throughout the entire book. Sure, in bits and pieces it is okay, but then that has to be part of the natural progression of their story. I confess. I'm not a clothes horse--I had to go to Canada to visit my BFF before I went shopping. I trusted her to put me in great clothes. It is NOT my forte at all. I may have to hire her as a consultant when I finally do publish a book :-).

And here is another sad truth: the hero and heroine's hair has become an issue for me. The first book was easy because I used my hair color. Blond. I go to that one a lot. My heroine usually has blond hair. I know blond hair. I am trying to branch out to other colors, but I don't know what it is like to be a redhead or a brunette. I only know blond.

Help! Does hair color impact the personality of the heroine? What colors do you go to when you describe your heroines' hair color? Are they similar to your hair color or your friends? Share your secrets with me. I need a gorgeous auburn hair colored heroine. Or one with hair the color of a copper penny. What about a sleek brunette? A sable headed beauty? A rich caramel colored mane of hair? How does that compare to a honey blond?

My guys usually have tousled, slightly brown hair with gold tips. They have hair that reminds me of a man who is slightly on the wild side. You know the guy that rides a motorcycle and has windblown, wavy hair that begs for a woman to slide her hands through the locks. Sigh. I lean to a bit of curl in the hair. A bit of wildness. I don't think I've written about a sleek, dark haired hero. I've got one in the works, but brooding dark haired heroes don't often come to mind. I like my guys to be mavericks on the move.

What about you? What hair color choices do you have for your heroes? I wonder if readers prefer to read about the kind of guy that attracts them (now you know my type) or if all that matters is what is in the dude's head and how he treats the heroine. I remember my first book. I based the hero loosely on Viggo Mortensen. Lord of the Rings had just been released. Honestly, was he not beautiful in that movie? Oh my goodness I could watch him play Aragorn on a daily basis. What an amazing hero. Sigh. Oddly enough my BFF read the book and she had a different image come to her mind. Richard Gere! Granted, Richard is a hottie and on my hero wall of inspiration so I guess he bled into the pages.

Do readers just superimpose their own visual on top of the one writers try to create? Given my imperfect scientific data point--one--I believe so.

The thing is does hair matter? Does the color matter? Does the length matter? Will a short-haired, gamin heroine who is built like a pixie or Tinkerbell evoke different reader responses than a long-haired tall and curvaceous blond like Katherine Heigl? You tell me. I wonder about that. What about dark haired beauties versus blond bombshells? Will a dark, brooding hero with black hair the color of night give a different kind of ooh la la shiver to the reader than a hero with long, slightly unruly chestnut colored hair that looks like it was dipped into sunshine? You tell me.

Of course they're all beautiful, gorgeous, ruggedly handsome, broodingly attractive--they're perfection on the page. But they aren't perfect on the inside. They're flawed, afraid, needing to grow, needing each other more than they know before they can feel complete. Isn't that what a reader really is looking for in a hero and a heroine? The internal journey toward each other?

You tell me. And if you've got any tips about hair that I can use in my stories, please share!


Ellen Brickley said...

I've been a brunette most of my life but I went blonde for six months when I was 16. My natural hair colour is like Jennifer Morrison's was when she was a brunette, and blonde didn't really suit me.

I felt a little different as a blonde - mostly I didn't feel like ME. Growing up, I had dark hair, I was (and am) short, and my figure is best described as small hourglass. I'm also the whitest person ever apart from Kristen Stewart.

And over here, the images of beauty I was bombarded with were of women who were tall, blonde, tanned, and surgically enhanced to combine maximum curviness with maximum skinniness. Even my best feature (I have brown eyes which is an uncommon thing in Ireland), which people told me were nice, didn't conform. They could be nice all they wanted, but they were supposed to be blue.

I was in my late teens before I realised that some people actually think that little dark/pale girls are the best thing out there :)

And when I went blonde, because I just HAD to try it, I didn't feel like me. I realised I had developed an odd affection for my non-confirming body and I didn't want to change it. I wanted society to change how they saw it. And when I saw women like, say, Jennifer Morrison considered sex symbols, even though I'm a feminist and don't think women should aspire to that, I still thought 'Cool!'

Now if we could just start finding big women more beautiful, we'd really be getting somewhere!

I guess being a brunette I felt that I didn't conform to what beauty should be. And when I started to meet people who actively preferred it (girls who wanted to dye their fair hair darker, men who preferred brunettes), it was a bit of a revelation! The media had got it wrong!

Apologies for the ramble - if I had to summarise I'd say that as a brunette, I felt outside of what could be considered attractive, but as a blonde, I felt like I was in disguise. I felt like I had gone undercover to see how the other half lived.

And I always got tons more attention as a brunette, probably because when I'm a brunette, I feel like me. I'd love to try going red sometime, but only if I could switch back at will, because I'm a brunette to the bone.

Christine said...

I love your story, Ellen. This is exactly the kind of thing that enriches our writing, too. I think if we go against our natural type, be it blond or brunette or red head, we aren't "ourselves" at all. I love all types. I'm a buxom blond of Dutch descent. My daughter is also a tall, buxom and voluptuous blond. We cheat now on the blond, but I don't know any other way to be. Yesterday we were in the doctor's office for my teen's annual visit. Dr. said my girl is beautiful. And then we talked about how the media really makes us want to aspire to what we are NOT. That's an interesting topic. We should blog about that, too. I wonder sometimes if our books, our romances, are perpetuating the idea of perfection, but then I always try to give my people a slight imperfection. They're not always the typically gorgeous people as portrayed by the media.

Very wonderful comment! Thanks for sharing!

Paula said...

I'm a lifelong brunette, and I have to force myself to write blond heroines, because I don't know much about being a blonde.

And, perhaps not coincidentally, the two blondes I've written so far were both tortured heroines. LOL

I do feel fairly comfortable with red-heads, perhaps because I have a red-head's complexion despite being dark-eyed and dark-haired.

Because I write gritty romantic suspense, my heroines are usually pony-tailed, messy-haired or wear simple, utilitarian styles. They dress in tees, button-up work shirts or slacks, much like the heroes.

And since I find dark-haired men far more attractive than blond-haired men, most of my heroes are dark-haired. They generally wear their hair cropped short (because a lot of them are military or former military).

Perhaps I should branch out! LOL!

Anne Gallagher said...

I was prematurely grey at 15 so I dyed it, probably from my 20's until I had the Monster Child when I was 42. I've since let it go completely and am now all grey.

When Miss Clairol and I got together we always went for shades of dark red, mahogany with a touch of cherry, deep brunette with auburn highlights.

I have to say, people do treat you differently depending on hair color. When I was grey in my 20's (because sometimes you just have to let your hair 'rest') people assumed I had some kind of disease or affliction. When I was a redhead, they thought I was 'wild'. (Of which I may have had a fling or two but for the most part I was a preppie.)

Blonds, unfortunately carry the stereotype, either that or they're 'fragile'. Redheads are wild and troublemakers. Sables are mysterious. (My BFF had jet black hair and almond shaped eyes and boy howdy the men drooled over her.) Brunettes are generally thought of as comfortable.

Well, at least in my old neighborhood.

In my stories I always try and have the villainess be a red-head. The hero always has to be in love with the woman whose hair color is the exact opposite of his.

As for your descriptions, I think you nailed it perfectly, especially the copper penny. Mind if I use that one?

Jean Hovey said...

Hair matters a lot to me, but I love a detail so eye color and the color of the sofa matter to.

Our present hero is very straitlaced and buttoned up. His hair is dark and curly but he has it cut is layers so it lays flat. Yet, when he gets harried, he runs his hand through it and curls spring up all over his head.

Stephanie prefers dark hair for heroes. I tend to prefer blonds. I also usually like hair a little longer than the norm.

Though I would run screaming before I would storyboard, I do like pictures of my characters. I mostly cut them out of Vanity Fair because that about the only magazine I read. Sometimes the picture comes first. Sometimes I know what my character looks like and I have to go looking for apicture. The later is much harder.

Stephanie and I have a lot children in our books. Finding pictures of them is hard.

Off the subject but an oddity--I tend to make boy children look like their mothers and girl children look like their fathers. I don't know why.

Gwen Hernandez said...

Interesting post. I often find that my image of the character doesn't match the author's description. Once I have my own vision it doesn't matter what they say.

If I know right off the bat that the woman is a pixie-sized redhead with spiky hair, that will probably stick in some way, though. ;-)

For my own writing, I probably choose blonde women more often, but I've had several dark-haired heroines as well. My heroes often have short hair because they're military, but if it's long, there's always a little curl at the ends.

A bigger problem than hair for me is clothing. Like you, I'm not a big shopper and have very little interest in fashion. I would really struggle to write a fashionable character.

I'll have to get some advice soon, though. My current MS has a wealthy secondary character who is as comfortable on the red carpet as she is in a military uniform.

As far as how it feels to be blonde, for me it just is. Because I'm so fair, I've always lamented a lack of visible eyebrows. And when I pull my hair back, I have no visible hairline. My face just fades back into my head. ;-)

I can totally relate to Ellen's body issues too. I've been short and curvy/stocky my whole life. And pasty white no matter how hard I tried in my youth to get some color. (Living in AZ and CA did not help since everyone else was so tan!)

Not sure any of that helps, but you got me thinking. =)

Christine said...

Hi Paula: Thanks for stopping in to see me on the Veranda! I love that your heroines are gritty and real. That's awesome. It's funny how we tend to write to what we're comfortable writing--ourselves to a large degree, but I believe my heroines are much slimmer and younger LOL. Perhaps I should try a dark haired hero. Branching out might be fun!

Christine said...

Hi Anne: I had a friend who went prematurely white haired as well. Wow. That's so rare. I think it is genetic. I think it is super interesting that people responded to you differently based on your hair color. And red heads are often portrayed as wild hellions. So true! I'm a blond to the core. I am smart, but I'm super forgetful and absent minded so people think I'm ditzy. I don't mind too much. I let them think what they like while I quietly go about noodling my stories.

And yes, you can use my copper penny description!


Christine said...

Hi Jean: Your new hero sounds delicious. I love a man with curl in his hair. A little wild beneath the surface of his straight laced persona is very interesting indeed. I bet the heroine is quite attracted to him :-)

I collage as well. I love having visuals of my peeps to keep me focused. I have a collage book for the series I was working on. I like using MENS HEALTH for the men. Very attractive, scantily clad men in that magazine.

And I find it interesting that you model your girls after their dads and the boys after their moms. I tend to do a blend.

Thanks for sharing!

Christine said...

Gwen: I don't know if I'll be able to advise you well regarding the red carpet stuff. I do like to read the tabloid magazines for that kind of info. And googling the stars helps. Your heroine sounds very interesting.

I can imagine it's hard to be the whitest lass in the room when all the others are so super tanned in CA and AZ!!!

I'm a dark blond so I don't have the light eyebrows and lashes. And I'm a cheater blond. I'm L'Oreal 9 1/2 Cool Blonde LOL.

My daughter had super light eyebrows when she was a little girl. I drew them on her when she was 3 so she could be more like Belle in her Halloween costume. She looked so cute.

Now she has brows, but they're a bit lighter than mine.

Lexi said...

I'm all over the place with hair color for my characters, maybe because I've been every color in the rainbow but black! I'm working on my fourth book and so far I have two brunettes, a blond and a redhead--heroines, that is. As for my guys, two with dark hair, one blond and one redhead. I just try to figure out what works for each character. Time will tell whether my process works!

Christine said...

Hi Lexi: You have a smorgasbord of hair colors! Love that and can't wait to read about all your characters after your first novel debuts. Woot! I'm sure your process works :-)

Katherine Bone said...

Oh! Great topic! My heroes and heroines comes fully formed. I know what they look like and must find a photo of someone with that character's characteristics. Hair, jawline, brow, nose, eye set and color, already formed. Height, weight, etc... I'm lucky that my characters know what they look like and tell me. What I have to wait on often enough is their personalities. I know what they are about and why, but sometimes I have to wait a bit to find out their eccentricities.

Since I write historicals, everything is important to setting the mood and foundation of the book. If I was to write a contemporary, I guess I would go about this the same way because that is my process.

I would encourage you to remember that a story is only as good as its characters and how they interact. If you are handling their interactions well, the rest will come. Sounds like you're doing a fab job, Christine!

I do like Alpha males with an edge, straddling the line of good vs evil, while juggling a lot of honor, loyalty and angst. These heroes beg for the perfect heroine and she usually comes packaged to do her worst and make the hero rise to the occasion. ;)

Katherine Bone said...

Then again, a red-head will most assuredly be the spunky heroine that will keep the hero on his toes. The more Irish or Scottish the better. LOL!

Christine said...

Hi Kathy: I love spunky heroines and you're right--they are often red heads!! I love to collage my people and have a visual connection to them. Sounds like your process is similar to mine but more in depth. I think world building is very important in all genres.

Your heroes sound delicious.