I always find it interesting when people say being attracted by looks is superficial and you should go out with people based on personality. I would love to see these same people see somebody they find hideously ugly and go up to them with an “oh, you’re ugly but I’d like to go out with you and get to know you” approach. The reality is we’re visual creatures. If you don’t know a person then how will you know what their personality is like? If you’re just seeing a person, like a new hire at work, a new person in the church, a man or woman at the supermarket, then you don’t have personality to fall back on. Physical attraction will be a driving force in being motivated to make the connection.
That being said, writing isn’t any different. Characters have to have something that’s attracting them to each other in a believable way to let the reader know why these two are attracted to each other. Like in Mr. Perfect, Linda Howard’s suspense romance oldie but goodie, the leading man was first seen through the leading lady’s eyes as a possible drunk who was belligerent. He always had red eyes was wearing battered looking clothes, made far too much noise at ungodly hours of the night, and was just cranky. Yeah, to say she wasn’t attracted to the man would be an understatement. But in one hostile encounter she finds out he’s a cop, who comes in at ungodly hours because he’s hot and heavy with the case he’s working and his car is so noisy because it’s the car he’s using undercover I believe, and on top of that, he’s not a cranky drunk; he’s just sleep deprived. She starts to see him differently gradually and so we, the reader, get to see him too.
It’s amazing how a few physical defects could turn a person off at first read, but getting to know the character more in depth can really bring about an attraction.
Looks are important and they always will be. But they are not the glue binding factor in having a relationship start, or even survive. All things fade, go south, get wrinkly and change. So when building a vision of a life partner fictionally or otherwise, it’s good to think about the behind the mask factors of attraction. In old sayings terms, beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder.
Tomorrow I’ll Dish about how I determine what my characters look like and the work that goes into building a physical appearance in the fictional world I’m diving into.