This is a subject I've been pondering and longing to discuss for awhile. What pushed me to finally do it was when an awesome crit partner, Bonnie R. Paulson, made a comment about the hero in my current project, who's a rock legend.
"I love how he's older," she said. "He makes me think of Jon Bon Jovi."
She had the hero's age about right, though I never specified besides a vague hint. And she had his musical era down pat. The musical genre? Close, but not quite. Appearance? Well, they're both hot and had long hair and gorgeous voices. Still, it wasn't close to who I pictured, and that's great!
My point? I think I have a win here. In fact, I hope another crit partner pictures Dave Grohl from the Foo Fighters, though that's even farther from my vision. Why? For the most part, I want the reader to picture their ideal rock star, not mine.
While men seem to have a stereotype on the "perfect woman," i.e. medium height, blonde hair, thin, big boobs, etc., Women's tastes in men vary a lot. Some like 'em brunette, some like 'em blonde. Some like 'em pale, some like 'em dark. My best friend likes guys her age, another friend likes younger guys. I always went for older men. Some women like chest hair and I don't. I love Virginia Henley's novels, but every time I read about the heroine threading her fingers through the hero's "pelt," I cringe...and sometimes gag a little. Other than that, her books kick ass!
While writing, I often wonder: How specific should I get with my descriptions of the hero? Should I point out that in my mind, his chest is always hairless, he always has long hair, and unless specified otherwise, his face is usually devoid of scruff?
Then there's the other side of the coin. The ideal is that the hero should always be tall, muscular, and well- endowed. (Seriously, I saw that in a publisher's submission guidelines.) I'm going to let you in on a little secret: Not all of my heroes are tall and hung. It seems redundant and unrealistic to me. Many fit those qualifications, but some of my guys are average...and some may be short in stature for a romance hero...and okay, I admit, none are "below average" in the other aspect.
So far, I'm handling this by not getting too specific about those details. With some heroes, I'll point out that they're tall and have bare chests, but with others, I won't specify. I'll just mention his chest, or his presence with no reference to height or body hair at all. Same with the size of his junk. The reader can fill that in. One thing I won't bend on is that my heroes will either always have long hair, or they'll be bald. I'm an all or nothing kind of girl. :)
I remember an online discussion in which someone said, "If a man in a romance novel has long hair, I block it out."
Well, I'm the same way. Unless the author constantly emphasizes the hero's short hair, I picture him with long, lustrous locks, and with no "pelt" on his chest.
My question to you is: When is it fine for the author to leave things to your imagination, and when do you want the dirty details? When does MY idea of a hot guy freeze out yours?
Oooh, and some good news today: Thanks to my critique buddy, Millie McClain, my project finally has a title! It shall be called "His Solo Project." Thanks, Millie!