It struck me the other day just how many characters in books are gorgeous and I got to wondering why that is. Beauty is very rarely a key ingredient in the plot, after all, and the characters could often go about finding the killer, falling in love or saving the world without it.
Is it all just to enhance the wish-fulfillment part? As we step into the shoes of the protagonist and imagine it’s us kicking ass and winning the love-interest, we might as well be good-looking to boot?
Or perhaps it’s all a part of the “beauty bias“, making the attractiveness a shorthand for likable? (Iffy as the whole pretty=good, ugly=evil stereotype is.)
In a way, I’d expect books to be the ideal medium for including more plain or ugly folks. After all, if they’re the protagonist, we get to see their thoughts and fears, and should be able to judge them on something more than looks. And in a way, there may be an opposite effect going on–where the protagonists aren’t described as the hottest thing ever, but as we readers comes to like them, they become more and more gorgeous in our minds. (Beth Revis has an interesting article about that here.)
Some of my favorite characters aren’t good-looking at all–like Tyrion from a Game of Thrones (the book, not the TV-series!). Or how about Glokta from the First Law trilogy by Joe Abercrombie? (Once good-looking, but not since his torture.) Both are very intelligent characters, which is always a plus in my book (har har ;-)). Still, it seems more of an exception than not.
Looking at my own writing, I can conclude that several of my main characters are gorgeous, so whatever the “trap” is, I seem to be falling into it to some extent. 🙂 Of course, Ehna from Possession is dying and chopping off pieces of herself right and left to try and take over Idh’s body, so she would be an exception. Idh is more weird-looking than gorgeous (in the eyes of the other characters), but he’s certainly very fit, being a soldier and all, so he’d qualify as good-looking I think.
What about you? Writers, are your main characters good-looking? Readers, any favorite ugly characters out there?