Wednesday, February 13, 2008

What is Beauty?

I've raised this question before, but writer Susan May Warren got me thinking in a recent post of hers in which she discusses how to create a memorable heroine for a novel. She says it is important to make your heroine beautiful--but what, after all, is beauty? Here's an excerpt of her post:

"Beauty – what is it? An informal Warren family poll elicits very different responses:

16 year old boy: Someone who is smart.
13 year old boy: A girl who can run fast. (not sure why)
11 year old boy: Nice hair.
15 year old girl: Someone who is unique.
Married old guy: Softness. Someone who is happy and cheerful.

What makes beauty? I think we can all agree that the bible points out that beauty comes from inside, and I agree. A crabby person, regardless of how beautiful, gives off a sheen of ugly. But a lovely person who exudes kindness can be very pretty.

When we’re creating a heroine, especially in a romance, but even in a suspense, she has to possess her own beauty. This is the other Secret Ingredient to a Strong Heroine. All heroines will have something about them that makes them pretty to the hero. They could be genuinely pretty – and then, only get prettier as the hero gets to know them. Or, they could be plain, and turn gorgeous as their inner nature is revealed. The key is, the hero has to see it, and appreciate it.

For example, let’s talk about one of my favorite actresses – Jodie Foster. Love her. She’s an amazing actress. However, I wouldn’t peg her as beautiful. One of my favorite movies of hers is Maverick, where she stars as a gambler against Mel Gibson. She’s a scamp, (and he likewise), doing what she has to get to into the big poker tournament (even stealing Mel’s money!). But the more she tricks Mel, and teases him, the more she turns irresistible to him. Her scoundrel ways is what draws him to her, and they make a perfect team.

What makes your heroine beautiful? And it’s not something physical – in fact, if she’s not physically beautiful, you have more to work with. You can draw out her other features, and then as the hero begins to see her in a new light, she’ll become gorgeous to him."

Just a few more thoughts on the ethereal quality that constitutes true beauty, as opposed to the material, physical emphasis of the world and the media. If you're not a writer, keep this in mind for yourself: It's not just what's on the outside that matters. Really! If you're not yet married, ask yourself how a guy who cares about you will behave; how will he treat you? If he cares for you, the real you, and not just the "outside" you--or just himself--would he ask you to do things you don't really want to? Would he pressure you, threaten you, or, God forbid, force you to do a physical act you don't wish to?

The answer is, a big, resounding, "NO."
And don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

Susan May Warren is the author of "Book Therapy", a blog for writers.
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