Monday, May 18, 2009

What is Romantic? - Part Two

Last week, I asked several writing friends their views on what is romantic. The consensus was that most wanted a strong hero with a tender heart, ready to risk his life to save the woman he loves, while still remembering the small, important gestures that make her feel loved. The heroine’s romantic gestures towards her hero include stepping outside her comfort zone for her hero. She loves him for who he is, faults and all.

I had three more questions for my friends. Question number three: What is the most romantic thing a hero/heroine can do together, aside from making love?

Karen says swimming together is romantic. I hadn’t thought of swimming as romantic until I read fellow Prairie Chick Janet’s current WIP, in which her characters Gillian and Mac scuba dive together for the first time. The scene was sensual and elegant and indeed, very romantic.

Several writers found quiet moments very romantic. Rhonda believes walking together hand in hand is romantic. Annette agrees. “Walking together. Getting ice cream together. Singing together, really badly. Sharing a big bubble bath and champagne/beer/wine whatever. Even green tea. But sharing it together.” Molli likes a walk on the beach in the moonlight. Joan too, enjoys quiet moments of romance in her fiction. “Sitting together either talking or sharing a peaceful/comfortable silence, possibly while holding hands, or she leaning against his chest or enfolded in his arms.”

Others found action more romantic. Ishbel finds working side by side on a difficult project romantic. Carrie likes her characters to do something more physical, like “hiking, horseback riding, bike riding…cooking together, going for a drive with the top down.” Helena says “running for cover in a rainstorm and shutting out the elements in front of a fireplace, sharing life stories…riding horseback together. Followed by a picnic in view of the Rockies, or some other grand venue.” Hayley says that “dancing is always a lovely, intimate moment between two characters.”

Question number four: What is the most romantic/sexy/attractive occupation for a romantic hero? A heroine?

Karen says “law enforcement, navy seals, firefighters, black ops type guys really make it happen for me.” Annette agrees. “Rescue/military/police/emergency room physician/construction. Men who perform physical labour, put themselves at risk for the sake of others/work for the good of the many.” For heroines the occupations mentioned were bookshop owner, teacher, nurse, lawyer, daycare worker, dance instructor, private chef, writer, visual artist, designer. Hayley says that she doesn’t like blatantly caring/giving occupations for either the hero or heroine. For her they feel like “overt attempts to endear the character to a reader and show how wonderful and generous the character is.”

Others felt the occupation of either character is not as important as what you do with it. Hayley feels contrast is good, such as a creative occupation for the heroine in contrast to an analytical one for the hero. Joan says occupations “depend upon the setting of the story. Something that furthers the good of the group…and what one considers THE GOOD.” Ishbel concurs. “It’s not so much WHAT the characters do, as HOW they do it, and WHO they are inside.”

Question number five: What is the most romantic/sexy/attractive item of clothing a hero can wear? A heroine?

Ishbel says that it “depends on their occupation and on the time setting. I’ve got a thing for sheepskin lined leather jerkins for my medieval guys, tight ‘pantaloons’ with gleaming hessian boots for my Regency dudes, a swinging kilt.” Carrie Ann likes “work pants, …and work boots, cowboy boots, jeans, a little stubble, some dirt on his hands, looking like he didn’t try.” Others agreed that a t-shirt, a well-fitting pair of jeans and work boots are very sexy. On the other end of the spectrum, many chose a well tailored tuxedo or almost any kind of uniform. Helena says that what is considered sexy clothing depends on context, personalities and location.

For Rhonda, nothing is more attractive for a heroine than a simple black cocktail dress. Annette’s taste runs to the demure. “Properly fitted clothing of just about any type, not the sleaze type, but classic… slightly demure is always more romantic than open to anybody’s view.” Molli believes a backless gown is sexy for a heroine. Carrie Ann likes her heroines to wear feminine clothing with a bit of an edge: “an off the shoulder sweater, creamy white and kitteny soft, a pair of jeans, high heeled shoes.”

Thanks to all the writers who helped me wit this survey. My conclusion is that while thoughts on what is romantic/sexy/attractive may vary from writer to writer, we often think alike. And since all of us are readers as well as writers, we hope that what resonates as romantic with us also strikes a chord with our readers.

What are your answers to the three questions I’ve posed here?


Silver James said...

Working my way from the bottom up...

5. From the RML's POV - nothing is sexier than than seeing the heroine in his shirt...JUST his shirt. From her POV, loose fitting jeans, slung low on the hips (but not too low), barefooted, hair tousled.

Uhm...what were the other questions? LOL

4. Jobs - Yes. Employment is sexy. A lot depends on the book. My list of jobs in current WIPs (or just finished WIPS):
FAERIE FATE: Him: Irish Warrior Her: Invalid until she gets sent back in time and then she's...lady of the keep?

FAERIE FIRE: Him: Disgraced SAS soldier cum Security Consultant Her: Senator's aide

SHADOW DANCE: Him: Cabdriver (well, former cop and current law student but he's driving a cab when they meet - lol) Her: Late-night radio talk show host

WALTZING MATILDA: Him: Public Defender Her: Assistant District Attorney

SEASON OF THE WITCH: Him: Former Knight Templar current Professor of Ancient History and vampire Her: FBI Agent

Hrm...I think I'm seeing a pattern here.

3. Romantic activity... *scratches head* Yes. All the ones you mentioned. But what really gets to me is the moment of discovery - that snapshot in time when something about the other is seen with such clarity that it become a life-defining moment. The light-bulb moment when one figures out s/he had the other figured out all wrong...and the other is oblivious until looking up, gazes lock, and time. Just. Stops.

Uhm...not exactly an activity. LOL. But I REALLY need to get back to writing now.....

Karen said...

That's a great way to look at it Silver, and so true. One main character's defining moment.

Hey, Jana, I like it's not the job it's how you do it idea and Helena's idea of escaping the rain or peril as being sexy.

Great post, Jana. It was fun putting my mind to work and answering your questions.

Helena said...

Hey, Jana. Love the way you put your post together. What more can I say?

Well, I just have to mention the emerald green (backless) gown in the movie "Atonement" for the very sexy scene in the library. Perfect for Keira Knightley and coupled (word used intentionally!) with James McAvoy in his evening garb -- whew, what more could you want for romantic clothing in that particular scene?

Karen said...

That's an excellent point, Helena. Excellent book and movie!

Janet C. said...

Most of my answers are covered - either in your great post or by others here in the comment section.

In Lady Bells there's a scene in the kennels when Hugh shows Mena the new puppies and they sit in the straw and talk. Their guards are down and the peacefullness settles over them. It's a moment that is personal and intimate.

I still say sweats are sexy :) And thanks for the kind words about Gillian and Mac's scuba scene. Being a pisces, I usually have a water moment in my WIPs.

Janet C. said...

PS - loved Atonement (book and movie).

DebH said...

i agree with Silver the from the Hero's POV, woman in his shirt and nothing else is sexy. for heroine, definitely the jeans, tight fitting or low slung.

jobs? for the hero: usually active type jobs are my favorite. for the heroine: creative jobs

romantic activity: most of what was mentioned. and, i must say from personal experience, nothing beats scuba diving with the hero at night, looking up from 50 ft below the surface and seeing the full moon. UBER romantic.

loved this post. i like how things were presented so clearly. great questions.

Jana Richards said...

Hi everyone,
I'm finally back! My husband and I were away golfing and we stayed at a B & B for the May long weekend. I wonder if that qualifies as a romantic activity!

Silver, thank you for your eloquent answer. And yes, the heroine wearing the hero's shirt and nothing else, is indeed very sexy. Wish I'd thought of that one!

Karen, thanks a lot for sharing your thoughts with me. I got some great answers from you and all my other participants.

Helena, my post was originally much, much longer and included your mention of the elegant, sexy clothing worn in "Atonement". Unfortunately I had to edit, so I'm really glad you commented on it here.

Janet, I LOVED the scuba diving scene with Mac and Gillian. It was incredibly beautiful. And not being a water person, swimming as a romantic activity hadn't even occurred to me. I think I'm still traumatized by the opening scene in "Jaws"!

Deb H. thanks so much for joining us. I'm so glad you enjoyed the post. Creative and active occupations are great choices. I agree with my participants about the occupation not being as important as what you do with it. Contrast and conflict is always good. There's that old adage that says if you're going to make your hero a firefighter, you'd better make your heroine an arsonist! It's so true. When the h/h's jobs are in direct oppostion, the conflict this creates between the characters makes for an exciting read.

I hope you drop by again.


Anita Mae Draper said...

Sorry I'm late. I ended up driving the kids around to youth stuff today.

I think it's very romantic to go for walks holding hands.

I think it's romantic for a hero to either serve in a protective position like a cop or FBI agent or physically use his hands to craft, create or mold things.

I think it's romantic for a hero to appear at least once in a tux when he's not wearing chaps. (western wear)

And yeah, hands down, I agree it's romantic for the the heroine to wear only his long-sleeved shirt.