Thursday, November 01, 2007

Gettin' Naughty - Does Size Matter?

Now, get your minds out of the gutter, hussies. lol! I'm not talking about what you're thinking. And don't bother denying it, all of your minds went to the same place when you read the blog title.

What I'm referring to, this time, is rubenesque heroines.

Thankfully, no two women are the same. Well, unless we’re talking twins, but even identical twins who look the same are different in other ways, such as personality. I got to thinking after a discussion in my Yahoo group concerning the size of heroines in romance books. Several readers complained that while plus-size heroines exist, they are in the minority. Of course, this prompted some online research.

Different sources offer different results, but the average American woman seems to be 5’4” tall, weighs 140 pounds, wears size 14 clothes, has a 36C bust, and shoe size of 6.

I took a look around some of the most popular publisher’s websites and found that some do not even have a separate listing of books with full-figured heroines. For those that do have a category, there are not many books listed. Hmm…

Personally, during the course of my life, I have worn everything from a size 8 to 18 and all the numbers in between. Heck, I don’t fit into any of the averages above. At 5’10” tall with a shoe size of 10 I’m pretty far from average. I will never go below a size eight because I truly do have large hip bones and an 8 is the smallest size that will encompass them.

Many readers tend to put themselves in the heroine’s role when reading. I certainly do. If the writing is vivid, I often picture myself as the heroine and find it hard to relate to her experiences when she doesn’t come across as a real person. I have written heroines of various sizes and shapes. For me, it’s more about how the heroine acts and reacts to different situations than any physical traits of how she looks.

What about you? This is the part where you get to sound off and be heard. Do you prefer your heroines thin? Is it a more enjoyable experience to visualize yourself through a thin heroine as part of the fantasy? Would you like to see more big, beautiful women? Are authors just clueless as to what readers really want? Do you enjoy reading books where a plus-size heroine gets the hunk or have problems accepting that particular storyline?


Dee said...

Nic I love this blog post today! I love all of them but this one touches me more because I'm a full figured, curvy woman.

When I read stories I too try to envision myself there hoping to get a new fantasy. But when the woman is small with a chest no larger than a C cup I honestly can't relate. I can't even remember when I was a C cup!(junior high maybe? lol)

LOL Full figured women have sex too, enjoy it and can certainly handle it as freaky as a man can dish out..who knows, maybe even more. *bg*

But the point is maybe there isn't a demand for full figured women in books so authors don't write as many? Readers would like to see it but don't say anything? I would love to see more full figured women, women who wear a DD bra..bra sizes don't end at C and not everyone is a size 12.

Maybe other full figured ladies will speak up and we will see more full figured stories..that are DETAILED. Not just stated in the beginning of the story that the heroine is a full figured woman. Ya know?

That's just my two cents. *grin*

Nicole Austin said...

Thanks, Dee! I appreciate your candor. I'm currently writing a full-figure heroine and hope that you'll enjoy her story. :D

Anonymous said...

Great topic Nic, I like it.

I'll be quite honest. Whenever I read a story I'll most like put myself in the heroine's character. But I really don't care if she is tall or short - thin or plus-size - blonde, redhead or whatever - white, black, blue or in between as long as I feel a connection with her character that's all I care about.

Yes I want a description of her but that doesn't get in my way when I'm reading the story because eventually (in my mind) I'm her. I'm seeing everything through her eyes and what she looks like falls to the way-side.

Sally Painter said...

I've never really paid any attention to that kind of size, probably because it's not the kind that matters to me. LOL. Sorry, but you know you really asked for it with that opening. I couldn't help the naughty hussy in me.

Seriously, I'm all about the characters whatever shape or size or color or species they are, as long as the author takes me there, then I'm into it 100%!

Ciana Stone said...

I could care less about size. Or even appearance for that matter. If I get into the character's personality then I'm the character. It's that simple for me. I don't even pay attention to references of size once I'm connected to the character.

To be totally honest, I think perhaps as writers we all fall victim to creating characters that reflect ourselves a little. Let's face it, if we're tall and willowly, we know how to write about living in that kind of body. If we're short, well, we understand life from a lower altitude.

From a publishing standpoint, I will say that publishers face a unique challenge in creating covers for books that feature full-figured women.

Like it or not, the buying public wants to see a muscular handsome man on a cover. They don't want a regular guy with a receding hairline and a bit of a belly. Whether a guy like this can be the BEST lover in the world, the readers don't want that visual. They want something hot, sexy and sleek.

The same holds true for women on book covers. While we might not be that thin, that beautiful, wrinkle free, in shape or have legs that go on forever, readers expect the same level of sensuality and "look" from the women on covers as from the men. It's not a judgement being made upon size or shape or who you should be, but a decision based on marketing.

I don't know statistics, but always tend to give the benefit of the doubt- or play devil's advocate. So with that hat firmly in place, I think we have to consider the possibility that perhaps the majority of readers don't want to read about someone that looks like themselves.

Let's face it, books are an escape from reality - a trip into fantasy. Maybe short gals like me like to put themselves in the shoes of someone 5'10" and a size 8. Or someone that size might want to fantasize about being small and petite. The romance industry has, after all, been based on fantasy, gorgeous leading men and willowy women with long flowing (perfect) hair for decades. Perhaps that standard still exists if you get down to the bottom line - which is sales.

But moving past fantasy and into real life, I think we just have to ask ourselves... "Am I happy with who I am?" If the answer is yes,then you have no problem and size truly doesn't matter. If your answer is "well, I would like to (fill in here with what you'd like to change), the perhaps it's time to pay attention to getting yourself to a place that you are happy with who you are.

In the end, it all has to do with personal taste and that is as diverse as the people themselves. So I say, characters should come in all shapes and sizes, and there should even be heroes who aren't the perfect male specimens but ARE the perfect lovers.

Anyway, that's my two cents.

Sparky Duck said...

I dont really care one way or the other. But, I read paranormals more, and most times the heroine has to be able to kick some ass, keeping them in some shape I guess

TK Winters said...

Great topic! It really depends on how well the author can pull me into the story and the character. If they really get me pulled in, then I forget that the heroine and I couldn't be further apart. On the other hand, if there is no way I can identify, then I have a difficult time living a fantasy through their story.

I truly admire an author who can take a normal, everyday heroine or hero and pull me into their story. For many people books are about fantasy and forgetting their lives and living someone elses. For me, books are about changing how I see my life, so I really look for books where women aren't the total tough chick with the curvy perfect body.

N.J.Walters said...

Interesting topic, Nic. Size really doesn't matter to me when I read a book. It's all about how the heroine relates to the world around her.

It's the same thing when I write. I don't set out to make the heroine either slender or curvy. She is what she is and I accept her that way.

I've had tall, thin heroines with few curves and full-figured gals who have a few hang-ups due to societies pressures. In the end, they're all women with problems just like the rest of us.

Nicole Austin said...

Thanks for commenting, everyone!

The consensus seems to be that we don't care about the heroines size as long as we are drawn ino the character. While there may be some who prefer the full-figured heroine, for many it does not seem to be an issue. :D

Like Ci, I wondered if fuller-figured readers would prefer reading thin heroines as part of the fantasy and escape into the story.

Anonymous said...

Great subject Nic! Personally I don’t care what shape, size, color, etc the characters are. I usually forget what they look like once the description is out there anyway, lol. One problem I have with larger characters is their hang-ups.

I know some of us who are larger have hang-ups about being the size we are, and I for one can relate to larger characters in books as well as smaller, because I’ve been both small and large in my lifetime. When her hang-ups are too big, it tends to pull me from the story. I want to relate, yet I want to escape reality in a way too so it has to be a happy medium. I like to read more about the female being content with herself even though she’s not a “perfect” size 5 or whatever. Hell what is the perfect size? Ask any man and they’ll all say something different. I don’t mind a bit of a struggle with her weight issue, but she still needs to either be content with who she is or willing to do something constructive about it if it’s possible. I see nothing wrong with a heroine working towards weight loss goals, but again it can’t be a negative thing it has to be positive ya know?


NathalieGray said...

See? When I first saw the title of your post, I thought you meant the size of a man's penis. I know, dirrrty mind!!

I know size doesn't matter and it's the inside that counts, but really, Ciana is right, if they showed regular folks on the covers, we’d giggle and go look for the OMGHAWT guys on other covers.

That being said, I'm so sick of the stereotypical heroine (romance and otherwise, but especially romance). It's those descriptions that keep coming back (bee-stung lips, doe-eyes, long column of neck, slender waist, heavy breasts)...I mean, I don't know anyone like that. I don't know any woman who's a skinny little nymph with "round, heavy breasts" and "bee-stung lips" and "doe eyes". It's impossible to be skinny and shapely at the same time. Or at least, very rare. Give me women with curves, baby! Give me heroines who've had dirt under their fingernails!

The stereotypical heroine is THE reason why I don't read much romance. It seems in scifi/fantasy, the women are more balanced...hey! Maybe geeks dig real chicks as opposed to the little 100-pound nymphs?!

Um, that's worth investigating.

Okay, bitching is over. I feel better, thanks. :)

Minime said...

I love reading story lines where the heroine is any shape or form. Not every woman in real life is the same, why should the heroines be?

I'm far from full-figured, heck I wish I had those boobs now (dang kids), but it doesn't matter to me what size the heroine is. Heck in real life it doesn't faze me. In my family, including cousins and the like, at 5-2 and 97 pounds (yes I know that I am hated), I'm the smallest woman. There are times that I wish I could take some of those pounds that my sister wants to lose and put them on my body.

For me, I believe that as long as you are happy with your body image, and hopefully healthy, be whatever size you want to be. If you are happy with a big butt and big boobs, strut it girlfriend. *smile* I wish I had my bubble butt and 34Cs back.

For me, I have no preference of size for a heroine. As long as she isn't too stupid to live and can overcome any doubts she may have with her body, and she also has to love the hero and he her, makes no never mind to me if she is a 0 or a 20. Makes her seem more real if I'm not picturing a reed-thin model over the toilet after her date with the hero.