#LoveOzLit: Gary Kemble reminds us that beauty is only skin deep

Gary Kemble, author of Bad Blood

Gary Kemble, author of Bad Blood, brings up a good point here about physical beauty of characters, don’t you think?

There are stories and genres where physical beauty has to be part of a narrative, but an over-emphasis on it kind of sets off a red flag for me that there isn’t much else to the character in question. Like a movie, with a love interest who has no purpose other than to look good.

Physical beauty is pretty much way down the list for me in terms of what matters. Tell me about his or her hopes and dreams, or fears, and please link them to the plot of the book too. Random quirks do no make a character.

Interestingly enough, I was reading a post by a book blogger (if this is you, please let me know so I can link to your awesome post!) about the other side of this equation after a fashion: the plain Jane heroine who is never as beautiful as when the handsome love interest discovers he’s in love with her. She’s always the overlooked character, until you know the story starts and somehow, she starts getting noticed.

There’s got to be middle ground, right?

Which books simply do overdo the physical beauty? Or, for that matter how plain and otherwise forgettable the heroine to be is? Which books nail female characters in terms of physical beauty?


  • Interesting post. Yeah, it gets annoying when the looks becomes such a big focus. I notice this a lot more in romance.

  • There is definitely a middle ground. I like descriptions of characters so that I can picture them, but telling me specifically how beautiful they are isn’t what I want. I don’t like when there’s too much focus on the character’s beauty or body type either because that shouldn’t be what the story is about (unless it literally is, in fact, what the story is about, like someone with weight struggles). And honestly I think the character who thinks she’s just this ugly plain jane but is actually gorgeous and doesn’t realize it until the love interest notices her is even worse.

    In the book I just read, the characters did often think about how beautiful each other were, but that was because they were in love, and it was showing how they viewed each other. But there were never descriptions of perfect 8 pack bodies or anything like that. It was more there to show us the feelings of the character whose POV we were in, so I really appreciated that.

  • GREAT POINT! And yes, I see this SO freaking often — where a woman will not be described by anything other than her physical appearance

  • Lola says:

    I do agree that in general there is a bit too much focus on how someone looks and how pretty they are. I care more about how they act and who they are, but on the other hand just like how the cover is the first thing we see about a book the outside is the first thing we see about a person. So in a sense I do think it makes sense that characters notice other characters and how they look and I do like to get a feel of what someone looks like, but sometimes it’s overdone with the author describing multiple times how beautiful a character is. There definitely is such a thing as too much.

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