Valentine’s Day is a day that we reconnect with our sweeties and think romantic thoughts. Now that it is over we can continue being lovey- dovey with our Significant Others, but being romance readers and writers, we also can go back to the other men in our lives. The Fantasy Others.
Fantasy Others are one of the appeals of romance novels, at least to me. It isn’t that I am cheating on my significant other when I read one. Not really. However, for a few hours I am definitely getting to know another guy really, really well. You all know what I mean.
Writers really depend on a well developed sense of the Fantasy Other in each of their stories. We live with these guys for months at a time. We need to fall in love with them. I distinctly remember when I realized I was not alone as a writer in this. I read an article in which a group of romance writers were asked to cast their latest hero. The majority picked Daniel Day Lewis. This was not long after he starred in Last of the Mohicans, in which he was buff, shirtless, long haired, and about 34.
As a writer, I have a very clear picture of each Fantasy Other as I create him. I don’t cut out pictures each time, but whenever I do I tend to cut out the same “type.” I was not far into my career when I realized that my “type” was not very British looking. If anything he was Mediterranean.
Recently I found the perfect Fantasy Other for my work in progress. <—— Since he was in a Polo ad, and since he did not really look all that Mediterranean, I thought that I had broken out of the pattern. Then I looked him up. Technically he is not Mediterranean. He is Argentinean, however. There may be some non-Mediterranean sourced DNA molding that face, but probably not a whole lot. (I should have known it too. Not just the dark eyes give him away; there is something about his mouth that is reminiscent of many of my other pictures collected over time.)
I used to worry about this as a writer. Will readers buy that this guy is an English duke if I describe his dark eyes and hard mouth and all those other characteristics? Won’t readers know I am cheating? I even gave a few of my heroes mixed ancestry to explain it. A father who was Greek. A mother who was Italian.
Thus do writers go looking for problems where none exist. I have had readers write to criticize all kinds of things about my books over the years, but not a single one has ever objected to my dark-eyed rather Mediterranean looking heroes. Maybe they don’t see the disconnect. Probably they are too busy creating Fantasy Others in their minds, who are their “types” and who fit the story close enough.
Do you picture guys from real life when you read romances? Do you have a favorite face that you attach to the heroes?
Have you ever cast a romance novel in your head? If so, who had the role of the Fantasy Other and what character from what novel was he?
What is your “type”? You can describe your significant other if you want
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