1. jwatson
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    jwatson Active Member

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    What does "handsome" imply?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by jwatson, Dec 1, 2009.

    So I have two main characters for the first quarter of my novel. One is nearly thirty and sees a sketch of the other, who is a fugitive.

    My first question is, can I write that my first thinks that the second is handsome without implying that he is a homosexual? I think I can, but I just want to make sure.

    What I have now is: James thought the thief was, undeniably, quite handsome.

    Secondly, can you tell from a sketch? This is in a fantasy world, but I don't want to cry "magic!"

    Thanks,

    J
     
  2. sidtvicious
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    sidtvicious Contributing Member Contributor

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    The first question: sure, I'm a heterosexual and can appreciate/recognize another male as handsome without it implying a sexual attraction.

    Second, i'd need to see/read the sketch.
     
  3. Marcelo
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    Marcelo Contributing Member

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    My first question is, can I write that my first thinks that the second is handsome without implying that he is a homosexual? Of course you could, but if you're not comfortable with that then why don't you use the words 'good looking' instead of handsome?

    And as for the second question... Well, it all depends on the sketch.
     
  4. Atari
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    Atari Active Member

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    While I would definitely use handsome, because I do not like modern stupidity to dictate my actions, there are ways to say it that would dispel any erroneous perception.
     
  5. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    I imagine that even the most hetero male can understand if another man is 'handsome' but often it seems to me that they make fun of the guy's looks.

    If the first thing that came into another straight man's head when he saw a sketch was 'wow, he's handsome' then I'd make sure the guy in the picture really did look like Superman on a good day or something, or maybe it made him think of a Hollywood star perhaps.

    There's usually an element of 'hell, I bet he pulls the girls/works out a lot' etc when a straight man sees a good-looking man, not just 'hey, he's handsome', so be careful, or like you say, you could give the wrong impression.

    I think that women are much more likely to size up a photo of another woman mainly on the grounds of beauty.

    Just speaking here as a woman who enjoys male company, often intelligent gay male company, because the women in the culture where I live tend to be more obsessed with their outfits and appearance than Barbie!
     
  6. Unsavory
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    Unsavory Active Member

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    As that's worded right now, the thought of James being gay would at least cross my mind, even though I wouldn't presume to be sure. It's all in the word "handsome." In every day life I almost never hear a man say that word. To me "handsome" constitutes a positive emotional response (emotional being the key word) the same way that "beautiful" does.

    This doesn't mean that I can't recognize a man as good looking, even to some pretty fine details. I think it's fine if you describe the man's appearance and comment on him being good-looking. I'm just concerned about the specific word "handsome."
     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    What about ruggedly handsome?
     
  8. Unsavory
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    Unsavory Active Member

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    I don't think ruggedly handsome is ideal either. It's slightly better because it implies that the viewer at least has a conscious description and justification to back up his immediate response of "handsome." And I admit that I might be overanalyzing this.
     
  9. Ashleigh
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    Ashleigh Contributing Member Contributor

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    I wouldn't use the word 'handsome' at all. I think it all depends on the nature of your character - is he likely to use that word? Is he likely to even notice a man's appeal when he sees the sketch, or is he the kind to make more factual observations?

    If I was writing from a man's point of view, I would briefly describe his features and make a comment similar to something like....'I/he guessed that he'd be considered good-looking to most women', or anything along those lines.

    adding to that, you might also want to put either a snide/envious/agreeable state of opinion, to establish that although he might not personally find him appealing, he can see that he would be to women. Of course, if it were a snide/envious comment, then he might describe him with sarcasm. If you did this, you could leave it to the reader to decide from his description if he is good looking or not, without telling them that he's a handsome guy - it's not for you to decide whether he is or isn't after all, it's their decision. However, you could approach it by mentioning that he's got classic features that women supposedly fall for - I think that'd be more subtle and you'd be able to play on your characters traits alot more this way.


    Remember, just because he can see that the sketch would be of a man that women would find appealing doesn't necessarily mean that he'd agree with them.
     
  10. jwatson
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    jwatson Active Member

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    Thanks for the comments.

    I guess I should have mentioned the guy calling the other handsome has a wife, but that did not cross my mind at the time I had written this. Cogito, that's not a bad idea. Either I will do something similar to that, or I will rewrite it so that his wife sees a sketch and says something like, "He's pretty cute for a fugitive" which will leave my mc irritated. Well, something like that. The thing is, I want this character to really be a lady's man. It is all part of his character. I just don't want him to be a man's man too. Thanks again everyone, this was quite helpful.

    J
     
  11. WanderingStar
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    WanderingStar Member

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    I think something that seems more genuine would be like.. 'James thought the thief stole hearts as well as (xxx).' .. or something similar, implying he is good looking, without actually saying a word like 'handsome, cute, attractive'. It more shows that thief has attractive quality.
     
  12. Destin
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    Destin Senior Member

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    I think I have to agree with Ashleigh. As a straight guy I can say with honesty that I have never seen a man and thought "That guy is handsome." And if another guy outwardly said I was handsome he would get: a) a beating. b) a really funny look and awkward silence.
    The "He probably does alright with the ladies" thing is about as far as it's ever gone in my mind.
     
  13. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    if you want it to be a guy who does the noticing, why not keep it impersonal and have him say something like:

    'With his looks, I'll bet women fall all over themselves for him.'

    or

    'Oh, a Brad Pitt type, huh?'

    or

    'So, is this guy a model, or what?'

    or... you get the idea........

    all of which would show he thinks the guy's good-looking, without having to actually say so...
     
  14. InkDream
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    InkDream Senior Member

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    Instead you could list off some characteristics that make him hansom. One of the biggest factors that people find attractive in others is symmetry in features.
     
  15. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Given that this is a fantasy story and not taking place in the real world, I like this one the best. It indicates that the fellah has indeed taken notice of the other fellah's pulchritude without in any way leading the reader astray as to his particular preferences.
     
  16. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Or just show the women staring at him as he passes. He may or may not see them appraising his assets.
     
  17. bluebell80
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    bluebell80 Contributing Member

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    In general, a straight man is not going to comment or even think about the attractive level of another man. If he does, it becomes a penis contest, like, "I bet my member is bigger than his." kind of thing. Straight men wouldn't say out loud, let alone think to themselves that another man is "undeniably handsome." That phrase is very gay. I conferred with my hubby (a very, very straight man) and he concurred with this sentiment. In fact the first thing he said that would come to mind would be to actually call the attractive thief gay (or technically a more derogatory name.) I know many other very straight men, and they would all say the same thing.

    I think it is hard for us women to think the way straight men do. Most women can look at a beautiful woman and say "She is gorgeous." And not sound like we are lesbians. Usually when we see an attractive woman, our first thoughts are "I would kill to have...(insert body part/s) like hers." We express jealousy differently than men do. We also don't feel the need to be repulsed by other women...at least not the way many straight man feel repulsion to other men. We're different creatures, and these thought processes are part of what make us different.

    When in doubt, ask someone you think is close to the way your MC might think. If he's a sensitive, touchy, feely kind of straight man, he might think another man is "undeniably handsome" and it might fit his character type. But if he's straight, think of any stereotypical straight kind of guy from movies or tv, then he probably wouldn't ever think that phrase. In fact he might think the complete opposite. Denying the attractiveness of another man as a way to pet his own fragile ego. Ego is a big part of the male psyche.
     
  18. jwatson
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    jwatson Active Member

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    See, all my characters really are me, or at least the different forms of me. I'm not gay, but I don't think there is anything wrong with what I wrote. I'm just afraid other people will it's gay. The thing with women checking him out as he walks by is that he is a wanted fugitive. Although, I could do this in an attempt to show that he is handsome and that people are stupid and don't recognize an infamous fugitive when they see one.

    But anyways, maia: 'With his looks, I'll bet women fall all over themselves for him.'

    Great idea, actually. I will definitely consider that and maybe use it to show he is handsome more than once.

    Destin: Yes, if another man did call me handsome, I probably will reward him with a weird look and an awkward silence. It's different when you really put yourself in the character's shoes, I guess...
     
  19. bluebell80
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    bluebell80 Contributing Member

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    J, I'm a braindead a**ho*e. For as long as I've been here, and as long as I've had conversations on here with you...I thought you were a girl! Oooopps! Goes to show how often I check out people's about me page. Sorry. :(
     
  20. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    it's that fancy ring avatar, bb... i also thought he was a she, till i looked at the gender symbol below the feminine style wedding ring [if that's what it is]...
     
  21. Irish87
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    Irish87 Contributing Member

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    I've heard a lot of guys who are afraid of being considered gay say something like "he's handsome according to society" or some variation of that. In truth, it's inane to say the least. Saying someone is handsome is basically like saying someone is ugly, you're commenting on how they appear and little more.
     
  22. whiskeyjameson
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    whiskeyjameson Senior Member

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    First thing first...this is stupid. Write what comes to your mind and what you think works. I wouldn't worry about what other people thought so much. If the character is constantly flirting with the line between homosexual and heterosexual then yeah maybe it is a problem but one thing I don't think would hurt. Does he think about other women in the story? Make it clear he is interested in women then if you're scared to use the word handsome. Write what is true to you in my opinion.

    Funny how gender stereotypes and gender typical behavior works its way into writing as well.

    -A straight man
     
  23. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    I'm straight, and I would say 'handsome.'

    If your character is very confident and secure in his own heterosexuality, go ahead and write 'handsome.'

    With that said, I wouldn't write the line for certain (maybe most) male characters, because most guys aren't confident/secure in themselves to the point where they don't care about stereotypes.

    Homophobia tends to stem from a lack of the above. . .

    The real difference between men and women is that women are more often confident in truth, whereas men pretend to be confident, and have an ass-backwards way of doing so. And when women pretend, they know what they're doing.;)

    Just my opinion.
     
  24. Henry The Purple
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    Henry The Purple Active Member

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    If a man is confident in his own sexuality, he usually won't mind commenting on the looks of another man, though it's usually done less directly than women complimenting each other.

    I thought he was a she too...and I thought you were a 'he' for a long time, maia. *animated laughing smilie* I'd be lost without those cute little gender gifs.
     
  25. jwatson
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    jwatson Active Member

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    For the record, yes, I am male...

    Whiskey, a big part of writing is writing what the audience wants to read, so you can see my concern for when a boy picks it up and drops it thinking it might be the wrong book for him... Everyone knows the readers who don't give a book a chance, right?

    It's getting more difficult to decide. I honestly don't think it's that big of a deal. I put 'undeniably' in to kind of show hesitation at my character thinking it...

    Thanks, and remember, I am NOT a she...
     

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