I like hotness. All kinds of hotness.
But I’ve read a lot of romance novels recently where the focus is on HOTNESS. The male character is intensely gorgeous—with a sparkling smile and rippling abs. The female character is equally attractive—with flowing hair and kissable lips.
I like reading about beautiful people as much as the next person. But hotness comes at a cost.
In his workshops, Michael Hague discusses the difference between identity and essence. Identity is the mask a character shows to the world. While essence is a character’s true nature. The romance happens when two lovers look past identity (mask) to see essence (true nature). This is the type of connection that makes us believe they are So In Love. Essentially, the love interests have to see something in each other that no one else sees.
Continually showing hotness works against this. It implies the characters are only focused on each other’s identity. That they aren’t seeing past the mask and into each other’s essence. So while it might lend weight to the sexual relationship, it strikes against the romantic relationship.
I’m not suggesting we delete hotness. But characters need to see something beyond the hotness as that relationship moves from one based on identity to one based on essence.
One way to do this it to explore the reason behind a character’s hotness. So a character pulls off a shirt to display rippling abs from years spent rock climbing. Because the character is driven to free climb a dangerous rock face after losing a friend to it. Or lean and strong from years spent sailing—because the character is desperately trying to save their father’s sailboat charters business.
The goal is to create a way for the love interests to see something in the hotness that no one else sees.
Or, to look at it a different way, the goal might be to give hotness meaning. That instead of character being hot because, well, they’re hot—they’re hot because it aligns with the rest of their character. Taking hotness to a new level.
How do you use hotness? Should we look for something more?