I create wholly fictional love interests that meet my character's needs, or not. But I have a description problem. If we were to have lunch today, I wouldn't remember what you were wearing, or even how your hair looked.
Readers, however, do want to "see" our characters. I compensate for my weakness by borrowing images of people. Most of the time, I clip photos from my magazine collection. Here's the character collage I made for My Big Nose And Other Natural Disasters.
But I did something different for my next WIP.
Rushing along with the heady joy of NaNoWriMo, I'd crafted a rather bland love interest. I guess he was kind of blond-ish, tall-ish, his eyes switching green or blue every few pages... And then I went grocery shopping.
The quirky new checker with his spiky dark hair, almond-shaped eyes, and crooked smile, well, he practically begged to become my new love interest. I suddenly saw everything about him: Japanese mother, drive to succeed, inability to dance. My NaNo draft zipped along with ease. Until the day I wrote a rather steamy love scene. Right before grocery shopping. When he asked, "did you find everything you needed?" I blushed and stammered like an idiot. I wanted to do this:
But I didn't learn my lesson.
Fast forward to my next Work-In-Progress. My story idea actually started with the love interest. All spring, I'd woken to the intriguing sound of pavement opening like a zipper as a cute neighborhood teen skateboarded to school. Feeling more like a creepy old lady than a hip YA writer, I'd peek out my window and watch this willowy teen weave down our hill with absolute grace. The day I knew that he just HAD to be my next fictional love interest: he'd tucked his shirt into his back pocket, showing off his muscles, while zigzagging down the street talking on the phone and holding a cup of coffee. Wow. Readers of Swoon At Your Own Risk fell in love with Xander Cooper.
But I hadn't counted on this.
Turns out that my fictional skateboarding hottie has real life siblings. His little sister and my daughter now play on the same soccer team. About 943,000 games a week. Our families now carpool to obscure soccer fields all over the state. And during every college break, I run into Xander Cooper, once again blushing and stammering.
How do you tell a real life guy that he's your most popular fictional love interest?