For Purely Research Purposes

My daughter tried to call me out.

Here’s what happened. I no longer buy magazines.  When I did have subscriptions it was for Better Homes and Gardens. Recipes and decorating tips, which makes me laugh now because I do not decorate and my cooking centers around about seven different meals, all of which are gluten free for the hubby. Besides, as a techie, I get my news and media on my computer and tablet. There is always the chance to catch up with the latest in the doctor’s waiting room. My dentist prefers Times and Forbes. My oncologist seems to favor Entertainment Weekly and US.

But like most generalities there is an exception. Each year I buy People’s magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive. Matt Damon (my favorite), George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Ryan Reynolds, the list has been an annual tour de force of celebrity hotness for thirty years. I have the last six. I buy at the check out line and it’s for research.

People Magazine Cover

People’s 101 Sexiest Men Alive

No, I’m serious. We authors have certain writing expenses and a magazine of hot men in sultry poses? Essential!

Description, particularly the look of characters, isn’t the strongest tool in my writer’s toolkit. First drafts are all dialogue and emotion and then I have to go back in and add…well pretty much everything else, including what these people actually look like. Yes, I want the reader to slot in their version of hot but I try to at least give them a framework.

I started purchasing the Sexiest Man edition for that reason. You can look up pictures online but finding a large, glossy, high quality picture that isn’t a smarmy mugshot is hard.

When my girls were younger, they were oblivious, as kids tend to be. But this year is different. I see them checking out cute boys, hear them talking about their favorite One Direction member (though I was told yesterday that 1D was so last year), they both create elaborate what-if situations that usually involve a hottie they need to rescue or are fighting alongside.

So when I placed the magazine on the grocery conveyor belt, the ribbing started. My youngest daughter, version 2.11, cocks her head to the side, raises her eyebrows and promises to tell dad.

Like I’ll get in trouble or something. “It’s for research.”

1.14, the oldest daughter isn’t buying it, “What research?”

Now 2.11 is cackling and using her fingers to further emphasize with air quotes, “For ‘research?”

“As a romance writer, I get to spend money on research. Knock it off with the air quotes.”

2.11 continues to laugh. 1.14 places the last bag in the shopping cart and wisely takes this opportunity to declare, “I get front seat.”

Which hottie do you slot into the romantic role of the novel you’re reading? A celebrity, athlete, or someone you know in real life?