I have a secret obsession with bra-fitting – well, not so secret now. There are a surprising number of people out there who share this obsession. Just check Reddit, where there’s a specific community r/ABraThatFits. (Yes, I am a member of this community.)
But I’m rambling. The long and the short of this boils down to one little fact: basically everyone is wearing the wrong bra size. Most people should be wearing a band size under 34 and a cup size greater than D. I could nerd out on the specifics of this, but the point here isn’t bra fitting (although I strongly urge you, if you wear bras, to refit using the Sophisticated Pair calculator) – the point here is how my obsession with bra fitting affects my writing.
You see, as a writer of romance, I tend to end up describing breasts a lot. And oh do I twitch when I’m sitting there, trying to describe a heroine’s breast size. “34D,” I type, and then I stare at it cringing. An interior dialogue starts.
My inner bra nerd cries out in horror – “34D?! What are you doing? Almost no one should be wearing a 34D! My God, you described a 34D as large?! YOU KNOW THE TRUTH. YOU KNOW A REAL 34D ISN’T BIG. SHAME ON YOU.”
Sighing, I backspace and replace 34D with 30G. “There!” I say. “All better!”
But then my inner author, who likes to cater to readers just a little, pipes up, irritated. “Whoa, guys,” she says, “What the heck are you doing? How many of your readers really understand bra sizing?”
“Oh…” I say. “I guess not too many.”
Bra nerd jumps in too. “But they should be MADE to understand it, ignoramuses!”
Author me scoffs at this. “Laurel, you know you don’t write to teach people things. You write because you want to share believable stories with people. Now, if you don’t understand bra-sizing, does a 30G sound reasonable?”
I sigh, knowing she’s right, and erase the bra size again. Sometimes I stick with the normal sounding size, as much as it pains me. Other times, I fall back on a description that doesn’t rely on bra size – fruit are good descriptors, as is the relation to a handful. But in the end, even though bra-evangelizing me sulks about the missed opportunity, I know it’s better to give my readers a description they’ll understand instead of excessively indulging my inner geek.
This is a conundrum I think any writer of genre fiction, especially romance, faces. Maybe not about bra size, but everyone has something that they nerd out about, some topic on which they know more than most people, whether it’s car maintenance, nutrition, Colonial American history, whatever! These interests can be incredibly helpful when it comes to writing – they might inspire a setting, character, or situation. But on the other hand, they can cripple your writing when you start nit-picking.
The key is finding balance. Correct myths and misconceptions when you can, and certainly do your best to avoid perpetuating them, but don’t waste plot space on over-explaining your own neuroses. I guess the simplest way to say it is: remember your reader is a different person than you, and your writing has to cover the common ground between the two of you.