Monday, October 17, 2011

Anti-Heroes 101: Bad Boy with Potential

Last week we kicked off my series on writing anti-heroes with The Mysterious Bad Boy post. 

The Dark Quality:
Today we are touching on...the Bad Boy With Potential.  He's talented and insightful and if it wasn't for the aimless streak, a seriously successful dude. This is the amazing artist, the genius in the rough, or the untapped hero. 

For whatever reason. For instance; a guilty past  where he doesn't feel he deserves success. He is hiding or avoiding his true calling.

The Appeal:
So this is the reverse of the princess in the tower. This is a guy that needs to be rescued from himself. He must be written as a true talent  with an amazing personality that is both humble and noble or he'll just come off as a slacker. 

Whatever is holding him back should appear insurmountable at first. And there has to be a concrete reason why he is without direction. We see this a lot in romantic comedies where there are two potential suitors. One is highly successful, but flawed and the other is the nice guy that hasn't really hit his stride yet.

The Set Up:
Our Bad Boy with Potential is often set up as the hunky room mate or co-worker with the kick back attitude. He is often the confidant to the frazzled heroine as she pursues the wrong guy for her. One that this guy knows will break her heart. He can also be the childhood friend, think Sweet Home Alabama's Josh Lucas.

Overlooking this guy can lead to some great conflict for your heroine. Not understanding her attraction to someone so outside of what she thinks she needs.  He can also harbor an old flame for her and that can cause tension between them when its clear she wants another.  There are a lot a great opportunities for inner conflict with this couple.

Your heroine must have a maternal quality for this recipe to work. Whether its the fact that she's known him forever and therefore knows his heart is noble or her own experience with mothering siblings, she has to have the nurture quality to see the potential.

The Reward:
With every bad boy story line, you need to have that moment of redemption. That scene where all the things he's done or said finally make sense. Usually ten chapters in or so, the time you need to supply the first major disaster.

Show his hidden strength and nobility to the reader. Does he take the high road in a confrontation with his rival, and doesn't take credit for that? Does she see him treating someone who can do nothing for him with honor and respect?  Set up a scenario in which the successful man and he deal with a situation in opposing ways and make your Bad Boy with Potential come out the better man.

Make who he is and how he truly loves her the most pure and cherishing of the two suitors.  The reward is that he really knows her and loves her despite her flaws. That his is a better, more substantial man. Make his talent or potential somehow relate to her...

Remember in Sweet Home Alabama where she discovers the lightning glass is how he first became successful and that it was something they discovered together in their youth?  That has a deeper connection that will resonate with the heroine and, by extension, your reader.

The Heart's Hope:
There has to be a reason that a successful woman would see something in who at first appears to be a total loser. Sprinkle throughout the first chapters, hints of his success. Whether its seeing him in a mysterious meeting, having him hide something he's working on, or hearing of his success in passing from others...there needs to be evidence that she sees and the reader sees of his potential.

This is where her heart's hope comes into play... This type of woman wants to feel a part of something and her helping him provides a sense of being connected and needed.

Also, if he's an artist and she is his muse, then she is halfway to being hooked because inspiring greatness in someone is a huge ego boost and draw.

***Character Bonus***
Because the Bad Boy with Potential is often already in the heroine's life in the form of a room mate, co-worker, or other peripheral position, this character has the added bonus of knowing how much of a nutter the heroine is and loving her anyway. He's proved his staying power. He loves her despite her flaws. That is always a good thing.

What about you? Can you name your favorite Bad Boy with Potential from movies or books?  

Until next time...Go Write!Publish Post


Michael Offutt said...

I love Sweet Home Alabama. Every character is adorable. I especially love the gay one. He's so cute. I need to find one like that.

David Powers King said...

Now that you've categorized it, this example would have to be my favorite of the bay boys. Something about that redeeming quality gets me every time.

Raquel Byrnes said...

Michael - I loved her 'best friend' character too. He was really a great friend and okay with the craziness of her and the whole family. :)

David - It really helps to break down an author clarity is key. Glad you like the post.

Kerrin said...

oh this post is so cool!
The guy with potential is always portrayed in the movies as the one who is always there but the heroine can't see him for what he really is...
Lovely examples from an awesome movie!

Anonymous said...

Great post, Michael! Glad I came upon your blog.

I personally dig Dr. Cal Lightman from the TV series "Lie to Me."

Hart Johnson said...

You know in real life this is the kind I am a sucker for. I married one, even... rough, outwardly unambitious and reckless... but he was taking care of his mom as she went through cancer. I could see the good heart in there, even if he tried to hide it.

I think SOME heroines, instead of nurturing, have a 'can save him' thing (and most of their cases can't in fact be saved).

Han Solo fits sort of. I don't tend to favor romantic movies, so I am coming up largely blank.

Sangu said...

I love Josh Lucas in Sweet Home Alabama! And I love this post - I completely get what you're saying and you boil it down so well!

Will Burke said...

Does Seth Rogan's character in Knocked Up count?

Donna Hole said...

How about Alfie? Sweet Home was a very good movie.

I like how you related all this Raquel. Good food for thought. I think I can use this in my women's fiction novel. I love a bad boy ya know :)


Angela Orlowski-Peart said...

Sounds like a perfect guy to me -- with all these attributes, including strength but also vulnerability! Josh Lucas in Sweet Home Alabama is a great example :-)

Raquel Byrnes said...

Kerrin - this is one of my favorite kinds of bad boys. Thanks so much for your sweet comments.

August - Cal is a great example of a bad boy with potential!

Hart - Wow, so you have personal experience with one of these treasures! Cool!

Sangu - So glad you found the post helpful! Thanks!

Will - Seth's character in Knocked Up is a perfect hit the nail on the head.

Donna - Thank you so much! Can't wait to read your next bad boy.

Angela - I hear you. This type really gets me. :)

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