Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Anti-Heroes 101: The Mysterious Bad Boy

Everybody loves a bad boy, okay...not fathers, but most women who read romance do. There's something about that elusiveness that just grabs our attention. From rogues a la Han Solo to rebels like James Dean, there are anti-heroes to challenge your heroine no matter who she is or what the story.

The Dark Quality:
Today I'd like to touch on the first kind of bad boy...the Mysterious Bad Boy. This is the guy with a secret. A man with baggage so intense, he keeps the heroine at arm's length for her own good.

Whether its a dangerous association or a frightening aspect to his own being (blood lust) it is something that will certainly put the gal in peril.

The Appeal:
This is all about the chase. This kind of guy allows only a select few into his circle and that in and of itself is a major draw. Here is a man who doesn't offer himself to just anyone and being trusted by him is very flattering. The more elusive, the better because the one who finally captures the heart of such a guarded man is truly special, right?

There are usually some traits that help us understand why she is attracted to him. These can be in the the form of an incredible talent for something beautiful...music, art, photography...this is how he communicates how he feels. Its veiled and its aching, but it is definitely deep. She gets it and it hits her like a ton of bricks.

The Set Up:
A great way to utilize this type of character is hint at this destructive threat enticingly throughout the first few chapters. A strange happenstance here...a cryptic suggestion there, and your heroine will be unable to quell her curiosity.

The Mysterious Bad Boy is a great character because his secret is usually the main conflict of the story. It is the catalyst for the inner turmoil between them...his need to keep her safe and her not understanding his aloofness. And it is the drive for the outer conflict as well; the actual physical danger to them.

A great way to amp up the tension with this type of anti-hero is to put him in opposition with a heroine that is naturally a hunter of truth. Whether its a cop, an investigative reporter, or a someone who has a past that drives this specific curiosity (think sister gone missing years ago or abandoned by father) make sure your heroine is not afraid to demand full disclosure.

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 the real danger here, amp up the threat, and show how much of a sacrifice he's been making to keep those he (secretly) loves safe.

Having believed for so long that he was unlovable because of this "secret" her acceptance of him will bond them through out the remaining two disasters. Be sure to make the remaining two conflicts escalate in personal and public danger.

Later, show how far will he go to protect the heroine. Will he take it to his own destruction? Will he go against everything he believes to not lose her to this danger? 

The Heart's Hope:
There has to be a reason for a perfectly sane leading lady to choose to become entangled in this situation. What is the hope of her heart? What does she truly and deeply believe will happen if she just sticks it out?

In this type of story, it is usually that only she "truly" knows him. He is an elusive prize that all women want, but only she can attain. She is the "chosen one" that he allowed into his secretive world. 

She believes that if she just weathers the catastrophic events fueling your novel, that in the end their bond will be so powerful that nothing can separate them. (Think Bella and Edward)

This is the quintessential anti-hero in almost all paranormal, fantasy, science fiction, and comic book stories where there is a secret identity/secret power. 

Can you think of any that you really loved? How about some that you really didn't buy?

Until next time...Go Write!