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