Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Anti-Heroes 101: Bad Boy Gone Good...For Now

Almost a year to the date I did series entitled Anti-Heroes 101 where I touched on The Mysterious Bad Boy, The Bad Boy with Potential, and The Elusive Bad Boy.  I had a lot of fun and got some great comments and advice from all of you.

The Dark Quality:
Flash forward a year to this past summer where I’ve embarked on book two of my mystery series and I’ve discovered a fourth anti-hero…Bad Boy Gone Good.  This dark hero is usually someone the heroine knows from years ago or hears stories about from other characters.

He has a dark past and now is determined to right his wrongs no matter the cost. Even if it is his own happiness or worse, his life.

The Appeal:
So, of all the anti-heroes, this guy is in fact a bona fide bad boy. Which can be very magnetic. There is no veneer of danger, no pristine leather jackets, no empty threats.  He did hurt people in his past either unintentionally or on purpose and for some reason has changed course.  

Taming the beast. Being the balm to his tortured soul is a draw and an addicting one at that. There is also the fact that he is a true alpha-male.  Add to that the idea of being the reason for bringing out the nobility in such a strong character is a great pull.

He is dangerous because this anti-hero actually did do harm and has the potential to do it again. One choice during one fleeting moment is all it takes. And the risk of that can be quite fun to flirt with in the safety of a good book.

The Set Up:
To keep the heroin safe, he must revert to what he was. Only what he was will cause him to lose the heroine.  A dilemma, right? 

This is where you pile on the conflict. Often the rising danger would be better faced by the “old” ways and that creates tension.

This is a great choice for historical romance and westerns. Pirates make wonderful Bad Boys Gone Good. Also all types of contemporary dramas from cops to spies to reformed white collar criminals. 

You take the hero and show all the good he does, how he is just a slightly tarnished white knight, and how he truly hates or regrets what he was.

Then you throw in either a situation from his past or actual returning characters from those dark days that mess things up for our hero.  A great way to add even more conflict is to have your hero hiding his dastardly deeds with a false name or even a faked death.  Another source of agitation is the struggle to keep others from revealing what he did.

Bring in danger so severe that there seems to be no choice but to reach down into the dark and fight fire with fire.

Make him value the sincerity and goodness of the heroine and the life she represents. Make him dare to hope and then yank it away…for a time.

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.

He is not the guy he once was. He is wiser, stronger, and has the trust of people he loves. He won’t want to lose that.  The heroine will find out his past, she must in order to truly know him, but she won't leave him. She knows who he is now and that is all that matters to her.  This will seal his heart to hers forever.

He will need to make a devastating choice. His life for another. His future for hers. Whatever it is, make it costly and agonizing for him. And then make him do the right thing.

The Heart’s Hope:
The reason the heroine hangs in there and believes, despite all evidence to the contrary, that her hero has changed is because it is her heart’s hope that his love for her is stronger than the darkness inside him. That he will fight for them and for her.

Often she chooses to trust him against all reason and the advice of others and is validated when he proves to be the man she always knew he was deep down.

The heroines of these stories are often ingénues or idealists. They are the good guys through-and-through. They are by-the-book, trust in the good, belief in happily-ever-after type of gals. This hope and purity of heart is what so captures these bad boys and makes them want to be what she sees in him.

These women believe in white hats and real heroes and true love and The Bad Boy Gone Good will do anything to prove her right.

***Crossover Potential***
The Bad Boy Gone Good...temporarily is often mashed up with TheMysterious Bad Boy or the Bad Boy with Potential because they all have a sordid past to overcome. 

Examples of this type of anti-hero are…Damon Salvatore from the Vampire Diaries. He has definite darkness in his past and yet is trying his mightiest to not be what he believes himself to be...for Elena.

Also Angel from the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series....noticing a pattern?  Yes, this hero is popular in stories where there are paranormal elements because it ups the potential for power to tempt. Also historical romance where a rogue makes his fortune and returns to win the woman he's secretly loved.

Or even in movies, Thor as he goes from the cause of a war to sacrificing his life for humans.  

Can you think of any Bad Boys Gone Good  that just captured your heart? Movies count!

Until next time…Go Write!