Tag Archive: “bad boys”

Writing “Bad Boys” in Romance

I posted Tuesday about characteristics of bad boys in books and how to write believable ones. In doing research for that post, I gathered so much information, that I thought I’d share the leftovers here.

Well, not really leftovers, actually, since this is new content, but the content is complementary to what I posted Tuesday.Rappers men gesturing

My erotic romance (written as Angelica French), Streetwalker, features hero Harlan, a bad boy for heroine Carrie. I LOVE Harlan. He is brilliant, powerful, confident, rich, gorgeous, great in bed, and more than a little bit flawed.

Harlan’s rebellion against society’s rules led to losing his medical license. So of course, he started a high end bordello on New York’s Upper East Side, enrolling as clients the rich and powerful of the city as insurance against prosecution. A bad boy.

Not all bad boys wear leather jackets, sport multiple tattoos and piercings, or have a scruffy look about them. Harlan is a great example of an elegant, successful, and living-life-on-his-own-terms, bad boy. And did I mention his sexual prowess?

In a nutshell, a bad boy exhibits certain qualities. I identified these as: exuding confidence, allowing his own interests to take precedence over others’ interests, moody, paradoxical, edgy, displaying an attitude, rebelling with or without a cause, engaging in dangerous hobbies, and being mysterious, complex, and complicated. Women respond to their perception that his strength will bring them protection, a universal need.

In writing your bad boy, be sure to avoid the stereotypes as the only traits. Make him more complex and he’ll interest your readers more. To clarify, we aren’t talking villains here. Villains in our books primarily exist to foil the protagonist, not to act as a potential love interest. Though it does happen.

We’re talking bad boys as guys who appeal to women in books (and real life?), guys you see around every day.

Think about Diane Lockhart’s fascination with Kurt McVeigh, a man different from her in nearly every aspect. Can you see the appeal for her, a buttoned-up corporate type? He’s so wrong for her from her friends’ perspective, and when she meets his friends, she finds nothing in common with them. Women who fall for bad boys risk being isolated from other friendships. Kurt is on the softer side of the bad boy continuum.

Another classic bad boy is Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind. He flaunted convention and contrasted well with the ultimate nice guy, Ashley Wilkes. Scarlett, who schemed shamelessly to entrap Ashley, never could shake her attraction for the dangerous and rule-breaking Rhett.

On the harder side of the bad boy continuum, think to Morelli, Stephanie Plum’s nemesis, virginity-taker, and man she simply cannot get out of her life. Adding in another bad boy, but a more complex and softer bad boy, Ranger, just adds to her man dilemma. There is no way Stephanie Plum is going for the nice guy. No way.

An interesting piece I came across, and then lost the link to when I had a computer glitch causing me to lose all my research, was on women and how birth control had changed to put them more in charge of their relationships. The gist of one section was that ovulating women are attracted to bad boys, and women who are on birth control seek men who are perceived more as nice guys. I interpreted this to mean, women want strong, healthy babies (from the rugged men), but they want a nurturing male who will be faithful to them to raise the babe. An interesting notion.

Research into what constitutes a bad boy always leads one to a book by Carole Lieberman and Lisa Collier Cool, Bad Boys: How We Love Them, How to Live with Them, When to Leave Them. Dr. Leiberman’s research led her to identify 12 archetypes for bad boys. She used movies and folk and fairytales to name them. These destructive men to avoid are: Fixer-Upper Lover, Wanton Wolf, Commitment Phobe, Self-Absorbed Seducer, Wounded Poet, Prince of Darkness, Lethal Lover, Power-Mad Prince, Misunderstood & Married, Grandiose Dreamer, Man of Mystery, and Dramatic Daredevil. A more recent book by Dr. Lieberman is Bad Girls: Why Men Love Them and How Good Girls Can Learn Their Secrets. Analagous to the bad boys book, there are 12 bad girl archetypes. Maybe that will be a later post.

Involved with a bad boy or want to be? Know this. The chances of changing him are slim. And why would you want to? The parts of him that attracted you would disappear, and then what? You leave him because he is no longer edgy, dangerous, challenging? Who wins in that?

If you want more, here are some links so you can do reading on your own.

Writing the Bad Boy

The Trouble with Bad Boys is Them Bad Boys are Trouble

Why Women Love Bad Boys and Dump Nice Guys

Why Do Girls Like Bad Boys?

What’s Your Literary Bad Boy Type?

Four Literary Types You Shouldn’t Date

10 Literary Bad Boys We Love to Love

Bad Boys of Literature & How to Spot Them in Real Life

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Tips to Write “Bad Boys in Books”

Sharon's Heart Logo for WebBad Boys. You see the fall coming as she tries to make Mr. Wrong into Mr. Right. You’d like to warn her, but you know she has to come to the conclusion herself. Odds are he won’t change. But you know, if she changed her bad boy into a more conventional one, she wouldn’t want him anymore.

Bad boys. We know ‘em when we see ‘em, but defining just who they are is a slippery proposition. Not all are tattooed, pierced, leather-jacketed, motorcycle riders. But they might be. That is such a clichéd trope, however, that the best writers avoid. Rather, the best- written bad boys leave you guessing as to how far they will go. And clothes and earrings might not signal that.

To be clear, I’m not talking about villains in books. That’s a particular kind of bad boy, for sure. I am talking about the men women are attracted to but shouldn’t be. The kind of guy you wouldn’t take home to meet Daddy. Him.

I’ve done a good bit of reading on the topic to try to figure out just who “bad boys” are, why women are attracted to them, and how writers can use that information to write more interesting characters. I interviewed an expert on men for his views. (Okay, so it was my husband, still …) And I drew on experience. Okay, limited experience.

Now, not all women are attracted to bad boys, or at least not enough to pursue a relationship with one. But some women fantasize about bad boys. Or they flirt with the possibility and even engage in short term flings. You’ve seen it in books. “Oh, no,” you cringe when she sends a come-hither message to a guy who is so totally wrong! “What are you thinking?” It doesn’t help that he ignores the message. He’s in control of who he wants to be with. If she’s too available, a bad boy is likely not interested. And the general perception is that the sex with bad boys is phenomenal.

Well, as the old joke goes with guys (“You’re thinking with the wrong head.”), so it goes with some women. The animal attraction, the lust factor, the forbidden aspect can be intoxicating when confronted with a bad boy.

I contend that women in books are not truly attracted to bad boys who are reallllly bad. They don’t want to get involved with murderers, rapists, sadists, abusers, and others of that ilk. No, they like their bad boys to straddle good and bad with the heavier foot down on the bad side. They look redeemable, and therefore present a challenge to women. When writing these women, include why they are attracted to bad boys.

Rappers men gesturingWhy are women drawn to bad boys? The best thinking is that:

1) Women, at heart, want to be protected. Bad boys project that they have the power and will to protect what matters to them.
2) Women are curious about men so different from themselves.
3) Women want the vicarious thrill of being a bad girl by hanging out with a bad boy.
4) Women take the bad boy as a challenge to be redeemed or a prize to be won.
5) Women seek men who will dominate them, within boundaries.
6) Women want the prestige of being the pick of a perceived leader.
7) Women want the power that comes with being the pick of a perceived leader.
8) Women are bored with “nice guys”.

Bad boys make great foils in books, no matter the genre. If you want to write in a great bad boy for your next book, keep these tips in mind:

A bad boy exudes confidence. An authentic bad boy can be described as assertive, strong-minded, and decisive. Women are attracted to that confidence and strength. He is not likely to admit he is wrong. He has the power and he’s not afraid to use it.

A bad boy allows his interests to take precedence. He can take or leave a relationship with a woman. A bad boy is unattached. Women are not of prime concern to him emotionally. Some women are drawn to these men who are emotionally unavailable.

A bad boy is a moody charmer. A woman with him won’t know what he’s thinking or what might trigger good and bad moods. But when he turns his attention to her, she thinks she has won the prize. His full attention, so hard to get, convinces her she is the one for him.

A bad boy is riddled with paradoxes making him hard to understand. He kicks over a begger’s money can, but then he visits his sick aunt in the hospital. He swerves his bike so he can kill a bunny for dinner, but then he rescues a puppy abandoned alongside the road. He won’t remember your birthday, but he volunteers to work with PTSD veterans.

A bad boy has an edge to him. Will he become violent while drinking? Will he pull a knife on someone? Will he move into someone’s personal space to menace him. Will he intimidate someone just to get his way? Will he start brawling or destroy furniture? The protagonist should wonder about his stability.

A bad boy displays an attitude. His attitude is revealed sometimes with clothing, piercings, tats and the like. But even without the accouterments, he oozes Attitude. That attitude results in treating others poorly. He’s so into his own wants and interests that he overlooks those of others. He’s rude, he cheats, he brawls, he lies all because his needs are paramount.

A bad boy is a rebel with or without a cause. He challenges authority just because. He takes short cuts, thinks rules are for other people.

A bad boy likely engages in dangerous hobbies. He might even engage in activities that skirt the law if not outright breaking a law.

A bad boy is mysterious, complex, and complicated. He has a backstory and you may never find out what it is. He carries psychic wounds that are deep and covered up. He won’t bare his soul to a woman or anyone else. Nor does he tend to be self-reflective.

Does every bad boy in books display the panoply of personality described here? No, of course not. But if you create your own mix of traits, you could have a near infinite number of bad boys for your books.

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