Tag Archive: writing bad boys in books

Writing Lovable Rogues

Lovable RoguesLovable rouges are not villains, they are fascinating antiheroes. These characters are everywhere, in books, movies and on TV. They are young, old, male and female. And they have wowed us as protagonists, love interests and sidekicks for a long time.

A few notable rouges are:

Tom Sawyer from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean

Fred and George Weasley from Harry Potter

Logan Echolls from Veronica Mars

Zaphod Beeblebrox from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

It’s not surprising they’re popular, because these bad characters are so darn amazing. Traditionally they’re easy on the eyes, combining poise under pressure, with a sense of humor and killer fight moves. They walk the fringes of society with conviction, clear-cut goals and style. Their wild side calls to us. We want to break the rules and run wild with them.

Rogues share five common attributes, by using these traits any writer can turn this naughty character into something very nice.

tnt-the-librarians-john-kim1. They have a keen intellect:

Darn this character is smart; they can think fast on their feet and plan circles around the other characters. They’re not just street smart, they’re often book smart. Rogues have a smattering of knowledge in almost every area and off the charts skills in at least one or two key areas. They are the ultimate chess players and the world is their board. To catch up with a rogue’s mental processing, you need to think twenty steps ahead of everyone else. Crafty schemes with long-term objectives, make these characters ideal for dishing out twisty story surprises.


whitecollarreturns2. Their confidence is sexy:

Rogues make eye contact. While lesser criminals hide, these characters never shy away from the spotlight, as long as it serves their needs. Sharp dressed or in rags, these characters feel at home in their own skin. Even when a rogue is unsure of the right path, they have faith they can and will find a path around any obstacle. They grab hold of life with both hands, and that passion makes other character what to get close. They are shining stars, burning bright in their own universe. Rogues have the wherewithal to be loners, or self-assurance to be leaders of the pack.



Sawyer From Lost3. They know how to manipulate:

Smooth con men with a wicked grin, rogues know how to get what they want. Sometimes they take it; other times they sweet talk their victims with a wink and smile. What rogues might lack in manners, they make up for in charisma. Some of this polish is natural, a byproduct of good looks and a surplus of sex appeal. Some of it is being a skilled observer. Rogues are wise interpreters of human behavior. These characters excel when it comes to adaptability and make some of the best fictional chameleons.


Angelina_Jolie_in_Mr._and_Mrs._Smith_Wallpaper_5_8004. They’re viewed as unethical, yet abide by a personal code:

Rogues know they don’t play by society’s rules and they’re not particularly conflicted about it. They often show up as gentleman thieves, stealing as much of the glory as the gold. Some rogues have a Robin Hood complex, they fight to balance the odds. While others are just so good at being bad they see their skills as a gift. Rogues find the beauty in being a great assassin, a liar or a forger; it’s an art form. They’re even able to walk the moral high ground in their own minds. If society didn’t want them to be the bad guys, they shouldn’t make it so darn easy to cheat.


To_Catch_a_Thief_19555. They hide a difficult past:

A hint of mystery in any character is enticing, but in a rogue it’s necessary. They keep everyone in the story off balance. Even when they offer us a suggestion of their hidden depths, they wiggle out of it. There is always a suspicion of a backstory worthy of a few tears, but getting a rogue character to come clean is going to take some leverage. Rogues know information is power, they don’t grant just anyone a free pass into their personal pain. What (or who) they care about is a closely guarded secret, for telling anyone that bit of information could be orchestrating their own downfall. Most rogues have been on the outside looking in for a long time. Trust is not given lightly, and even if they grant it, they will remain ever vigilant for signs of treachery. This need for secrecy turns up the story drama, and makes for spectacular misunderstandings and explosive betrayals.


fireflyLovable rogues don’t enjoy hurting innocent people. They have a line they do not want to cross, but if someone pushes them too far, they can release the most ruthless part of their character.

Then people get hurt.


the-mummy-movie-poster-1999-1020199235Rogues love to push the envelope and test themselves. It’s common for them to get swept up into monumental troubles. It’s all part of what makes them exciting characters.

Most important of all, we must root for the rogue to win. If we can, then it’s a flawed character we can learn to love.



I would like to hear what you think of rogues. Love them, or hate them?

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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.

Permanent link to this article: http://writeonsisters.com/writing-craft/tips-to-write-bad-boys-in-books/