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.
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.