Character Myths; A ‘bad boy’ hero?

[This is a repeat blog post from over a year ago. I thought I’d see what kind of reaction I’d get from it now. – Darke ]

Is there such a thing?

At some point in the last few decades, someone came up with the idea that a ‘bad boy’ can be a hero or romantic interest to a female lead in a story. Whether this notion came from the angst-ridden, mysterious vamp persona (a.k.a Angel, Spike) or ’misunderstood’ teen (from the now defunct show, The O.C.), I don’t know, but let me say right up front (and you can argue with me if you want), but a true bad boy is NOT someone want fraternizing with your female characters.

A true bad boy is the antagonist; the person you don’t want your readers, or your female characters, fantasizing about. They’re the drug addicts, cheaters, violent people who only care about themselves and what they can get from the other characters. They’ll steal from you as soon as you turn your back, and have no remorse about it. Make no mistakes, the only person who can fall in love with a bad boy and make it work–is a bad girl. They understand each other, probably because they grew up in the same environment.

Bad boys aren’t polite to parents, peers or anyone in authority. They don’t think about ways to help your female MC out of a jam because they don‘t respect her enough to even care. They dominate and control everyone in their sphere of influence and use them to their full advantage. Does this sound like a character you want your YA character to fall in love with?

Please don’t tell me your bad boy isn’t like this; that he’s the exception to the rule, because there are no exceptions. They’re called ’bad boys’ for a reason. If your male love interest falls into the above category, then you’re not writing a bad boy character; you’re writing a wannabe, and personally, I think they’re worse. Wannabe’s are whiny, and the few bad boys wannabe’s I’ve seen are emasculated by the female character. They’re created to show either how strong she is, or for romantic interest, and I don’t know about you, but nothing pulls me from a story faster than an oddly placed romance scene with a character that is weaker than the lead.

If you’re going to have a male interest in your story, make sure he can stand on his own. Strong does not mean ’bad’ or ’tough’, it means ‘intelligent‘, ‘loyal‘, ‘trustworthy’; someone your female character can depend on should the going get rough.

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About Darke Conteur
Darke Conteur is a writer at the mercy of her Muse. The author of stories in several genres, she prefers to create within the realms Science Fiction and Dark Fantasy. A pagan at heart, her personal goal it to find her balance within nature; exploring the dark through her stories and the light through her beliefs. When not writing or working with crystals, she enjoys knitting, gardening, cooking and very loud music.

6 Responses to Character Myths; A ‘bad boy’ hero?

  1. Eli Ashpence says:

    There is such a thing. They’re those evil SOBs that hates the world and acts like a demon to everyone in it, but miraculously has that one small trigger that can temporarily turn him into a hero. Bad Boy Heroes are usually partnered with a somewhat masochistic girl that he harasses or otherwise teases. This girl often gets into jams that require Bad Boy to rescue her, but he only does it to keep his ‘toy’ intact. He can smooth talk and woo, but his feelings are superficial. He is too stubborn to admit to the existence of love and too jaded to make long-term goals. He constantly tests people’s loyalty and always finds the disappointment he’s expecting. She thinks she can redeem him.

    In real life, I think this leads to spousal abuse. Yet….

    Yet….

    To the girl, he’s a Bad Boy Hero.

  2. E.b. Black says:

    I often write novels where the main male love interest is actually a great guy because I’ve always gone for men who complimented me or were nice to me in some way in real life. I’ve met a lot of men who “teased” or “mocked” me and then asked me out later and I’ve never once said yes to any of them. It’s a huge turn off for me.

    That being said, I don’t equate fiction with reality. Most things my characters experience would upset me to experience in real life, but are pleasurable to write about. Because fiction isn’t the same as real life, it makes you feel similar emotions, but the thrill in a story is the challenge your characters face. While I prefer peace and quiet in my reality.

    It’s kind of complicated and anything you have to say in retort to this, I’d probably agree with, but I’ve genuinely written about male love interests who had moments where they beat the main character (but usually she’s the type of main character, as you said, who would beat him back just as hard) and done some unsavory things.

    Then again, I don’t write YA. I’d prefer not to expose teens to that.

    • I don’t understand the appeal of putting a lead character in a relationship with such a person. We wouldn’t do it in real life, so why do it with fiction? I wonder if it has anything to do with the idea that you can ‘change’ a man from bad to good?

      • E.b. Black says:

        I don’t know about other people, but the reason I sometimes do it is because good characters sometimes seem unrealistic to me.

      • You can write a ‘good’ character and give him some flaws, but to have a romantic interest that’s as horrible as I’ve described, can be dangerous. Look how many women, young and old, think the male lead in FS of G is romantic. If you had a man like that in real life, you’d see just how un-romantic it really is.

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