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Wet Noodle Posse | Blog

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Bad Boys

How bad is bad?

I’m playing around with a story idea in which my hero is…less than heroic. He’s the black sheep of the family, has scandalized them to the point where they’d do anything to put distance between them. He’s gambled his trust fund away and his family is tired of bailing him out. He’s never worked a day in his life, never taken responsibility for anything, and it’s time for him to grow up.

On the other hand, he’s a real charmer and can get people on his side very easily. I actually really like him.

The thing is, for him to make the journey I have planned for him, he has to start out as a Bad Boy.

Now, I know the fascination with Bad Boys. Rhett Butler was a gambler and a smuggler. Maverick was a gambler. See Diane’s post about the Phantom, or witness the fandemonium about Lost’s Sawyer. These guys are bad. They’ve separated themselves from the world. And yet, women root for them to be redeemed. Are they, though?

Rhett, I would say yes, but not through love of Scarlett, but through love of Bonnie Blue. Maverick, well, bad example since it’s been a long time since I’ve seen it. The Phantom…Diane theorizes he’s redeemed because Christine proves to him he can be loved, so he gives up everything. But meanwhile, there’s Raoul, his rival, tied to the grate.

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Sawyer…now, when we meet Sawyer, he’s out for number one. He’s scavenging through the plane for supplies he can use in barter. He’s stealing from dead people. He was a con man in his previous life, he killed a man he believed to be the man who ruined his life, and he plans to kill again. So what makes us root for him (besides the dimples)? His fondness for Kate, which was crude at first, is now tender. He reads, so much that Jack had to make him glasses, and maybe we associate that with intelligence, I don’t know. The way he calls Jin “Chewy” because no one can understand him. I think part of what we like watching about Sawyer (besides the shirtless scenes) is that he’s being dragged out of himself, and he’s doing it kicking and screaming.

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In Flowers from the Storm by Laura Kinsale, we first meet the hero leaving the bed of his married mistress. It takes a stroke and incarceration in a mental hospital, abandonment by his family, the impending loss of his title to make him see the error of his ways. He was intrigued by the heroine who wasn’t afraid of him, comes to depend on her, much to his dismay, and falls in love with her. (Although, in honesty, I thought several times while reading the book that the heroine would grow into a bitter faced religious woman who looked down on her husband and wondered why she ever married him.)

In Black Ice, the hero is a heartless mercenary who, while he stepped out of looking out only for himself, still had a long way to go in my mind. Clearly they’re much worse than my Ethan. (Well, maybe. I haven’t decided what the scandal is yet.) And they get the girl and word of mouth about these books is through the roof.

So what will it take for Ethan? What steps does a bad boy have to take to be redeemed? What qualities does he need to have to make us root for him?


At 7:14 AM, Blogger Diane Perkins said...

whoo hoo! I say go for it, Mary! I LOVE a Bad Boy.

I think what will make it work is how you motivate his descent into being the bad boy. If it is something that readers can sympathize with, then they will forgive him.

In Phantom, it was his beatings and humiliation as a child, being unloved by his own mother. (and btw, it was right after Christine kisses him that he lets them go)

For Sawyer, it was seeing his parents killed in front of him. I can't remember what childhood was for Laura Kinsale's hero, though, but being locked up after his stroke and treated like an animal was enough.

A Bad Boy has a more interesting journey to redemption to travel than a good boy. And he has so much more to lose if he cannot make it. In Phantom, I liked the character Raoul. I could see how Christine fell for him--he was the sort of fellow we'd all like to marry - handsome, rich, kind, strong, great singing voice - but weren't we all rooting for the Phantom? He had so much more to lose. In the end it was giving it all up that redeemed him.

Thank you for the photos of the Phantom and Sawyer!!


At 8:08 AM, Blogger Sandy Blair said...

I adore..nay, LOVE bad boys. Those that sense deep within that something is wrong, that there has to be a better way if only they an find it. Can't wait to read the story!

At 11:43 PM, Blogger Trish Milburn said...

Great topic, Mary. There is just something so intriguing about the idea of a heroine believing she's the one who can make this bad boy good, to make him believe he's loveable when he does everything to prove he's not. Like on LOST, I love Jack and Kate together, but man, sometimes you've got to root for Sawyer with her too.

At 7:56 AM, Blogger MaryF said...

I'm so glad y'all love bad boys.

When I was at the grocery store after I wrote this, I bouht the Newsweek with Bode Miller on the cover, since he's a "bad boy." Couldn't much find his motivation, though.

At 1:22 PM, Anonymous Kiki aka Esri said...

The bad boys I root for the most are men who were thoughtless and didn't see the harm they could do until someone *really* got hurt. Something terrible happens and wakes them up. Then the bad boy either has to make amends immediately or, if amends can't be made, he should take his punishment honorably or punish himself somehow. And it should be real punishment, like giving up time, money, status, as opposed to pushing away love, because love is work, and being unpleasant to a woman isn't punishment, it's a lapse into his old cruel ways. So the thing that keeps them apart has to be external, or he loves the woman and treats her lovingly, but doesn't want to include her in his ongoing punishment, whatever it is. His redemption comes because he faced consequences and became a better, more compassionate man. And at the end, he does accomplishes a deed so great that he gets forgiveness from society and himself.

If you want to see an extraordinarily bad boy make good, watch Billy Bob Thornton in "Levity."

At 3:09 PM, Blogger Colleen Gleason said...

Mary, I am so glad you found an excuse to post a pic of Gerry on the WNP blog. Thank you.

As for me, I still don't understand why Christine went off with Raoul instead of staying with the Phantom. In fact, it bothered me so much that I have written my own version of the Phantom in which things are different....very different.

At 3:44 PM, Blogger MaryF said...

Esri, oh my gosh, you've hit exactly what I want! I'm printing out your response to add to my notes!

Colleen, ;). It's what I do. As for why Christine went off with Raoul, good girls always marry nice boys. Though you'd think, Christine and Phantom both being alone in the world....would love to read your ending!

At 3:55 PM, Blogger Gena Showalter said...

I love me some bad boys!!

At 9:49 PM, Blogger Diane Perkins said...

No fair! I posted a pic of Gerry first! Read my blog.


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