I would like to preface this blog with the disclaimer that, much like Princess Leia, I happen to like nice men. In fact, in “real life” (aka the life that exists outside of books and movies and TV shows and is therefore theoretically more important) I sincerely do prefer nice guys. Real-life jerks lose their appeal pretty much the moment they’re rude to the waitress or tell that awkward story about how they once humiliated the handicapped kid at their school, insisting on how “hilarious” it was (an unfortunately true story).
Fiction, however, blurs the lines on this a little. Also much like Princess Leia, I sincerely want to like nice men, not scruffy-looking nerfherders like that irascible Han Solo. But while there are definitely those all-around nice characters that I absolutely love (Atticus Finch, Steve Rogers, Wesley Wyndham-Price, to name a few) there is just something about the bad boy.
I’ve had a few real-life nice guys ask me about this elusive appeal. To be honest, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what it is. I think the closest that I’ve ever seen it explained was in an episode of the Simpsons, in which Lisa swoons over the town bad-boy, “Oh, if only someone could tame him.”
As much as I try to fight it, fiction has programmed me to believe that underneath every tough-guy exterior is a heart of gold just waiting to be unleashed. And while when I see this spelled out to me I can laugh at how pathetic/masochistic/stupid that idea is, there’s a part of me that will always get just a little bit giddy when Hank picks a bar fight at his saloon, or Klaus offers to show Caroline the world (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f_29_la0jCA&feature=related).
This has especially been on my mind lately because for the first time, I’m tackling an honest to goodness bad-boy main character (or “MC” in writer speak). All of my MCs are a bit crusty around the edges—‘cause that’s how I like ‘em—but so far they’ve pretty much adhered to that whole heart-of-gold, diamond-in-the-rough idea.
This new guy is different. He’s not a nice guy. He manipulates and uses people. He destroys the people around him for his own selfish gains. He leaves the toilet seat up. But he’s also kind of charming and has a British accent and a pet tiger, which makes him sort of awesome, too. My dilemma is that as a responsible human being, I don’t want to perpetuate the idea of a monster turning into a puppy thanks to true love. But as a writer of fiction and a reluctant enjoyer of bad-boy characters, I kinda wanna tell that responsible voice to just shut up and write a really juicy story.
So who wins out in the end? Only time will tell, I suppose. I’m still in the pretty early stages of this project, and nothing is written in stone. I’m going to really try and find a balance here—to make this genuinely bad character really EARN any moments of redemption. Redemption stories are my favorite kinds to tell, anyway, because in my sappy, sentimental heart, I like to believe that people can change and that we all deserve at least the chance at happily-ever-afters. But I’m also going to attempt to show that beauty can’t save the beast—he has to do that on his own if it’s really going to stick.
And if I have to watch video clips of Joseph Morgan in the meantime for “research,” that’s just a sacrifice I’ll have to make. For my art, or something like that. Yeah, that sounds legit, I’ll go with that.
Oh, if only someone could tame him.