by MA Grant
Oh, the bad boy. He can make or break a story and gain a legion of devoted fans with a single smirk.
As proof, I present Exhibits A-F:
Exhibit A: John Bender from The Breakfast Club
Do we love the snarky dialogue? Yes. Do we love the cliffhanger endings? Duh. But, let’s pull it in for a moment of honesty and face the fact that the real reason the movie happened was because we wanted more Logan.
And, score!, he’s only gotten better with age.
We’re willing to overlook Logan’s (many, many) past mistakes because we’ve seen a glimmer of the man he could become. Not to mention, we’ve seen the way he looks at Veronica when he thinks she won’t notice (Exhibit G).
We love him and we live to see his redemption.
Watching a bad boy in action is easy. But writing said character is tricky. It can be tempting to let him roam unchecked because it’s just too cruel to rein him in. But the cost of absolute freedom is that your bad boy can go from tortured alpha to total sociopath too fast to salvage the story.
Bad boys need ground rules. Just a few, just to make sure they know where they’re going.
Rule 1: Bad boys have a code.
Part of their allure is that he doesn’t always work within society’s expectations. But all the memorable bad boys have key values they uphold and they don’t compromise them. The inner strength that helps our rebels follow these personal codes is what allows them to turn into heroes later on.
In my novella Lace & Lead (*insert shameless plug here*), mercenary Peirce Taggart ends up happily ever after with aristocrat Emmaline because their morals are complementary. They come to respect each other because of the lines they refuse to cross.
No matter the story, where there is respect between characters, love can follow.
Rule 2: Bad boys are willing to make sacrifices.
Money, fame, power, sometimes even the girl…Bad boys understand when they’ve found something good in life and they don’t like to give it up. We eat up the knowledge that little pieces of their souls are missing and they seek out what they think will help them become whole again. But if this is accomplished by destroying the people they love, they’re willing to make whatever sacrifices are necessary to prevent their true loves’ suffering.
Connor Sinclair, a bad boy/supporting character from my Escape debut Red Moon (*insert yet another shameless plug here*) consistently stole the show with readers; they wanted to know why he was so broken and whether he’d be able to pull it together long enough to stop disappointing his brother and his love/hate interest Dana. (Good news! In August, all those questions will be answered in Blood Moon!)
This emotional buy-in happens because every sacrifice a bad boy makes ups the tension and leaves us on tenterhooks.
Which leads us to…
Rule 3: All rules are off the table when it comes to love.
Love is messy. It requires compromise and vulnerability and responsibility and an acceptance that you now have a direct impact on another human being’s happiness. Yeah, heavy stuff.
But if anyone is set to face that challenge, it’s our bad boy. He’s got nothing else he could possibly lose, so when he goes all out to earn back the love he lost, he really goes all out.
Stereos held overhead, impromptu marching band karaoke performances, fake/real/near deaths, wardrobe changes, vehicle changes, epic ballroom dance-offs, proposals, smexy times…you name the grand gesture of your choice and I can pretty much guarantee that a bad boy has, at some point in some place, done it.
With a bit of luck, a pinch of arrogance, and a hint of a trademark smirk, these guys will keep us swooning for years to come.
M.A. Grant is fortunate to live in the rugged beauty of Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula. She’s believed in happy endings and true love since she was very young, when her parents would read her Mercer Meyer’s Beauty and the Beast and East of the Sun, West of the Moon. At the time, she could only look at the pictures and pretend to understand the words. Later in life, the realisation that she had stories of her own to tell would lead her to graduate college with majors in Creative Writing and English. Thanks to her husband’s unending support, she now works as a scribe to the intelligent women and wounded heroes who need their stories told