Thursday, 19 July 2012

The appeal of the bad boy

Fiction is different from life, and nowhere is it more important to remember this than with bad boy love interests. A health warning: readers, don't try this at home.

Typical bad boy behaviour, fictional and in real life:

1. Relentless promiscuity, until he meets our heroine, falls deeply in love and changes his ways, becoming forever monogamous. Hmm. Remember that proverb concerning leopards and spots? Much more likely you'll turn out to be just one of the crowd.

2. Dangerous driving, particularly of large motorbikes. Don't get too fond of him;  doctors refer to motorcyclists as organ donors.

3. Drug use and/or excessive drinking, possibly smoking. This will spoil his gorgeous looks and his health, given time.

4. An explosive temper with a tendency to beat up people he is in conflict with. You'll be visiting him in prison if he makes a habit of physical assault. Plus, cauliflower ears and chipped teeth are not attractive.

So why do we writers keep on writing about these guys? I'm doing it myself in the WIP. I think it's because they are more fun to write/read about than the sort of man one would actually want to get involved with; kind, sensible, non-violent, steady, willing to do his share of the chores.

I'm yawning already...


  1. Lexi,

    Thanks for exposing we bad boys for what we are. Even though my excessive drinking and drug use will one day many years from now spoil my gorgeous looks, I deserve it.

    We're just no damn good. You are performing a public service with your book, and one day when I get a break from my relentless promiscuity, I may even read it.

    Thanks for understanding.

  2. What a struggle it is to take my own good advice where you are concerned, Perry, you irresistible scoundrel. How fortunate there is an ocean between us...


  3. They are such fun to write about - and you cross the road to keep away from the real-life versions. But that's the joy of fiction - it's pretend, we can play with whoever we like!

  4. The famous unshaven lothario.
    What is it with women and bad boys ?
    Women love them and men like being them.
    Bilateral fulfillment of a fantasy. wont go for bad girls. Thats Prisoner Cell Block H stuff, not James Bond.
    Men only like a bad girl when....A lady in the streets but a freak in the bed !!
    Just as history books are written by the victors - the last word in such matters are sadly written by men. Boring. I want some bad girls.

  5. Yeah! And with luck, get them out of our systems.

  6. Mick, I think it's the idea of a bad boy tamed by love that's appealing to women, and possibly men are not keen on being tamed.

    I hadn't considered bad girls. Do men really not go for them? Perhaps I should include one in my next book.

  7. Yes, men are not keen on being tamed because that self destructive potential in them. Leave a man on his own and he will screw up his life, I promise you. I am going to get into trouble for saying this - but its men who need women. Women are perfectly ok on their own.
    Bad girl ? I was hoping you would say that. Just reading Remix...not finished it yet....and wondering what it would be like if Caz was the rock star....

  8. I think it's because there's a bad some to us that we keep hidden but wishes we could let out, just like the bad boy or bad girl. and besides, if there are no bad people, there would not be a need for heros, isn't that right?

  9. Yo Unknown!

    Agreed - there is that statistic that married men live longer than their unmarried counterparts, but married women live less long...

    I hope you are enjoying Remix. I fear Caz would make a sad rock star, she's too sensible.

  10. sorry the previous comment was from me

  11. Caz is too sensible - THAT is the whole point !
    A bad girl ( anti hero) would be doing all the bad boy stuff but still be sensible....done properly the character would be very intriguing !

  12. Lissa, I think that's one reason I enjoy writing flawed characters. (And they have a slight bad influence on me, I've noticed; probably all for the good as I'm a bit too law-abiding.)

    If everyone was well-behaved there would be no conflict and no novels, films or plays.

  13. Mick, I think you've just described Mick Jagger - level-headed even on drugs while all about him went to pieces. Not sure how attractive that is...

  14. Curiously, Mick Jagger was quite sensible. He is the only rock star I know who loves cricket. Saw him in a Eng/WI test match once in Antigua !
    But honestly, genre fiction portraying a woman who is deeply flawed, on drugs, lost her kids to care, pursued by a killer....and she is a cop about to lose her job ?
    Now that would be a good read.

  15. No mother (possibly no female) is going to relate to a woman who holds down her police job while her children are taken into care. That's way too deeply flawed. As far as I'm concerned, the killer can have her :o)

  16. Ok, losing her kids is a bit too much...but you get the drift.
    Basically, bad girls who are actually...well, worthy. Be nice to see some of those.
    By the way, you are quite an inspiration Lexi. I too, have now eschewed searching for an agent. Going indie !

  17. Thank you so much for this article.

    I realise that bad men make more interesting characters and can lead to more dramatic plot devices than steady ones. However, I'm getting so tired of reading about bad men who change when they meet the right woman, particularly a certain Christian Grey. These characters are not helpful to people in real life abusive relationships who really need to leave.

  18. Mick, best of luck with your indie endeavours :o)

    Rosen, my grandmother used to say, "Never marry a man and think you'll change him." It's kind of an insulting thing to think about another human being, anyway; he'll do with a few tweaks. I wouldn't like to be tweaked.

    As for 50 Shades, I can't quite bring myself to look at the sample, even. I know I ought to, to get an idea of what the fuss is about, but I feel a deep distaste. I worry about impressionable young girls reading the thing.

  19. " I worry about impressionable young girls reading the thing."

    I don't know how many impressionable young GUYS are reading FSG but that has me as worried. FSG seems to me to be a massive step backwards in gender politics. Sadly it is probably just symptomatic of the times.

  20. Would males read it? I can't imagine sensible adults taking it as anything but a joke.

  21. As Snow White once sang "Some day my bad boy prince will come...". Yes she did!

    Take care

  22. Kitty, have you seen Snow White and the Huntsman? Now that has a bad boy hero, and rather annoyingly, the film doesn't show whether she settled for him or the nice childhood friend...

  23. I was so disappointed that the nice childhood friend didn't get killed off, leaving the way open for the bad boy...

    I would not recommend the sample for FSG. I hated it from the first mind-numbingly boring sentence.

  24. That ending just seemed unresolved to me.

    Okay, I've looked at the 50 Shades sample. It starts with a woman looking at herself in the mirror so she can tell the reader what she looks like. Now there's a novel idea. The friend has green she's smiling wryly...the formatting has wrong indents and the odd space mid-word - 'f' seems to set it off...

    Oh, that's it, end of sample, and she's only just covered the d├ęcor and everyone's hair and eye colour. But it's enough.

  25. I recently gave a good friend a bit of grief for reading FSG. At the time she said she was just to chapter three, I have no idea if she has continued with her reading or has abandoned it in favor of some more worthy pursuit like drinking absinthe by the quart or daily two hour sessions in a tanning salon. There is an extensive, hilarious and angry review of the book by Katrina Lumsden over at Goodreads that is worth reading by anyone considering squandering their time on this sad, sad publishing phenomenon.

  26. One of the most depressing aspects is that publishers are scouring fanfic sites to find similar rubbish to make money with. I hope this opportunism misfires badly, is indeed the last nail in their coffins.

  27. I think it is just one of those cycles. You know, like the Fall of the Roman Empire. All part of the "interesting times" referred to in the Irish curse.

  28. I always thought it was a Chinese curse - maybe it's both.

    Surely the whole point of the Fall of the Roman Empire was that it fell and didn't stagger to its feet again? Or are you thinking in bigger, worldwide terms?

  29. I'm just tired of how we (as in western society, the United States in particular) seem to be conducting ourselves lately. Political discourse is at a low, you have to do some real searching to find credible journalism, way too many people buy into blatant lies just because they are spoken by loud and highly compensated persons and now the latest cultural phenomenon is a series of dirty books that otherwise sane people and reputable retailers have no shame about showcasing.

    'scuse me, I do have a tendency to despair for the human race at times. We're an aggravating species.

  30. I try to trust in people's long term decency and common sense (and taste). There is always the good as well as the bad. The Dalai Llama tells us not to worry, and he's a good egg, so don't despair.

  31. Thank you, Lexi. I shall read some Wodehouse while eating lunch and put "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" on the stereo for my drive to work this afternoon and my naturally cheery disposition will be restored.

  32. The best novels will relate the bad-boy anti-social behaviour to trauma in earlier life. I suspect that pure evil without a nurturing environment is very rare.

    The intelligent heroine will be aware of this and will recognise the roots of the problem before moulding the hero to suit her requirements.

    True love is an incredibly powerful reforming tool and can readily turn a drunken lecher into an exciting and faithful lover. A zillion romance novels are testament to this view.

    To help you get your rose tinted specs focussed I can recommend reading some of William Morris's romances, for example 'The Well at the World's End'.

    Lexi, can we assume from this blog that stronger romantic themes are beginning to seep into your writing? If so, I might (eventually) forgive you for killing of one of the heroines in Replica. LOL

  33. Q, I've only read News from Nowhere and a few of Morris's poems, a long time ago. I suppose he was deeply romantic, on reflection.

    Most novels are better for a bit of romance. I think the romance ratio in my fiction remains fairly constant - you'll have to wait and see :o)