Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Fear and Hope - Bad boys

Okay, I'm pretty much a straight arrow. I work hard to be dependable, straightforward, and honest. It's easy for me to write that sort of a character, with flaws that will make them interesting.

My writing of villains gets a boost from having come across them in my life (and I have the scars to prove it). I've had to work for and with people who had hidden agendas, dodgy pasts, and empathy deficiencies. Crafting a villain with multiple dimensions requires my getting into their shoes and reminding myself that each of these characters sees him or herself as the hero.

My problem: Rogues and bad boys - I don't get them.

They are popular in lots of fiction and almost required in romances. (I suspect there are female equivalents to bad boys, but I don't think there would be a consensus description. I'll leave that to others.)

The rogues and bad boys always have baffled me. And I may not have them "solved" even now, but I do have a few thoughts. What set me off was the idea, presented in Jim Davies Riveted, that humans are easily engaged by fear and hope. For obvious reasons, we pay attention to scary things since some of these, when ignored, can damage or even kill us. We are especially attracted to stories and situations where fear is connected with something we suspect might be trouble.

Hope, in this context, points toward making things better. It often gives us answers that can quell our fears.

Combining the two is riveting. We are likely to find articles, shows, novels, and courses that include both fear and hope to be irresistible. A slot machine provides this combination time after time and is among the most addictive devices ever made.

Maybe people who combine fear and hope are irresistible, too.

With this in mind, I did a little more research into bad boys, including reading advice to would-be bad boys and talking to a woman who had married one. What I found seemed to indicate I was on the right track.

Bad boys do not reliably pay off with attention, compliments, and love. They don't always respond to texts and phone calls. They may ignore bids for attention. They are likely to respond with powerful anger to slights and lack of respect. They even will, at times, react to gifts and offers of affection by going cold, disdain, mocking, paying attention to other women, and hurting feelings. They are never a sure thing. It is easy for those who seek their approval to mess things up.

On the positive side, they may respond in big, affectionate, romantic ways, bathing their lovers/suitors/friends in acceptance and love. But, like slot machines, they only are riveting, gaining attention (and building power) if they pay off intermittently and unpredictably. As the woman I interviewed said, easy, dependable, and safe is boring. Bad boys bring drama, and lots of it.

We know that good stories need conflict and drama. No wonder rogues and bad boys are so common in novels and movies.

I'll add one more element. Davies says we love to figure things out. We like to solve puzzles. Perhaps this is why so many rogues and bad boys also have secrets. It's just the right spice to keep us intrigued and to provide an excuse for their bad behavior.

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