Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A Topic Close to Alicia's Heart

Romantic rogues.

Been thinking a lot about this character archetype in recent weeks, but I won't bore you with those thoughts. Suffice it to say I encountered a bit of metastory earlier this summer in which the bad boy from a classic novel was redeemed -- transformed into a romantic hero, even -- and it's been weighing on my mind ever since.

For purely academic reasons, of course. *ahem*

Because girls never go all swoony and coo over rogues, right, Alicia? Especially not over cocktails in the lobby bar in Orlando. And especially not us. We're far too dignified for such shenanigans.

Which brings me to my questions for Team Comments, and anyone else who cares to play along. (Yes, it's a non sequitur. Indulge me.)

Is a rogue the same thing as a bad boy?

Do you prefer one character type to the other (as a reader)? Do you avoid either?

How far can a rogue (or bad boy) go before crossing the line into villainy? Got any examples?

What makes you trust that a rogue (or bad boy) has been redeemed and made worthy of romantic love?

These aren't merely speculative questions. I'm writing something on this topic -- not a blog post, go figure -- and am trying to refine my thinking. TIA for anything you care to share.



C.L. Gray said...

Luke Spencer from General Hospital. Total rogue, and one of my favorite characters. He's funny, principled in his own way, hates his enemy with a perfect hatred, will break the law to further his own goal...but he is funny, likeable, and has been redeemed by the love of Laura Spencer. And its through her eyes that we got to know Luke. And if Laura says he is okay to love and trust (and he never betrays that love and trust as much as a soap opera will allow) that makes him a character to root for and to like.

Edittorrent said...

Good one, C.L. I do think a certain disdain for the law -- even outright lawlessness -- is one of the hallmarks of both the villain and the rogue. Maybe the difference is that the villain does it for bad ends and the rogue for good?


C.L. Gray said...

I think your right, Theresa. If we know why the rogue is a lawbreaker, we dismiss it. If he just is a mass murderer for no reason -- not so much.

To be a villan -- Luke would have to hurt and betray Laura so that her love for him dissolves. As long as he doesn't do that...I'm usually on board for the shadier side of Luke's personality.

C.L. Gray said...

One more comment and I'll stop.

In the Return of the King, Samwise Gamgee said about Gollum, "He's a villan." Sam saw Gollum for what he was. Someone who would murder them in their sleep to get the ring of power.

Frodo saw Smeagol through a different set of eyes. He knew the corrupting power of the ring and the hold it had on ring bearers. Frodo knew that Smeagol's fate was tied to his own. He needed Smeagol to be redeemable so that, in the end, there was hope for his own redemption.

Villany/rogue comes from a character's point of view.

Luke Spencer's character was first defined by Laura Webber's growing fascination with the bad boy that eventually grew into one of the great soap opera love stories. Because of that love, Luke is forgiven for so much.

Wes said...

I'm trying to create a character who borders on being a rogue, but he is generally an innocent. He steals and kills for revenge for good reasons. However occasionally, he slips into being a bad boy (actually worse) by committing atrocities on a slave raid and deflowering (is that term still used?) a 14 year old slave girl. I can always tell when I've made the trasition because my critique group swears they'll never like the character again. Each time I've tried to have him redeem himself, it costs him greatly, and that seems to win over the group again.

Edittorrent said...

I think of rogues as bad boys with a sense of humor, or bad boys written by Mark Twain. They are Han Solo, not Angel. They are likely to crack a joke when they're about to be executed.

Edittorrent said...

OK, so--
Villain = does bad things for bad reasons with bad results, and we can't forgive him

Bad Boy = does bad things for good or bad reasons with good or bad results, and we can forgive him (but if the results are bad, he has to see that, right?)

Rogue = does bad things for highly personal reasons (good or bad) with unpredictable results (good or bad), but is charming while he does it so we forgive him. (Right?)

who needs to stop procrastinating and do some actual research

Edittorrent said...

@C.L. -- I think the Frodo/Smeagal dynamic was rooted in Frodo's own need to feel hope for the future. Perhaps wasn't an indication of Gollum's actual state, but of Frodo's. But I agree generally that the way characters see other characters is an important part of reader response. We were able to sympathize with Smeagal (and, by extension, tolerate Gollum) because of Frodo's sympathy and kindness.


Edittorrent said...

@Wes, an innocent? Really? Can a character steal and kill and remain innocent? This makes me worry about the character's arc. Such activities would be bound to have some kind of corrosive effect, wouldn't they?


C.L. Gray said...

Re: Smeagol - and we can tolerate him because Tolkien drew him as a complex creature that we can understand and feel sympathy for. At least I can. He's my favorite character in the book.

Smeagol is also the name of my cat. LOL!

Jami Gold said...

Hopefully Murphy will chime in here, as she's more the authority on bad boys. :)

I guess when I think of "rogue", I think of the James Dean/lone wolf type - not necessarily bad, but certainly outside society's boundaries and laws. Because of that, I have no problem with rogues whatsoever. I rather like them in fact.

However, in contrast to rogues' apathy, I see bad boys as having some motivation to behave badly (a chip on their shoulder, proving their superiority, etc.), so they have to be written a certain way for me to like them. As C.L. pointed out, things that help redeem their character are being funny, loyal, doesn't betray heroine's love, etc. I've seen some that I think deserve the heroine and others that I think the heroine should clobber.

And that line doesn't even necessarily have to do with the stereotypical bad boy arrogance/aggressiveness. There was one who was written as a decent guy, but he betrayed the heroine in a way that couldn't be undone. That's the type I hate.

So it all depends on how they're written. I think the poorly written ones give all the others a bad name. :)

Riley Murphy said...

Is a rogue the same thing as a bad boy?

In my mind? No. A rogue is charming and mischievous and yes, unpredictable - I’m thinking an Indiana Jones - swashbuckler type character.

A bad boy (which I love, love - LOVE) did I mention I love them? :D (I think) Is more complex than that. No matter how cynical or hard he is, he has an inner strength - a core of strongly held beliefs that he can’t go against - even for a worthy cause. That’s what makes him so appealing. That’s where some great internal conflict comes in. He’s walking wounded - a guy who has to deal with his emotional losses or baggage to be able to finally experience love - while the rogue? Not so much. For bad boy? Hmm...I’m thinking of Clint Eastwood in any of his movies.

Huh, now that I think about it - maybe the operative difference between the rogue and the bad boy is predictable vs unpredictable. With a rogue you’re always waiting for him to swoop in and save the day in some outrageous and orchestrated fashion, while with a bad boy, you know it’s only a matter of time before he’s going to walk in and lower the hammer.

I also think it’s important to note - that a rogue is not necessarily a guy that other guys will take seriously - maybe because he’s unpredictable - whereas, the bad boy is always taken seriously.

Examples of a rogue or bad boy getting close to a reader’s tolerance line for bad behavior (no matter what category they are)? How about Natasha Peters: Savage Surrender? I doubt you could get away with that hero today (because her heroine was strong enough to handle the hero, but what the hero put her through - just kept getting worse) and well, there’s Kathleen Woodwiss’ The Flame And The Flower Her hero in that one is barely redeemed in my eyes because she made her heroine too nice.

So, rogue or bad boy. If you don’t have a heroine in place to be worthy of them - then you may lose the reader. I personally think - that today’s ‘bad boy alpha hero’ has to have humor to make him palatable. Not necessarily because women won’t tolerate him without it - they will if the heroine is worthy - instead, I think it has more to do with what’s socially acceptable these days. I mean, in the two examples I gave above - both heroines were literally raped by the hero because he mistook her for a peasant or a street walker. Today we want our heroine’s to be smart enough to know that this is not a forgivable offense even if she was wearing a disguise that deceived him. :)


Jami Gold said...

Hey Murphy,

You should update your Blogger profile so people can click on your name and see your Shrine to the Bad Boy...er, I mean you website. ;)

In essence, I agree with you. What you call the unpredictable nature of the rogue matches my idea of their apathy (feigned or real). You just don't know if they're going to care about something enough to take an action or not.

But I think both archetypes have the same potential for inner conflict, in that just as much as the bad boy has to deal with his baggage to experience love, so does the rogue. They're both wounded in some way.

Maybe the difference is in their reaction to their issues. The bad boy's strong motivations (beliefs) lead them down one path, while the rogue's anti-social tendencies lead them down another.

I do think you're right that other men react to the two types very differently. But I don't think it's that men don't take rogues seriously, more that they see them as a loose cannon (and might find them intimidating just by their existence based on what they represent - lack of rules/society/etc.).

And I love your comment about how either way, you need a heroine to match them. That might be the real issue. A bad boy can do the worst thing possible, but if the heroine calls him to the carpet for it and makes him pay... Well, that leads to a sense of redemption, right? I'm thinking now of the story with the bad boy I hated, and maybe you're right. Maybe the problem was with the weak heroine who didn't make him even try to earn forgiveness. So how could I, as a reader, possibly forgive him?

I think you're on to something... :)

Riley Murphy said...

@JG: Holy crap! Thanks for the heads-up about the profile. All fixed! :D

Okay, I'll have to think about the rogue stuff you mentioned - because to me, his unpredictable nature should be pivotal to the plot. So, does that mean this is a desired trait in him? Hmm... thinking. But hey, I don't think a true 'alpha bad boy' would ever be intimidated by a rogue. I'm thinking Star Wars - Luke and Hans Solo. Still thinking...

Yep, I guess at the end of the day, I think it really does come down to the heroine. If she's TSTL - how can he be drool worthy, right?


writtenwyrdd said...

For me, a romantic rogue is sexy and draws me in because he's "bad" but not too bad. And that bad is more his strength to stand alone. He's got the willpower/ personality that lets him be who he chooses, instead of being dictated to. In other words, the definition that's least used, "Operating outside normal or desirable controls." That leaves a lot of author room to make him unprinicipled, dangerous, a hero, or whatever else you can find in any given romance with a rogue.

Actually, though, I think my favorite rogues are the unredeemed ones, the ones you know are so bad for you that you could actually die (vampires!) or forbidden in some other way. And perhaps that particular attraction to those sorts of bad boys is about the lure of the forbidden/danger... or the Grass Is Greener syndrome where you're pulled toward what you know you shouldn't want, or what you never have tried before?

Wes said...


Thanks for joining us.

writtenwyrdd said...

I never commented here that often, but I haven't commented anywhere, it seems, in months. Ths is one of my favorite blogs, however.

elfarmy17 said...

Totally agree with writtenwyrdd about the rogues. George Cooper (Song of the Lionness Quartet by Tamora Pierce) comes to mind. I love him.