I’m so sick of reading books about girls falling hard for an arrogant douche who treats her like shit. Authors, we’re better than this. ~ Cheyanne Young, Twitter.
So what do I call this little article? Bad Boys and Bad Boyfriends? I would if this were a YA group. How about Dominance and Douchebaggery? Or Dicks and Dolls? Nah, I’ll slap some title on it after I’ve finished writing that fits the genre. That’s what I do with a lot of things, after all. But what I want to talk about is the idea that the big, tough hero or even in my case, the ex villain, doesn’t have to be emotionally constipated. Or even a typical douchebag.
I think it’s something a lot of new writers run into. We want the character to come off as strong and hardcore, the one that stands above all others, but we give off the wrong impression–especially if we’re writing for young adults like I am. A strong male doesn’t have to be one you can’t empathize with or understand. In fact I believe a strong character, or any character at all (barring the bad guys, sometimes,) is one that you should be able to see yourself hanging out with in your own life.
So here’s a rule of thumb for you new writers out there. If you’re writing a main character, or a love interest (because even super hero books have love interests here and there,) make it someone you would drink a milkshake or a beer with. Actually, my side characters turn into my main characters at any moment, so I suggest investing in them, as well.
But now you’re asking, “How do I make people realize how tough he/she is?” Well that’s where you need to put some trust in your readers. Show your character doing what they do–show that they’re good at it. That will prove they’re badass far better than acting like a complete and utter jackass. The readers will figure it out.
Now I admit there’s understandable circumstances that can cause the character to be stand-offish, or have difficulty dealing with people. Or even just be a jerk. It happens–both in real life and in fiction. That’s where the beer part of my comment comes in.
It might be a character that needs an outside influence to make them approachable, but on some level, even a very deep one, there should be something that makes the average reader want to root for them. This is when you go out of your way to show that aspect of their character. Put them in a situation where the reader can’t help but empathize with them. Or place another character in their life that they have to make exceptions for, to treat with love and kindness, or even just compassion. Not, like Cheyanne said, “Treat her like shit.”
People like reading about characters they empathize with, or care about. That means characters that empathize, or care about others. (Or even just one or two others, we’re not that picky.) It’s a simple concept, I know, but I think it holds true for most readers.
Also I just figured out the title. This is definitely Heroes and Hardasses.