Do you like bad boys in literature? You know the ones—the heroes that so desperately need redemption. Or maybe not. Maybe we like them with just enough edge to make us swoon with their charm and danger. Today’s MuseTracks guest, Lillie Spencer, discusses why we love our heroes flawed.
Take it away, Lillie!
SUPERMAN NEEDS KRYPTONITE
Every hero needs a weakness. Even Achilles had his heel, although like Superman, many could argue that his true weakness was love. Without some soft spot, dark past or tragic flaw, heroes often become two-dimensional, flat and boring. They need something to work through, or work towards, to give them depth and make them interesting.
Let’s look at Romeo, one of the most familiar and tragic heroes in literature. His impulsiveness was his weakness in all things, in the way he flitted from Rosaline to Juliet, in his interactions with Tybalt – leading to Mercutio’s death, and ultimately in his own reaction to seeing Juliet under the effects of the Friar’s potion. If only he had taken a moment to think things through rationally, they would have had a happy ending, and yet one could argue that Romeo’s habit of following his heart instead of his head is the very thing that endears him to us to this very day.
Another great example is Ian Fleming’s James Bond. Just like in the movies inspired by the books, Bond is undoubtedly heroic, but he’s also a drinking, gambling manwhore with a distinct lack of respect for authority. Men want to be him, and women want to be the one to tame him, or at least give it one helluva try. If Bond was just a perfect, well-mannered spy who did everything he was told, would we have cared about him at all?
In a shameless moment of self-plugging, my own hero in Manhunt, Michael, is emotionally stunted as the result of an abusive childhood. He is loyal to a fault and loves unconditionally, but there’s a darkness to him that can’t be denied and a distance my heroine struggles to cross. I’m told it’s this very darkness and aloofness that makes him fascinating.
Did you see The Avengers? I’ll bet, guy or gal, you love Tony Stark. Watch The Vampire Diaries? Chances are you’re Team Damon, in all his ‘bad brother glory’ as they say. And let’s not even get started on Fifty Shades of Grey‘s Christian Grey. Readers want to dance in his dark side every bit as much as they want to hug him and fix his broken soul.
In some respects, that may be why we gals always seem to prefer the bad boys, the more tortured the better. They have no shortage of failings and we as readers can’t wait to riffle past them looking for the ooey-gooey center, certain that hidden behind the rough exterior is a pure heart that, once healed, will love their woman forever. And in fiction, they often do.
Sometimes you have to forget it all to remember what really matters.
Michael Brennan’s life and career come to an abrupt halt when he receives a phone call telling him the love of his life, Nikki Wright, is in the hospital after another attack by her ex-boyfriend Sebastian Cross. Rushing back to Hershey, PA, Michael turns up at Nikki’s hospital bedside covered in Sebastian’s blood and tells her they have to leave immediately. Though her injuries have induced amnesia, Nikki inherently feels she can trust this man with her life. Soon, they find themselves on the run from both their own troubled pasts and authorities hunting for Sebastian’s killer. But with each new day and each touch drawing her further into Michael’s embrace, Nikki remembers more about this fugitive she once loved, and who still loves her enough to risk everything to protect her and keep her safe.