I do love 'em, it's true. Whether I'm watching Ian Smoulder - uh, I mean Somerhalder - as Damon on TVD, or reading about one of the many lovable rogues in YA novels, bad boys will always be my favourite characters.
The 'bad boy' classification is thrown around for quite different character types. You have the troublemaker, the broody control freak, the hardass, the wiseguy - but under it all, there has to be something redeeming. Right? Otherwise they're basically just a douche, and nobody wants to cross that line from dark, sexy bad boy to... well, douche.
And that doesn't mean they can't have done truly terrible, awful things. Look at Damon or Klaus from TVD, for example - got a soft spot for either of them? Hmm? They've both brutally murdered shiz-tons of people, including characters the MC (and the reader/viewer, depending on your medium of choice) cares about. They're both waaaay older than most people's grandparents. I mean, the fact that they look young and hot is kind of irrelevant. They're still old men who prey - literally - on schoolgirls. Yet we love them, and other graduates of the School of Bad Boyism.
How about Cole from Maggie Stiefvater's FOREVER? He's a gifted musician who chooses to live as a wolf after becoming overwhelmed by the sleazier aspects of fame and drug addiction. Dark, charismatic, deeply troubled...my teenage self just swooned.
Then there's the likes of Christophe from Lili St Crow's STRANGE ANGELS series. Another older-guy-in-hot-young-body situation here, not to mention the slight abuse of power as he becomes involved in a love triangle with his mentee and her wolfboy sorta-kinda-boyfriend. Same goes for Dmitri in Richelle Mead's VAMPIRE ACADEMY series - and why the heck did Dmitri become so much hotter when he turned strigoi??
As much as a bad boy needs some redeeming quality (even if it's just that he's got a wicked sense of humour), these are still the boys we wouldn't want to date IRL. At least we wouldn't introduce one to our parents. So why do they appeal so much in YA novels? And yes, I'm only talking about YA, although there are so many I could mention in adult novels. Raphael from Nalini Singh's GUILD HUNTER novels, anyone?? Mmhmm.
The reason I'm focusing on YA is because I get to look at the YA bad boys from both angles. No, not like that. I love to write from a male POV, and my male MCs tend to be - you guessed it - bad boys.
So why do I love bad boys? Why do others love them?
Now here's an out-there theory for you: there are only 2 fundamental character arcs a reader will sympathise with. Either the weak becomes strong, or the bad becomes good. And a well-written bad boy can be either of these.
So, got any thoughts on what makes a great bad boy? Favourites you'd like to share? Want to tear my theory of sympathetic character arcs apart?? Please do!