Friday, June 01, 2007

You Bad Boy, You!

So now that my social calendar has cleared for a few weeks, I find myself thinking more about my WIP - Ghost of a Chance (thank you, Pat). I stopped writing several weeks ago because I’d hit a problem that I knew I needed to go back and fix before I got any further. I added another character (which, for those of you counting, makes one hero, one heroine, 3 plucky female sidekicks, 3 ghosts, 4 villians and a partridge in a pear tree.) All the characters are jumping off the page at me, their personalities and voices are all distinct, they all respond differently. All is well, except for the hero. The hero! He’s the most important guy in the whole book and he isn’t working.

I guess part of my struggle is that I don’t write alpha heroes. My guys tend to be the more brooding, sensitive or funny types. They’re not wussies, but they aren’t the big, macho types either. My hero could be either – he’s in construction, owns his own company. Serial dater, totally non-commital. He’s funny in his own way, but really plays the role of the straight man to the heroine's antagonistic sarcasm. He’s slightly anal in that he likes things to go just so. Of course, that means I spend them entire book making his life hell. He could very easily be a controlling ass, although my heroine wouldn’t take that for a second. I find more that he’s going with the flow, something I never anticipated him to do. He should be more type A, but there’s something else wrong too.

He’s missing something. He isn’t larger than life, which apparently is a requirement for my readers to fall in love with him. He isn’t a Greek tycoon billionaire. He isn’t a bachelor playboy heir to a Fortune 500 company. He isn’t a cop or a firefighter or a cowboy. He’s the biggest sexiest version of the Brawny man you can imagine. Tall, broad, rough hands, an intoxicating mix of sawdust and...where was I? Oh yeah - he’s just a guy trying to live his life and everything is going wrong.

What I haven’t mentioned is that he lives with the belief that he can and will die at any moment. He already feels he’s on borrowed time. It was suggested that giving him a reckless, adrenaline junkie side would help him “pop.” A skydiver or something crazy that could potentially kill him any time he did it. An ‘if I’m going to die, I’m gonna do it my way’ sort of attitude. It has some merit, but I can’t figure out what he would do or how to weave it into the existing 200 pages.

My mother suggested that I should think about him this way – how would he live his life if he wasn’t worried about the future? He’d eat too much, drink too much, drive too fast, just live in the type of excess that someone looking to stay healthy well into their 80s would never do. Live like you were dying. Be spontaneous. Be in the moment.

I need some help to work all this out. What do y’all think? Should he have a specific passion, like skydiving or driving 200 mph on a crotch rocket (motorcycle)? Should he be an all around risk taker – do whatever, whenever? Should he live in excess without overtly trying to kill himself? Is there anything wrong with a hero that isn’t a larger than life bad boy? Your thoughts, please. I need to get him fixed and start moving forward with this book.



Maven LJ said...

Okay, I'll play. :-)

First of all, he doesn't have to be alpha to be appealing. I hope that's the case, because I really don't write alpha heroes. Not normally, anyway. Secondly, no one knows him the way you do. IS he an adrenaline junkie? If not, what is it about him that turns your crank? What, besides the Brawny Man shoulders, will make readers care about him?

I'd say meditate on the guy a while and see what pops for you. Find a picture, stare at it, and forget all the other characters for a while. Make him speak to you, and then you'll know. If he doesn't speak, threaten to toss him out and replace him with a Navy SEAL! :-) That'll motivate him.

I kinda had this problem with the hero in Prince of Swords. Since so many of the characters were coming back from the previous trilogy, I was stuck as far as certain things went. One, the big one for me, was the hero's age. He was 23! A baby. Not yet done. Nothing got rolling until I found a picture of Wentworth Miller (what great eyes) and just stared at it for a while, thinking about the character and letting it all fall into place.


Pat L. said...

Ooh, thanks for making MY book so interesting.

Will have to think on this.

Having a problem posting again. GRRRR.

Rhonda said...

SP, if this is the story I read, I *liked* your hero.

How about approach it from a different angle? What about him does it for the heroine? What's going to make him larger than life for *her* specifically. What does she need from him? Answer those questions and give him those qualities.

Just my .02...

Angel said...

I think part of it is that everyone else is so loud, he can't be heard. That's often true for the silent types. But his presence should be felt. Like, he may not speak often, but when he does....

Both LJ and Rhonda have great suggestions, and I do think looking for the qualities SHE is attracted to in him will make him come alive more, simply because the reader should fall in love along with the heroine. So why is she falling in love?

Playground Monitor said...

Wow,great advice from the masters so I'm not sure I can offer anything.

I like beta heroes. They don't all have to be Greek tycoons or CEOs. So don't worry too much about that part. But since he thinks he's going to die anyway and that's keeping him from committing, I kinda like motorcycle angle. But don't make it a crotch rocket; he can't take the heroine for a moonlight ride on that (well, he can but it ain't pretty). Make it a bad-ass Harley that he can go just as fast on, but he can put the heroine on the back and take her for a ride.

Just my .02.


Instigator said...

I'm with PM, such great advice I don't know that I can add anything.

I think Angel is right though, the other characters are eclipsing him, not because there's something wrong with him but just because they're so strong (and I think you hear them louder than you hear him).


Smarty Pants said...

You're right. I just hear him muttering under his breath while the others are screaming at me. I need to take my hero to lunch and get to know him a little better.

Kathy said...

Everyone has great suggestions but I agree, this one is in your court, SP.

Maybe your hero refuses to wear a helmet or seatbelt and drives fast or irratic. Maybe your heroine likes him because he's so different from her partner who was jacked up on adrenaline all the time as a cop. Either way, there are small things you can add that will give him that unexpected interest. A dimple, a look in his eye, perhaps he once drank in order to forget, or like loveable Monk in the TV series-maybe he has a compulsive tick he can't shirk (something she notices that endears him to her, something that could be funny).

I know you'll get this right.


Problem Child said...

Don't forget, he could be a risk taker without being stupid--and 200 mph on a crotch rocket is stupid (and dangerous to others as well).

For some, not having an IRA would be considered living in the moment.

Listen to him.

Smarty Pants said...

Lets say I do give him a hobby - dangerous or otherwise - that he uses to blow off steam. He of course, can't do it now because he's stuck in this hell called my book. It lends to his frustrations with the whole situation and give him only one other outlet - my heroine. Lucky her. What kind of hobby would be cool??

Playground Monitor said...

He could collect bugs like Grissom on CSI. And y'all know how hot I think Grissom is. FYI, I hope Sara dies in the dessert and he ends up hooking up with Lady Heather. She's the only woman who's his equal.


Playground Monitor said...

For some, not having an IRA would be considered living in the moment.


::changes mind::

::runs off to check her IRA balance::

Kathy said...

:-) If he's into bugs, the bugs would have to be potentialy dangerous. How about poisonous snakes? Spiders anyone? Heck he's in construction, maybe he's found some crazy stuff. Maybe he's a member of Greenpeace and rides the waves in front of whaling vessels to stop the senseless killing of whales as a passtime? This is your chance to add some swashbuckling adventure. :-)

Seriously, there are a number of hobbies that could have dangerous potential. Seen the movie THE DESCENT? Maybe he likes to explore caves or maybe he's a mountain climber? A bicyclist or marathon runner. Maybe he's secretly got a PHD in medicine and has a secret Lab hidden in his mother's basement where he is trying to find a cure for his condition.

As I'm blabbing off possibilities, it occurs to me that he might not even be in contruction as his first love. Perhaps he was in another profession and decided to give it all up to build structures that would be a permanent reminder that he had, in fact, lived. OOoh, I like that. And maybe his original profession was one that was more dangerous...therefore he's given that up in order to prolong the time he has left. Maybe even as a promise to his mother.


Pat L. said...

Crotch rocket - never heard that before; I like it.

Anyway, PLS NO SNAKES. And he doesnt have to be downright reckless - the motorcycle is good -that is dangerous enuf for me.

Maybe someone in the story could have overcome a serious illness and shows him that to enjoy life you cant keep thinking about death - perhaps the heroine? And how about the hero getting the heroine pregnant and he realizes he as to change his attitude as he has a child to consider.

Good thing I dont have to write a book. LOL.

Bethanne said...

I've never posted before. Hi everyone! The playground has been on my favorites list for a while now. I love visiting.

I'm okay with the nonalpha male, too. Sounds like a general consensus here. I'm not sure about the risk taking. It seems out of character to the guy you're describing BUT, I would love to see him have a temper. =) Explosive passion beneath a seemingly quiet demeanor.

Instigator said...

Hi Bethanne! Great to *see* you here.

And I really like the idea of a temper. :-)