As I said on Monday, I’m not really sure of what I’m doing. I’m seeing that I do watch a bunch of shows that have ‘Bad Boy’ protagonists. There are a few themes that I’ve seen that enhance their rebellious nature. Might as well share what feeble insights I’ve garnered here:
- There has to be some level of charm. It can be intentional charisma like Neal Caffrey from ‘White Collar’ or animal attraction like Angel or Spike from ‘Buffy’. This is what draws people to the character instead of them being the loner, hated outsider that has no business being involved in the action. You need there to be a reason this anti-norm character is permitted to be a part of the story when they aren’t going along with the social program.
- Pretty sure you don’t always need to give them a motorcycle, leather jacket, and cigarette. I mean, they’re not always an extra from ‘Grease’. Just so happens that a lot of them are fans of that movie and lifestyle. Probably wouldn’t work in a fantasy setting since I can see fireballs and dragon breath igniting their hair within seconds of their first ‘Bad Boy’ scoff.
- You can enhance the anti-norm appearance of your ‘Bad Boy’ by giving him a straight-laced foil. This can be a friend, an enemy, or a respected rival. This person will follow the rules and give lectures on how one should behave. You can also add some judging in, but be careful if you want them to be a protagonist as well. All of this makes it clear how different the ‘Bad Boy’ is because you see the other side of the coin.
- If you’re going to reveal why they are ‘Bad Boys’ then make sure it’s a good reason. It can be rebelling against parents, a sense of loneliness, apathy towards their own reputation, and any number of legitimate behavior origins. What doesn’t really work is them simply being this because it’s who they are. It could be true, but it rings a little hollow, especially if the character grew up in the society that they stand apart from. All this requires is one brief explanation too.
- There’s no reason that you can’t do a female version. It would be a ‘Bad Girl’, but that has an odd ring to it. Maybe because it’s a phrase you see more in erotica? You also have a different hurdle to overcome because audiences judge ‘Bad Girls’ a lot harsher than ‘Bad Boys’. For some reason, the former doesn’t seem to have that same level of risk and danger. Not saying it doesn’t happen, but they are rarer.
- Be careful about slipping into the realm of creepy. Sure, your ‘Bad Boy’ is older and the younger protagonists are interested in him. Yet, he’s hanging around a high school and isn’t a student. Best to either move him to another location or reduce the age to a more believable level. That or you can have them be someone who was left back a grade or two.
- Work them as a character before adding the label. Aiming directly for ‘Bad Boy’ can lead to cliches and misfiring. See if you can have it come out naturally. This can be accomplished by designing the world first to see where they can rebel without crossing certain lines. If you aren’t much of a planner then just go with the flow and look for opportunities for the ‘Bad Boy’ to be bad.