Saturday, March 17, 2012

Creating Dark Heroes

I recently attended the Central New York Romance Writers of America’s mini-conference in Syracuse where Anne Stuart presented the workshop, Writing the Dark Love Story.

Most dark heroes tend to be Alpha males and I have a tendency to develop Beta heroes. Since my heroes tend to have an underlying darkness, I was eager to learn how Anne creates her dark heroes. Here are some notes on creating the hero for the dark love story which I’ve put together from my notes. There are many questions, but much of the ability to develop character layers is to ask questions and not be afraid to dig deep.

First she says to think about your hero’s rage. Where does it come from?  Then does he take that rage out on innocents? If he takes it out on the heroine is it justified? If he expresses his rage (which is not necessarily physical) on a child it would probably turn your hero into a villain, but if you are very careful, it could work. Then consider what makes your hero let go of his rage.

What about his level of violence? Would he kill? Why? Think about what level of killing would be acceptable to the reader. Most heroes would kill in self-defense, or to protect the life of the heroine or child, but is he a soldier or a spy? Has he killed in duels? Is your hero a shape shifting wolf? Wolves kill; how does that affect him? Is he a vampire? Will he kill for blood? What about killing for revenge because someone took his title and all his money? What would trigger his fury and how does he handle it? What level of violence would he reach in expressing it? How far can you push your character before you go over the edge?

As you think about his looks, remember that while prettiness is nice, it doesn’t pull you in. What would make the heroine and the reader fall in love with such a man? Consider the small things. If he touches the heroine’s face while she’s sleeping, that can be very powerful.  Does your hero have any scars? Physical scars are nice, but what about emotional ones?

Who is his best friend? Does he have one? What about a mentor? If he is a spy, who brought him into that part of the service? Does your hero have or need for an ally to help him reach his goal? Think about who, if anyone, might betray him; a friend, a mentor, or a relative.  Which one would make the most powerful betrayal?

What is your hero’s character arc? Think about his goal, motivation and conflict. In the end, does the darkness win? Is it banished? In most romances it usually is, but maybe he just learns to live with it. Maybe your heroine joins him in the darkness. Consider how far you want to push it.

And in thinking about your hero and heroine’s sex life in the story, if they have angry, somewhat frenzied sex throughout their relationship, they will need to make love by the end of their story. Also if they start out making love and then move into angry sex as the conflict increases, they will have to make love again by the end of the book.

Dark heroes are so emotionally isolated and alone they are ready to self-destruct. They are monsters and if they can’t connect with the heroine they will die. Remember that it is not your hero falling in love with the heroine that changes him, but his ability to love.

I had a wonderful time at the workshop and Anne was funny and very generous in giving of herself and her life experiences.


Kathy Otten said...

Hi All,
I think I tried to cram too much information in too small a post. Forgive me.
I also have to work a fourteen hour shift today and won't be able to stop by until midnight.
Have a good day and don't drink too much green beer.

Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Kathy,
Great blog, I love the dark tortured heroes, they are the kind I write about most times. Green beer? Ooh might be St Patricks day, but I think it would make me sick.



Sarah Grimm said...

Sounds like a wonderful workshop. I adore Anne's dark heroes! :-)

Tina Donahue said...

Fascinating post, Kathy. I tend to write heroes that have an irreverant sense of humor - wry, if you will. It tends to take the edge off all that brooding and chest thumping, while also making them seem a bit mischievous. :)

Sarah J. McNeal said...

I gleaned so much out of this blog info, Kathy. Lots of information to assimilate but great stuff. I have to say, love the picture from the hero of Justified. LOL
Although I haven't written any dark heroes, I have read a few. I can connect with a dark hero if he shows some sentiment toward an animal or a child. If I don't see some expression of kindness or empathy to the former or to the heroine, I'm out of that story. Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights is as dark a hero as I can like.
Great post, Kathy.

Christine Warner said...

Thanks for sharing what you learned from your class. Very interesting. Makes me want to to write a hero more dark. Loved it!

erinsromance said...

Good blog. We all need to think about character motivation as we write, I think, if only to be true to human nature.That way our readers will begin to relate to and uderstand our characters, even while wondering why they are drawn to such a "dark"persona.n And meanwhile, we need to understand that we are, after all, writing romance, where love triumphs in the end.

Vonnie Davis said...

Loved your post. Thanks for sharing what you learned. I'm going to use some of those tips. In fact, I can see where I'm going to have to go back to my current WIP and "fiddle" with my hero a little more.

jean hart stewart said...

Interesting stuff.... I've got my new book started but had already decided to slow down and develop my hero more carefully. He was just too nice. Gotta go give him a little darkness.....Jean

Isabella Macotte said...

Great post. Dark heros are sexy!

Kathy Otten said...

Hi Margaret,
Thanks so much for stopping by yesterday and taking the time to leave a comment.

Kathy Otten said...

Hi Sarah,
The first books I read by Anne Stuart were Harlequins, but when she started writing single title is when I put some on my keeper shelf. A Devil's Waltz is my favorite.

Kathy Otten said...

Hi Tina,
I like heroes with a sense of humor, I'm just not much good at writing it.

Kathy Otten said...

Hi Sarah,
I agree about the tenderness. Anne did point out that it was important to include compassion and tenderness in the dark hero or the reader and heroine will have no reason to fall in love with him.
Raylan Givens is one of the dark heroes Anne called a charmer. IMO Raylan had a lot of anger inside him. He's charming and tender, but there is that rage. Sometimes I think it scares him and that makes him vulnerable so I like him. Tim Olyphant does a great job playing all those layers.

Kathy Otten said...

Hi Christine,
I tend to write Beta heroes, but I like that dark thing in their life which drives them, and which the heroine can heal.

Kathy Otten said...

Hi Erinsromance,

The more I write, the more inclined I am to dig deeper into the characters I create. I like the idea of asking questions and writing down possible answers, but using the one that is number ten, instead of number one.

Kathy Otten said...

Hi Vonnie and Jean,
Donald Maas has a book out, Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook. I use it when I create my characters. There are questions inside designed to make you dig deeper into your characters goals, fears, and motivations.

Kathy Otten said...

Hi Isabelle,
Thanks for stopping by. I love reading dark heroes. I also think they are sexy. I'd like to write one sometime. It might be fun to explore all the rage.