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.