Bad Boy Characters

I never set out to write a “bad boy” character. In real life, I was not interested in them. I had been taught at an early age to stay away from that kind of guy and diligently did so. They were trouble, and I didn’t want trouble.

So how did an assassin not only sneak into my book, but also become one of the focal characters? I’m still not sure.

As I wrote Rowen’s story, there was another character standing in the shadows. The first time I met Caleb Tala, he had just murdered a man. Really, Morgan? This was not the kind of book I had set out to write. But Caleb would not leave.

He intrigued me. A cold-hearted murderer, driven into this profession by his thirst for gold and women. He was ambitious, focused, and prided himself in always getting the job done.

But I came to realize Caleb had one fear, a fear no one else knew about because it lived deep inside him: he knew someday he would pay for the lives he took. It came to him at night, when his subconscious would speak to him. He dreamed of his victims killing him.

At first, he found ways to suppress those dreams. He filled his life with everything he desired. He used people, money, and power to distract himself. But when Caleb was shipped up north, the dreams came back tenfold. And this time he couldn’t hide from them.

When I realized Caleb’s fear, I knew I had to write him. How could I not explore this complex and dark man? I had to know what would happen to him next. And so Caleb stepped out of the shadows and entered my first book, Daughter of Light.

I am now writing Son of Truth, the second book in this series. It’s been fascinating to watch his story unfold more and his interactions with the other characters introduced in Daughter of Light. I never set out to write a bad boy character, but here he is. And Caleb is here to stay.

How about you? Do you enjoy books or write books with a “bad boy” character? How would you define a “bad boy”? And why do you think readers are enamored with this kind of character?

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5 thoughts on “Bad Boy Characters”

  1. Ahh, the spell of the anti-hero. I know it well. The Han Solos, the Mals, the amoral character who somehow becomes a protagonist because his goals align with the hero’s for a while. So we read with breathless anticipation–will this scoundrel keep helping out, or will he stab everybody in the back?

    His amoral qualities–yet strict adherence to a personal code of conduct–is what makes the anti-hero so interesting. We may loathe his actions, but we understand why he’s doing it. And if he turns out to have a hidden nugget of gold inside him, we’ll love him forever.

    They turn into good guys just in time to die at the end, usually to save everybody else. Half the time I read the book yelling, “No! Don’t turn good! The author won’t know what to do with you, so they’ll kill you off!” Or put the character on a bus, so they vanish into the nether.

    Here’s a tip: don’t kill Caleb. It’s been done in Every. Other. Book. Ever. But bringing him CLOSE to death–that’s way more nerve-wracking!

  2. Caleb is a well conceived character. There are a lot of angsty, conflicted men in fantasy, as well as a lot of rogues, but I haven’t really seen those archetypes come together quite the way they do in Caleb.

  3. In my Cinderella revamp, my main character ended up being a bad boy. I didn’t plan on it–actually, I was going to have the bad girl/good guy dichotomy for a bit. But it didn’t fit. And the interesting thing is, on the surface he’s the “good” one, a clean-cut corporate prince who easily uses and discards people while still managing a decent public image. This became part of his core issue–he’s gone from being self-interested to being a complete nihilist. Where as my main Cinderella character dresses the part of a morbid, dramatic goth-type, completely rejected by a lot of society, and yet as a Christian has a lot more inner hope and joy that’s attractive to the prince–who manifests this by trying to systematically tear her beliefs to pieces, because they’re too good to be true. Ah, fun fun.

  4. Caleb sounds a very interesting character. I think half of the attraction with ‘bad boy’ characters is that often the good guys are so boring. Part of this is because as (hopefully) nice people, we are all bound by a lot of morals and codes and the laws of society. A bad boy character is the kind of person that does the things that sometimes we want to, but won’t because of our morals. It allows us an element of freedom, and heightens our sense of escapism, which is of course one of the main reasons most of us read stories.

    As for my own writing, my main character in my current project is a woman, and I’d hate to label her as a ‘bad girl’ because the term just sounds awful, and I think conjures up the wrong image. But she’s an anti-hero, and I love writing about her because she’s so interesting. Characters that always play by the rules bore me; we have enough constraints in our real lives. I want to read about people who are freer, not as or more constricted than I am.

  5. Ooo…I so can’t wait to read more about Caleb!

    I have a “bad boy” in my WIP. He’s a bounty hunter who isn’t letting me in on his past. Yes, I know, we’re supposed to “know” our characters, but he’s refusing to cooperate on my time schedule. I do know that he really starting closing off his emotions when his mom died. His father was a drunk. He had to survive on his own. That’s it.

    Anyway, I think that we, as women, are attracted to “bad boys” by our inherent need to nurture. We want to be the one that changes them, inspires them, or whatever. I’ve been there–silly, ignorant young woman I was. lol…

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