You know you have a friend who picks terrible men. Disgusting, lying, cheating men. Maybe dangerous and abusive men. Sometimes these men don’t have the looks to use as an excuse. And you wonder what on earth does she see in him? Maybe he’s got a big…bank account or…something. It’s a mystery.
But romantic leads in our stories, well, their charms ought to be more evident. The reader should not be hitting the book against the bedpost and saying, “Oh, for crying out loud. Get a grip” when he walks into the scene.
He should be seductive, not repulsive. Not that we all agree on what seductive is. Some women think Heathcliff really is to die for, while some think him an obnoxious jerk. Romeo? A dagger in your heart for him? A leap into the river for Hamlet? Vronsky worth the train tracks? Well, at least no one had to die for Mr. Darcy.
My novel is not a romance. It doesn’t (spoiler alert) have a happy ending for one thing. In a romance, the lovers hate each other at first, and, we all know the drill, fall in love by the end. Ta-da! I’ve got nothing against that story if it is the one you want to tell, but this isn’t my kind of story. I prefer, for better or for worse, to write stories where the only one who gets the girl is herself. All the same, what’s a story without love?
So. My heroine must believe she loves this guy. Love and passion at first sight and then it all goes wrong. The reader ought to believe she isn’t stupid to be seduced by him, just perhaps foolhardy. There is a difference–to me anyway.
This first draft made this guy too creepy, and I’m trying to fix him up a bit and make him more presentable. But not dull. Charming, but not smarmy. Yes, perhaps a little out there, a hint of crazy, suggestions of maybe-this-guy-isn’t-what-he-seems, but not flat out weird. He asks her to do things way out of her comfort zone, and the reader may think she’s nuts to go along, but ought to believe her when she goes. He’s got to be crazy enough to do outrageous things and good enough for her stay with. She’s got to stay with him long enough for it to matter and for it to hurt to leave him–but make sense that she does.
If you happen to have any clue as to how to pull this off, leave that clue here.
(Honestly, I blame my friend, Jess, for this guy. She’s the one who gave him the name Zane–how could he not be crazy?)