Dark, tortured heroes--don't we love them? Heathcliff, Rochester, Jervaulx, Anna Campbell's Kylemore, any of Anne Stuart's bad, beautiful boys. The worse our hero is, the more we love it when a good woman brings him to his knees.
I've learned a lot from screenwriting experts lately. There was that lightbulb moment from Debra Williamson, who swung by the lair recently and talked about irony, among other things. And today, while listening to a lecture about character arc from Michael Hauge, all my vague ideas about redeeming the dark hero clicked into place.
Have you ever heard someone disparage a redemption story because 'people just don't change'? That attitude was one I struggled with when writing Scandal's Daughter. I had an irresponsible rake as a hero and I had to redeem him by the end. But I, also, believe that people don't change.
It got me thinking, if I believe people can't change, why, then, do redemption stories work for me? How do we, as writers, make them believable?
Michael Hauge talks about a character's identity, the mask he or she shows the world, as opposed to his essence, who he really is, or who he could be if he lived up to his potential. It's that essence which the heroine sees and it's that essence the author sets about exhuming, step by step, throughout the book. When he is redeemed at the end, the hero has not changed fundamentally. He has become the man he was always meant to be.
So, who is your favourite tortured hero? What made you like him, despite his bad boy attitude?