There’s something undeniably steamy about a bad boy in fiction. He’s aloof, always keeps you on your toes, but usually deep down, he’s got a heart of gold. And while I love me some bad boys in books, today I want to talk about another archetype because while the hero in my debut YA fantasy Garden of Thorns is definitely steamy, he is not a bad boy. In fact, he’s actually a good guy and sadly, nice guys usually finish last, even in fiction.
Good guys tend to get pushed to the side in narratives. True, there are plenty of novels with the friends-to-lovers trope but oftentimes, when that mysterious new guy strolls onto the page, the reliable guy friend gets shelved because predictability doesn’t always make for great tension. But I was determined.
When I sat down to create Rayce, I wanted him to be a good guy. While I love the romantic tension of opposites attracting, I wanted him to be undeniably likable and knew he would have to be in order for my heroine, Rose, to give him a chance. Since she had spent so many years as a slave in a burlesque show, under the tyrannical rule of a man, Rayce had to be kind, caring, and unwavering in his belief that he can help the world. What I needed was a healer.
One of the major problems I kept running into though was that it isn’t a normal role for the male lead. So many times in fantasy, we see the men as fierce warriors, decisive in their decisions even when it’s at the cost of many lives. But while Rayce’s role as the rebellion leader required his skill with a sword, I crafted his heart to love helping people. Once I knew what he wanted, his actions became easy. Suddenly, he knew everyone’s name fighting on his side, he spent time patching up the wounded, and helping others put up their tents in the rain.He became the hero that recognizes that he is just as responsible for healing the wounded as for the killing he did on the battlefield.
The other problem with making a character that always wants to be kind is that there tends to be no tension within them. This really isn’t going to work when that character is the other half of a romantic pairing. So instead of changing him to be harder, I used his possession as rebellion leader toforce his hand to make decisions that might go against what he personally wanted. Because others rely so heavily on him, he must be commanding even when he wants to be kind, at times his actions seem mysterious because he has to go against what he personally wants if he knows it will be for the good of the people who look to him for leadership. Figuring out what both of my main characters wanted and then putting them in direct conflict of each other made tension when his kindness wouldn’t always allow it.The burden of responsibilities became the driving force in the romance and suddenly, every scene they were in sizzled.
Good guys in romance can totally work. They can be sexy while being sweet, they can be healers and they can get the girl (and treat her right too). You might have to work around their impossibly good nature and let the situations they find themselves in provide the tension, but when they’re done right, they’ll smolder off the page (and probably compliment you on your outfit while they’re at it)!
Amber Mitchell graduated from the University of South Florida with a BA in Creative Writing. She likes crazy hair styles, reading, D&D, k-dramas, good puns and great food.
When she isn’t putting words on paper, she is using cardstock to craft 3D artwork or exploring new places with her husband Brian. They live a small town in Florida with their four cats where she is still waiting for a madman in a blue box to show up on her doorstep.