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"Chloe Harris" really is the pseudonym for two writers, Noelle and Barbra, who've joined forces to write intriguing and sexy stories. A quintessential eccentric southerner, Noelle seems to find a story in almost everything. Ever ambitious to change her stars, she has a degree in Communications. Barbra lives together with her cat ('Princess Mimi'), who isn't very happy that she is spending so much time on writing. But this folly of the living can opener with opposable thumbs is mostly tolerated.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Protagonists 101, Part Two

by Barbra

In my blog series “Protagonists 101” I’d like to analyze stereotypes and how we as writers employ them to our advantage. Part One dealt with The Boss and The General. In Part Two I’d like to have a closer look at The Bad Boy and The Trickster.

The Bad Boy
is the rebel, the guy from the wrong part of town. He is bitter and unpredictable, jaded, his idealism crashed. He hates authority and bows to nobody. The Bad Boy is very much his own boss (maybe even an outlaw). He’s charismatic, clever and witty, in a word a bit of a rogue, but very charming (if not breathtaking).
Should he find himself in a basement with an unconscious lady and a ticking time bomb, he’ll likely to solve this problem with his muscles (but not beating up the next guy that crosses his path like The Boss would). The Bad Boy doesn’t like situations like these, but he’s used to weasel himself out of them. Either he can open the lock on the door or pull it off its hinges or, more likely, he knows one of the bad guys holding him and the lady prisoner from back in the days. Either way, he’ll find a way out in no time.

Life has taught The Trickster many a lesson – and they weren’t pleasant at all. She stands very much on her own two feet now. She has deep insight into the human nature and uses it to her personal advantage. The Trickster is cynical and distrustful, cool and aloof. It takes the right kind of hero to get through to her.
The Trickster in our example of the bar with the brawl would use the distraction to slip through the hero’s fingers. She has most probably been looking for a way to get away from him even before they entered the bar. Should she run into the villain’s arms next, she’d know how to escape from him just as quickly.

I’d say Caroline Linden’s David Reece and Vivian Beecham in What a Rogue Desires is the typical Bad Boy/Trickster couple. Can you think of any other fictional characters that fit this description?

16 comments:

Noelle said...

Humm I honestly can't think of a tricker heroine off hand. I'll have to keep thinking.
But almost all my heros I write tend to be The Bad Boy who I call my Henry V type. Layton, in my Victorian WIP is very much the "bitter, unpredictable, jaded, charismatic, clever and witty" type.

Barbra said...

She is hard(er) to find, but reading a Trickster is fun! I've had to think a lot about that type - and the combination with a Bad Boy! - too until I finally found one.

I do get a signed free copy of your book, right??? :-D

Noelle said...

You mean in a million years when it out? Sure!

I was thinking that maybe Emiline's Mother, Henrietta, is a bit of Trickster don't you think?

Barbra said...

I'll hold you to it!

*slapping forehead* Of course! Henri is a trickster!

Samantha Kane said...

Sorry I'm late, it's been a WEEK, if you know what I mean. I love these two characters, but when paired don't you think the combination is a little too jaded? I find it hard to reconcile two types like this when they suddenly wrap up their romance with a traditional HEA. I mean, how and where do they learn to trust if not from each other?

The heroine in my current wip, a regency, is very much a trickster. But, while he may have a few of the qualities of a bad boy, my hero does not fall into this category UNTIL he meets the heroine. He doesn't become bitter and jaded until she makes him so.

Barbra said...

Don’t worry, Samantha. It’s not that your comment will go unnoticed among the dozens of other comments. ;-) How’s your WIP coming along? Do the chars still make your life miserable?

I see your point, but I think they’re not so jaded that they’re beyond redemption. Remember, the Bad Boy is first and foremost a rogue. He’s not exclusively bitter and jaded like the Prodigal Son is, who bows his head in shame (see Part Five later). The Bad Boy is a fighter, rebel yell and all.

The lessons both types had to learn the hard way helped to shape them. They’ve somehow become cynical, true, but that doesn’t mean they’re too jaded to enjoy life. They’ve each developed their own strategies. They’re both witty and resourceful, which will create a series of wonderful misunderstandings. That in turn may even promise some comic relief.

When they’re thrown together it’s a bitter struggle until they learn to trust each other - and that only happens after they realize they’ve developed feelings for each other. That again will only happen when each of them (in their own time) decides to take a leap of faith.

And that then teaches them the most valuable lesson of all: that the world isn’t such a bad place after all. Their reward is the HEA. They certainly don’t go looking for it as much as other char types do. They sort of stumbled around in the dark and suddenly the HEA is there and after a moment’s hesitation (“Can this be real?”) they embrace it.

See what I mean?

Noelle said...

I see your point B but I also like to see those types with the opposite kind of personality. Like in the idea for the prequel to SoS Henrietta is paired with what I call the Warrior Monk. What's that called on your list?

Samantha Kane said...

I do see your point. And my heroine most definitely fits in that category. And so does my hero, I suppose, although I would never describe him as bitter and jaded (except when it comes to her.) But they both avoid issues with wit and cleverness, and their interactions and dialog are a series of clever avoidances and misdirections. And resourceful should be her middle name.

So it would seem I've inadvertently created your pair, before I knew anything about it, lol. Which completely supports your point that these two are drawn together.

Noelle, what opposites do you see these two with? I don't see either one with the Boss or the General. I guess we'll have to come back to that after Barbra gives us the rest.

And my characters have decided to straighten up and fly right, Barbra, and are accordingly giving me their story quite nicely. I think the issue wasn't with them, but with a lot of other stuff going on that distracted me from them.

Barbra said...

Noelle, I honestly don’t know. What you call a ‘warrior monk’ and what I know about John Julian so far could easily be a Boss, a Best Friend or a Warrior in my dilettante terminology.

But I’m absolutely convinced that you need to pair chars so that ‘sparks fly’ (I’m sorry for this over-used expression).
Sometimes you may have a vague idea of chars, but only when you’ve written about 70 pages you see what types of protagonists they actually turn out to be – and then you can really start plotting.

Barbra said...

*groans* Characters! Sometimes I think they’re only there to make your life even worse. When you don’t pay enough attention to them they’re pouting and stomping their feet, murmuring something about “What could possibly more important than me???” Pretty much like cats if you ask me.

Samantha, I’ve only tried to give them names other than X and Y, you know? Those are only the very basic patterns and I think if you say you’ve “inadvertently created” this pair then you just took those basics and created another helluva story.

(Btw I LOVED your At Love’s Command... then again I really liked your Love Under Siege also... The Courage to Love was a nice read, but my favorite so far is At Love’s Command. Definitely. Can I just say that you’re on my list of favorite authors and I’ll buy each and every one of your books as soon as they’re available in print? Of course, if you feel the urge to sign a book for me sometime, please don’t hold back on my account. Just don’t shake my hand because I’ll never be able to wash it again! Ooops, I’m digressing. Sorry. I had a fangirl moment. Back to the point... uh... which was...)

Yes, and that makes my point perfectly clear: the Bad Boy and the Trickster match!
For a deeper discussion I’m afraid we’ll have to wait until I’ve presented all protagonist types. As soon as you know them all you’ll see what chars can go together and which won’t.

Understanding the basic patterns I think helps you with plotting – and saves you some time. For example, if you want your heroine to jump off a cliff and she tells you she won’t do that no matter what... What do you do then? Quarrel with her?
Ask her what she’d do. She’d either snort and turn around (General), or locate a flower that’s believed to be extinct (Librarian), or she’ll find a cave right under her feet (Trickster), she’ll save somebody else from jumping (Big Sis), she’d rather be taken into custody by corrupt watchmen than jump (Lost One)... you get the idea. A Spitfire would jump immediately, of course. But my point is: When you analyze your type of heroine you can plan ahead accordingly.

Samantha Kane said...

I love your heroine jumping off a cliff example, lol.

And, please, wash your hand. Please.

But thanks for the fangirl moment. I love those. I admit it. I'm not above that. Nope.

Barbra said...

:-D

Noelle said...

Sam - To answer your question "Noelle, what opposites do you see these two with?" in my wip it's the bad boy and I think she's what B called the Librarian. He can lure her into loosening up and experiencing instead of studying and she can show him he’s a subject worth taking on.

And the trickster with what I called before the Warrior Monk. He’s disciplined and controlled very self assured but more spiritual not cocky. He wouldn’t feel the need to be the boss although he could do it with ease. Think Daniel Day Lewis in Last of the Mohicans. I love the idea of the trickster pushing his buttons to crack his shell and the sparks that fly when his cool finally cracks.

Samantha Kane said...

OMG Daniel Day Lewis in Last of the Mohicans. ::Sam a puddle of lovestruck goo on the floor:: I. Love. Him.

Yes, I could see that type with a Trickster, essentially saying you can try to fool me, but it won't work because I'll outlast you and prove you don't need your tricks. That would be a book with a bit of a dark edge, and a very emotional character arc I should think.

Noelle said...

That movie was too short.

I almost forgot to mention this it's a little OT and I know how much B frowns on models/actor for characters faces. But I was watching Hussle and Flow last night and it hit me that Terrence Howard is so the face of our Warrior Monk (or whatever) with our Trickster, Hen.

Barbra said...

pfff... off topic or not, I need to comment!

OMG! Daniel Day Lewis in The Last of the Mohicans!!! I LOVED him in that movie.

Yes, it's true. I openly admit it. I've always frowned at some people's need to use models/actors as character faces. I can't do that because I find it restrictive. However, when I was watching Hellboy 2 I was dumbstruck. I never thought this possible, but I actually found one of my chars in the movie! In HB2 he's Prince Nuada (in case you don't know which one I'm talking about, check out this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TuTjB1k8vis) That's the face/body/attitude/skill etc. of one char of my books. Of course, my books won't ever get published, but it's amazing that I thought myself immune to it and then... that!!!