How Mean Can Mean Be?

So I’m listening to Ain’t She Sweet on MP3. I’m about half way through and I’m not seeing much in the romance. See, Sugar Beth was a Mean Girl in high school. Life knocked her down to size and now she’s had to return to the town and the people she treated so poorly, including her former English teacher, Colin, who has made it big as a writer and now lives in her family home.

SEP has made Sugar Beth sympathetic, but not Colin. See, Sugar Beth did something terrible to Colin, and he’s out for revenge. He gets it, but when she doesn’t crack under his retribution, he finds admiration for her.

What is fascinating about this book is that these characters are Not Nice. But hey, I can’t WAIT to go for my walk or get in my car so I can hear more!

In the book I’m sorta writing, Alex’s story, Breaking Daylight (thanks, Stacy!), I want these characters to be bad. Right now I think I’m too worried about making them sympathetic. But I need Alex to be cold blooded, all about being a Ranger, especially when it comes to this woman, in whom he sees his past. And I need Isabella to be manipulative. The only way she knows how to relate to a man is sexually. Of course, thus far in the story, she hasn’t had much interaction with Alex, other than him rescuing her from the jungle, pulling her from a burning car and carrying her down the side of a mountain. (In 40 pages…)

How do I make them bad without alienating the reader from them?

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Colleen Gleason said...

I loved Ain't She Sweet. I though Colin was hot and brooding and yummy.

Funny you should post about how to make Not Nice characters sympathetic...I was thinking about that the other day while watching a few episodes of Frasier.

He and his brother are the most pretentious, self-righteous, busy-body guys...but we love them. Why? Why do we love them?

I think in their case it's because we see that, despite their superficial tendency toward pretention, etc., deep down, they are good guys who just want to help people. (That's why they're psychiatrists.)

Of course, their lofty ideas of helping people aren't alway the most appropriate--but it's the thought that counts.

I haven't read Ain't She Sweet in a long time, so I don't remember the details, but I do remember liking Sugar and Colin by the end.

Stephanie said...

I think he can be very bad, as long as you let the reader glimpse a big, redeeming quality. Just a glimpse is enough -- because if he's hot and dangerous, we'll WANT to believe he's good deep down, and that glimpse will confirm our suspicions. We can then fall in love with him : )

Anonymous said...

Ain't She Sweet was a great book. SEP did a fabulous job making the bad girl turn good. I think it worked because you didn't know WHY the town hated her at first--you only saw her interactions with Colin. Then when you did, you had already invested enough in her character. Great book.

Stacy Dawn said...

Cool, glad I could help and I wasn't even awake that day...maybe I should write at that time of day them too LOL.

Toni Anderson said...

SEP gave a brilliant talk about writing the bestseller in Reno last year and alot of it was based on Ain't she sweet!! I don't think I'd have liked the book as much if she hadn't talked about how she made her characters so BAD and had to redeem them. I love that about her work. Mary, make them bad!! You can always add rays of hope later :)

MJFredrick said...

I'm kinda missing the whole "Colin is sexy" thing because the woman reading the audiobook does the most ATROCIOUS accent every time he talks. I mean, she does a British accent, but all through her nose and just very unsexy.

As for Frasier, I think we like them because for all their good intentions, they screw up all the time. They put on these airs but they're just really idiots when it comes to dealing with other people.

Toni, was the workshop taped? Was it the one she did with Jayne Ann Krentz? I'd like to listen to that.

Okay, I'm going to try to make him bad. I'm just not sure how to make her manipulative.

Colleen Gleason said...

Make him really bad, Mary, please??? Yummm.

MJFredrick said...

LOL, Colleen! I may be coming to you for help!


M.J. Fredrick's books on Goodreads
Breaking DaylightBreaking Daylight
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Beneath the SurfaceBeneath the Surface
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Hot ShotHot Shot (Samhain)
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ratings: 10 (avg rating 4.00)

Where There's SmokeWhere There's Smoke
ratings: 6 (avg rating 4.00)

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I'm a mom, a wife, a teacher and a writer. I have five cats and a dog to keep me company. I love bookstores and libraries and Netflix - movies are my greatest weakness.
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