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Dark Heroine of Lover Mine: Xhex

As is my norm, I’m beginning this post with a little MAN candy for all you MANhandlers out there. Someday I’m going to write a post that simply takes all my delicious photos, posts them in one entry and takes a poll to find out who you all like most. Until then, feast your lovely eyes to the left.

This blog post was remarkably hard to write. The dark heroine I wanted to write is one I can’t discuss because her story line was truly just revealed in a recent release. If you read what I wanted to talk about, it would have ruined it. So who to write about? I tossed characters around in my head until BAM! This particular woman knocked me to my knees for my stupidity. Who is she? Xhex from JR Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood (BDB). Now, yes, I did actually write about another BDB character earlier, but this is different, I assure you. And yes, I am slightly obsessed with the BDB. Moving along…

Xhex is a kick-ass heroine who features in the books from almost the beginning of the series. An empath, she experiences others’ emotions and essentially feeds off of/gets her thrills from them. Suppressing her nature is something she struggles with, not unlike a drug addict might struggle with managing the craving for his next hit. To complicate things, Xhex works in a bar where emotions (particularly violence and lust) run rampant. Her job essentially provides her a nightly smorgasbord of emotions to feast on. It would be like putting a diabetic with a sweet tooth in front of a dessert buffet with all his favorites night after night. Eventually, something’s going to give.

Xhex is a complex character who has a variety of layers. This is the most appealing thing about dark heroes and heroines for me. They aren’t born to lead or save the damsel (or knight) in distress, and they are chock full of prickly characteristics–some hard to take and some flat out impossible to accept. But in there, inside that hard character, is a person waiting for redemption.

I often find it easier to relate to darker heroes and heroines because of their flaws. The perfect character is, to me, difficult to buy in to. She feels false, poorly fabricated even, and it makes it very difficult for me to slip into her shoes and walk that proverbial mile. But give me a heroine who can’t change the fact she has commitment issues due to a dark past or is unable to accept affection because she doesn’t feel worthy and you’ve usually grabbed my brain and dragged it into your story.

How do writers create characters like these? It’s not easy. These characters can, and often do, require a more complex, layered back story that gives the author both breadth and depth of flaws and emotions to draw from. It takes a plausible back story for the reader to accept the character as presented. The character has to have flaws and emotions delivered in a way that leaves the reader not only rooting for redemption, but also believing it’s possible. I know my anti-heroes and heroines have been the most challenging, and most fun, to write. Time will tell if I’ve done them justice.

So what about you? Who’s your ultimate anti-heroine? I could use some suggestions that can be used for character studies. She can be from literature, movies, television–your choice. I can’t wait to get your recommendations!

A Little Wrath Goes a Long, Dark Way

For my fellow MANhandlers, I’m posting a picture of more delectable numiness. Feel free to ogle a bit before you move on to the post.

I’ll wait…

But, truly, I’ve got to move on…

C’mon, my friends, let’s talk about some serious sexy: the dark hero. (See? I got your attention. Devious writer, I am one.)

A great example, for me, is Wrath from J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series. Wrath is a vampire torn between leading his people or rejecting the role of king. He has no interest in ruling and zero respect for humans, and this includes children sired by vampires on human women. He’s crass, unsophisticated and ginormously sexy. When he’s called on to step up and see a half-vampire child through her transition, he balks. Okay. That’s not true. His answer is basically, “Hell. No.” But circumstances intervene, Fate plays her cards and the dark hero is born.

What is it that’s so appealing about a dark hero? Is it his unwillingness to be a hero that makes him so desirable? Is it his ability to make me love him and loathe him in one paragraph–one sentence even? Or is it deeper than that? Maybe it’s the fact he seems irredeemable, and we worry he’s crossed the line too far into the dark to be pulled back to the light. Regardless of the “why” of it, the point is this: the dark hero appeals to us on a variety of levels, many of them deeply personal.

There’s something about a dark hero that absolutely flips my switch. I want to  know he’s walking that fine line of good and evil, and that both sides speak to him. He’s a richer character for his dark flaws, and there are a thousand reasons this could be true for each of us as both writers and readers. But what it comes down to, for me as an author is this: it’s the reader’s interpretation of what the hero is after the author sets out his proverbial “pros and cons” list that makes that character work/not work. When an author is able to create a hero you love to hate, to put on the page a fictional character you fantasize about or who makes you wish you were starring opposite him–the author’s done the job of pulling the reader in and done it well. I’m in the process of creating my own dark hero and let me tell you, it’s not easy. He’s the hardest character I’ve ever written, and dark heroes are sort of my specialty. Yeah, I’ve got a hang-up. I love them passionately, grandly and without apology.

Now I want to turn the tables and ask you who your Wrath is? Who’s (in case you missed my last post) your Cain? Don’t be shy. Jump in and let other readers know if there’s a character/series that does it for you. You never know when you might get them started on a new series they love. It’s how I found Wrath and all the luscious brothers. 😉  Thank you, J.R. Ward. Thank you.

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