Monday, January 11, 2016

Redeeming the Unlikable Hero

with guest Elaine Stock.

 Hello, Seekers! It’s an honor and a treat for me to visit Seekerville today to discuss my debut novel, Always With You soon to release from Elk Lake Publishing. With the novel’s non-traditional love-story elements between a member of a religious sect and a young woman from an atheistic family, it’s been brought to my attention that Tyler isn’t your average likable hero. Yet, when the story idea of romance and eventual marriage between this bad boy and an innocent yet naive young woman came to mind, I had to find a way to make Tyler redeemable. But by story’s end, how was I going to make my readers able to imagine that they could invite Tyler over to meet their Great Aunt Bertha?

The image of bad conjures up all kinds of thoughts, does it not?

I knew from the beginning that Tyler had to have good qualities within him. Perhaps they were buried, misshapen by the abuse and trauma he might have suffered first-hand as a boy, and jumbled in the name of personal survival.

So, yes, I believe that a bad man can become a likable hero by story’s end.

How? What worked for me was to show a change in his character. Tyler had to be pulled and shaped by love, and warring old and new beliefs in his life. Ah, what we all do for love!

One of the best writing tips I ever received was from my dear friend, author Christine Lindsay, when she pointed out that I needed to emphasize more visceral feeling in my stories. It’s one thing for a writer to tell that a character can reason his way through a story, but it’s essential to make the reader feel the deep inward emotions as the character feels them. It’s my hope that I’ve succeeded in Always With You.

Without wanting to give too much of the story away, I will illustrate with a short study of Tyler’s Character Arc of how he changed from the beginning of the story to its end. What’s a Character Arc? Simply, it’s the inner change of a character despite antagonizing elements throughout the story. At first, since no story should properly conclude by the first chapter’s ending, this character must show that he (or she) has a lot of issues he’s dealing with and that these issues will trip him up throughout the story and make the reader question whether he’s able to overcome them. It’s this vulnerability of character that is the driving force of the story.

The Character Arc is the character’s inner journey. He’s going to face obstacles (and we hope a lot!) that force him to either do nothing (boring!), or adapt (possibly interesting  … ), or change (yes!). Remember, readers want to see change. Readers expect to see change. Part of the inner journey is one step forward and two steps back as the character moves toward his new life.

In the opening of Always With You, Tyler becomes an instant hero in Isabelle’s eyes when the two encounter each other for the first time. Isabelle is in danger and Tyler rescues her. As attraction pulls these opposites together, Isabelle sees Tyler as clean-cut, wholesome, a family man, and a man of faith. Her vision of her rescuer shadows the limited knowledge she has of him belonging to this group of people, The Faithful, living on the outskirts of town. All that counts to her are his good traits. However, as the two fall in love, Tyler is split in two between his contrasting behaviors when he’s with Isabelle versus when he’s with The Faithful. Note: tension builds in Tyler and tangled emotions—one that we can all relate to—ensue.

What’s a bad boy to do? Cue persuasion. A wee bit possessive of his sweetheart, Tyler convinces Isabelle that his god loves her and is watching out for her … like his own family will. Isabelle comes to see it Tyler’s way.

 Another sweeping-under-the-carpet by Tyler is his gradual but constant hiding of the truth from Isabelle. Bad boys enjoy putting on their best faces! Plot wise, nefarious events begin to happen about town. When it comes to Isabelle, Tyler sees himself as changing; he thinks in terms of “us” instead of “me.” This new identity serves both Tyler and Isabelle well when Isabelle encounters disapproval at home and must select between her family and Tyler. She chooses her beloved, a man who can do no wrong. They marry.

Are they living a happily-ever-after yet? Of course not! Character-arc wise Tyler has lots to learn. Tyler oscillates between sweet but manipulative kindness toward Isabelle and outright attempt to control her. This too has a price tag of heavy guilt, especially when he learns he’s going to be a dad, but more importantly when he sees Isabelle loves him unconditionally and is beside him in support.

 Tyler doubts his once strong convictions. Yet, he still tries to restore peace in his ever-changing immediate family that’s now ripe with tension and fragmentation. Plus, he’s acutely aware that he’s under close scrutiny and condemnation from The Faithful leader. This guy has a lot of pressure on his shoulders!

Tyler and Isabelle argue. Not pretty.

What happens when bad boy Tyler recognizes his actions with The Faithful have consequences? Rather than focus heavily on the plot I play up the emotional upheaval between Tyler and his love for Isabelle.

After a few plot detours and the introduction of a new and vital character, there comes the ultimate bottom line in Tyler’s cycle of life, one I hope the reader will see as his key to redemption in this love story.

I’d love to know what makes you keep a character in your thoughts, as well as what redeems an apparent bad boy. Have you read any other books with where the author handled redeeming an unlikable hero?

I’m offering a Book Giveaway of my debut novel Always With You, upon its release (a printed copy within the US and a digital copy outside the US). In addition, I presently have a special contest to help celebrate my new website (look for the Mailing List House icon). Hope to see you there! Leave a comment. Winners will be announced in the Weekend Edition.


Always With You

Can she move forward without knowing her past?

Will he enjoy his present if he can’t free himself from what he left behind?

In the heart of the Adirondacks, Isabelle lives in the shadow of a dark family secret whose silent burden strips her family of emotional warmth and faith in God. Tyler belongs to the religious sect called The Faithful, which Isabelle’s father dislikes immensely. Yet, because Tyler is part of this group, Isabelle sees only a man devoted to his family and faith.

She wants it; she gets it; they marry.

And when the truth comes out, Isabelle faces two choices:

Staying could endanger her child.

Leaving could cost her life.

A former Brooklyn gal, Elaine Stock lives in the Northeast with her husband where she enjoys spring, summer, autumn, and puts up with the winter. A member of ACFW and WFWA, she also is a contributing author to the international “Happy Sis Magazine.” In addition to Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads, she hangs out on her active blog, Everyone’s Story, dedicated to uplifting and encouraging all readers through the power of story and hope.


  1. Welcome to Seekerville, Elaine. As a reader, I'm intrigued by your novel. I would love to be on your street team, if you have one, or an influencer! Thanks, TINA fo.r having her!

  2. Welcome to Seekerville, Elaine.

    I've been waiting patiently until today to ask you the history on this story.

    Tell us a little about your publisher as well.

    And of course we want to know what a typical writing day is like for you and what you're working on next!!

    We have the Seekerville caterers coming very early with bagels and cream cheese, coffee, tea and hot cocoa!!

    Thrilled to have you visit!

  3. Wow, talk about a delicate topic among Christians...

    Elaine, welcome to Seekerville! Like Tina, I'd love to know what inspired this and I'm pretty sure this will teach the heroine to listen to daddy in the future! :)

    Thank you for being here today, and Tina, I'm dying for the coffee! Thank you, too!

    Elaine, I'm curious about the setting? Because it's familiar?

  4. Marianne that's one wonderful welcome you've just given me! I'm glad the story appeals to you. If you'd like, there's a Contact page on my website and you can message me that way and I'll get in touch with you.

  5. A PS for Marianne: the website/blog is the Everyone's Story link.

  6. Coffee? Did you say coffee, Tina--yay!

    Although this story is definitely not autobiographical, I will share that the small thread of my past that fueled the development of my character, Isabelle, is that I grew up in a family that refused to talk about its family heritage. Rather than a shameful past, my family chose quiet because of heartbreak, be it right or wrong. When 9-11 happened, two things occurred to further influence this story. First, I wanted to write a story about how necessary it is for all of us on this crazy planet to love each other. But, here's my real story secret: I attended a RWA local chapter meeting (I'm presently not a member, though) in Saratoga, NY, home of the famous racetrack (though, I'm not into horse racing; LOL--I'm always telling my husband that if we had a horse it would have to come indoors on a below zero day and enjoy a movie with us). At this meeting race forms with horses' full names were given out. We each chose a name and were supposed to develop a story idea from it. My horse (and race horses have very long and very unusual names) was "Don't Tell Isabelle." That horse's name was my original title! My Isabelle grew up with so many family secrets kept from her, so many times had she heard the whisper of don't-tell-Isabelle.

    My publisher, Elk Lake Publishing, is a Christian publisher that is "Christ centered, family friendly and fun." It's a young and small publisher that I believe has the potential to soar. I am forever grateful to Fred St. Laurent (owner of Book and the Book Fun Magazine) for wanting to acquire my story and believing in it. My editor, Deb Taggerty, has been a dynamic and insightful woman to work with.

    I have no typical writing work day because I have no--LOL--typical day. My present day job has me up at 3 AM and home about 3 PM. I cram that in a 4-day work week, freeing me up for the bulk of my writing over my 3-day weekend. Though, now that I have a novel coming out I'm learning new ways to ignore my exhaustion and attempt to some writing work during the week as well. I also am very devoted to my 4-year-old blog, Everyone's Story. Through this blog I have met some of the most loveliest people ever who have since become friends, prayer partners, and plain wonderfully available.

    What am I working on next? I can't get away from exploring all the bumps that can go wrong under the family roof. My WIP has to do with an emotionally injured high school senior, her father who hides from his problems, and a young woman who reaches out to others while fighting her own ghosts... only One can help them all.

  7. Ruth, thanks for welcoming me to Seekerville, a blog I've admired for years!

    I've been seeing the range of Christian fiction grow and expand, especially just these past few years. Notably, I've read and enjoyed several novels from Christian publishers with stories set during the Nazi era (not that my story does; it is contemporary) with the characters facing what I believe has been one of the ultimate faces of evil this world has seen. I've also seen murder mysteries, and dystopian stories set in an eerie, bleek future. And, yep, there has also been a few Christian releases about cults. Like different music appeals to different people (I love, love, love classical music but believe me, you won't see my day job co-workers popping in their ear buds listening to Mozart or Bach, hee hee hee), there's a different story for each and everyone of us. I believe firmly that we writers have a special obligation to write that unique story for a particular reading audience that He has directed us to write. It's my only hope and prayer that many will appreciate Always With You, a story of how good, love, and His mercy always prevails.

    I had to grin big time when I read your comment about how Isabelle should have listened to her daddy... but, you know (wink wink) there wouldn't have been a story if she did.

    Setting: Three quarters takes place in the Adirondacks and then finishes up in the Northern Kingdom of upper Vermont. I'm from NY, though born and nearly raised entirely in Brooklyn before my family moved to a northern suburb, I've been married and living in upstate NY for 33 years, though the Adirondacks is still north of where we live. The optimum location for a sect to prosper is a remote area, and the Adirondacks is ideal. Interestingly enough and influencing my plot, in the early years of pitching my story to other pubs I've had one editor say out and out that this type of sect cannot possibly exist outside of the South. I had to scratch my head on this notion because my extensive research shows that this particular kind of belief is practiced worldwide, sadly so.

    However, my next story takes place in West Virginia.

  8. Hi, Elaine! Love this post. So much information. Your book sounds great! I liked what you said: he thinks in terms of “us” instead of “me.” The ultimate sign he's changing. He's no longer only thinking of himself. His world has shifted to include someone else.

  9. Yay! I'm so excited to see this book out. Sounds intriguing!!! I'll be downloading it the minute it is available!

  10. Good morning Elaine,
    Thanks for a helpful tutorial. I haven't done any "bad boys" yet, but all my heroes so far are good men who are DEEPLY flawed.
    Michael Moriarty, the hero in the Oregon Trail novel I'm shopping around now, has relied on looks and charm to get him through life. But he also uses them to hide "the scars Ireland carved on him." And since it takes place in the 1840s, there are plenty of scars.
    Karl Lenski, the hero in my first "City On a Hill" book, has also been scarred and throws himself into his work with New York's poor rather than face his past.
    And Pace Williams, the hero of my current WIP, spends 19 years running from the night he was raped and abused and his mentor/mother figure was killed. Pace is hard on the outside and semi-hard on the inside, until God and a woman's love break him down.
    Oh, you know who does a bad boy well? Cathleen Armstrong, in the third book of her Last Chance series. Steven Braden isn't particularly loveable and he is a smooth manipulator who has avoided a lot of responsibility. Armstrong introduces most of Steve's NEGATIVE characteristics in the first two books, as a walk-on and a foil for the nice characters. When he gets his own book she delves into the heart of Steven, a boy who never felt he was good enough, and we watch him evolve through the love of a single mom and her child and his search for Jesus. Nicely done. I just binge-read her first three books, she's one of my current Writing Style Crushes.
    AND...though it's not CBA, "Gone With The Wind" is a classic example of a, well, classic where the bad boy evolves. Rhett is a shallow manipulator and amoral at the beginning, but the reader watches him evolve into a full human being. The interesting thing is, Mitchell has the whole thing happen from Scarlett's POV, yet we still believe in Rhett's transformation.
    Plz. enter me in drawing, it's Cold Here and I need books to read.
    Kathy Bailey

  11. Elaine,
    I am partial to Third Reich/World War II stories since I discovered the Zion Chronicles and Zion Covenant what, 20 years ago. I don't think pure Christianity shines better anywhere than before the greatest concentrated evil of our time. I have loved this period since I first read about Corrie ten Boom and the courage of Christians helping Jews. And I don't think all the stories have been told, though I shy away from this period simply BECAUSE I've read so much great fiction, mine could never measure up, but that's okay.
    I am also familiar with the Northeast Kingdom. I have several friends with roots in Johnson and the Ithiel Falls camp meeting.
    During college I spent one New Year's Eve in the VFW in St. Johnsbury. Or maybe it was the American Legion, whatever.
    Kathy Bailey

  12. Hi Elaine,

    Welcome to Seekerville! What a great post. I'm starting to go over my NaNO story and I'd already wondered if it was emotional enough. You've given us great tips today, and I'll use them. Thanks so much!

  13. Sally, thanks so much for your visit and comment. Always With You is truly a love story between a man and a woman and ultimately between them and God. For any love to remain strong and continue in the face of challenges each person must, I believe, think in the terms of us and not me. Every argument between my husband and I has always pivoted around the focus of I, I , and I instead of us, us, and us.

  14. Ah, Connie, my sweet friend... and now fan! The book should be releasing any day now, God willing. Thanks for visiting Seekerville.

  15. Kathy, love what you've shared! Thanks for dropping by. As a reader I'm really drawn to WWII stories. I may cringe against the brutality of the Nazis, as well as get teary-eyed on how some citizens turned their back against their own neighbors who once were friends (though, many were good people just trying to survive a horrid time), but what keeps me coming back to this time period is the ultimate tale of bad vs. good and seeing how people not only survive but how they're able to move forward in life despite horrific odds. I may have given a nod to this era in my novel, but like you I'm unsure if I can or want to write a whole story set in this time when there are so many good ones out there already.

    Funny your mention of St. Johnsbury because that's the exact place in Vermont where my story concludes :)

    Your stories sound quite interesting and I wish you all the best. Don't ever give up on them!

    I'll have to check out Cathleen Armstrong's works. Thanks for the suggestion.

  16. Oh, Jackie, you made my day that my writing tips have helped you. Thanks so much for saying this :)

    Happy writing!

  17. Welcome, Elaine! Making an unlikable character sympathetic is no easy task. I know Mary Connealy has redeemed a few of her villains, making them the heroes in their own stories. I did the same with Gilbert, who was a real troublemaker in When the Clouds Roll By but pulled himself together to become his best self in Whisper Goodbye.

    Actually, I think it's great fun to grow a character from troubled beginnings into someone strong and admirable and truly heroic. The trick, of course, is to hint at their goodness, or at least the potential for goodness, early on, just as you mentioned with Tyler rescuing Isabelle.

  18. Oh, my, Elaine@!!! Several New Yorkers here!

    I am currently unemployed, my company closed as of Dec 1. But I can relate, as that was my schedule the last year. Up at 3. to work by 4 and home at 3:30.

    Ay, ay, ay! What a schedule.

  19. Welcome to Seekerville, Elaine. I was captivated by your premise.
    I've never written a "bad boy" yet, but I think it would be both challenging and fun.
    Thank you so much for this educational post.

  20. Myra, good thoughts. I have plenty of motivation and drive to keep me writing but for some odd reason I keep giving myself challenges when it comes to characters and their wounded psyches. LOL--like I really need another challenge in my life! Oh, well. You know that cliche: keeps me busy and out of trouble. And yes, it's definitely fun.

  21. Interesting to think about digging deeper into our characters.

    Many years ago, a well-known author judged one of my stories in a contest. She said that I was a good writer, but that I was holding back. I didn't understand what she meant at the time ... Maybe I still don't :)...but I think she meant to dig further into my characters' thoughts, feelings, actions, backstory, and that character arc you mentioned. If we know where our characters started from and we spill that onto the page in an engaging way, we can show that arc to readers in a compelling, can't-put-it-down story.

  22. Tina, that day job schedule--after 10 years--is what's motivating me to perhaps reconsider a few things in life. Clinging to His opening new doors and windows for me. But yikes--with a debut novel launching I have a lot of life-stuff happening. But, all good. Yet, I'm not going to question His timing for my answered prayers.

    I hope things go well for you.

  23. Jill, I'm actually encouraged by YOUR comment :) Glad you found my info helpful.

  24. Pam, here's a public confession I make today: I have not read anything by Ernest Hemingway. Sigh. I know. Maybe I just lost the respect of the whole literary world... However, I love his quote of the writer's necessity to bleed on the page. I try to make it that my characters bleed and that my reader will want to make it all better for him or her.

    I hope you and the other Seekers will read Always With You and let me know if I succeeded.

  25. Good morning Elaine.
    Interesting post. It is tricky to get an unlikable character to become a hero but it seems like it ought to be possible. It ought to be an honest look at a person right? We all need to change and grow.
    Thanks for the info on visceral emotions, too.

  26. Mary--well said. Each character must change and grow. And isn't the heart of Christian fiction whether each character is--and why--redeemable?

  27. Hi Elaine,
    You were nice enough to have me on your blog last year! I'm so thrilled for you having a book of your own to promote!
    Ah, yes, the unlikeable hero. Very timely since I'm working on revisions to my wip (Book 3 in the Courage to Dream series) and my editor found my hero, Matthew, unlikeable. So now I'm working through all his scenes to see how I can make him more sympathetic. He's a wounded medic from WWI and his many scars, outer and inner, and has a sickly daughter whom he tries to shield from the world. Poor Matthew comes across as too gruff and cold, so I need to 'warm' him up!
    Also in my newest release, A Worthy Heart, (whcih came out last week - Woo-hoo!!), the main hero, Adam, has just been released from prison. He has had a change of heart while incarcerated thanks to the prison chaplain, but Adam finds that his family and the outside world are not ready to believe he's changed. He has to work hard to convince them all that he is different and worthy of his place in the family. Adam was challenging, but I fell in love with him, once I worked out his inner demons, and I hope my readers will love him too!
    Overall, I think the key to making an unlikeable hero likeable is to show him doing kind things, noble things. Or like Ruthy says, give him puppies and babies!! LOL.
    Best of luck with your book, Elaine!

  28. Sue, so nice to see you! Thanks for your kind words on both my upcoming book release and my blog. And you--I've been enjoying seeing the titles build under your name. Blessings for many more!

    I agree: the unlikeable hero needs to be seen doing kind and noble things that the reader can appreciate in every day life. My Tyler is very much a family man. Orphaned, he must be dad, mom, and big brother to his younger twin brothers and sister. As a newly married man, he must be a romantic to his new wife, Isabelle. In short, the unlikable hero needs a good heart buried deep inside, one that the author must uncover by the story's end.

  29. It's always interesting and sometimes (in my case) shocking when someone sees your hero as unlikable. And you have to step back and ask yourself, okay, so how can I make the reader see what I see in this hero.

    That's when I find Michael Hauge's suggestions helpful.

    How to Create Identification in Your Protagonist: (pick at least 2)
    1. Make the character the victim of some undeserved misfortune.
    2. Put the character in jeopardy.
    3. Make the character likeable.
    4. Make the character funny.
    5. Make the character powerful.

  30. Hi Elaine,

    Your story, "Always With You," sounds very interesting and I can't wait to read it. All God's best with your new book.I'm sure it will touch many hearts!!!

    Sweet blessings,

  31. Elaine, Congratulations on your debut novel! How exciting. What a great post. Your book sounds intriguing! I loved your tips for making unlikeable heroes more likable. And I couldn't agree more with giving them room to change and a need to do so. It seems like, at the root of them, there has to be something the reader likes about him. A noble quality, an affinity for children, a save-the-cat moment near the beginning of the story . . . something that makes him likable.

    You've got me thinking this morning. Thank you!

  32. Tina, powerful, huh? In what sense does Michael Hauge suggest this? Interestingly, my Tyler is next in line to succeed the group's leader but he learns the hard way that the doesn't want to, after all.

  33. Wanda, thanks so much for your visit to Seekerville and for your kind, encouraging words. I'm only a debut novelist once and you've helped to calm my kinda hyper nerves as I enter and encounter this whole new world :)

  34. Hi Elaine:

    You asked:

    'Have you read any other books with where the author handled redeeming an unlikable hero?"

    I sure have. The character is Julie Lessman's "Charity". However, it did take five novels, two novellas, and a tumultuous child of her own, to tackle the transformation. And yet, I really don't know if Charity actually changed or if life just worn all her rough edges away for her. :>)

    I can understand making an unlikeable hero likeable but should we? Would Dr. House in the tv show "House" be of any real interest if he were not so cranky?

    I've even seen evil villains made likeable. What do you think of that? Making a serial killer as loveable as a fluffy puppy? Wouldn't it be immoral for an author to create such a character?

    BTW: Please put me in the drawing for your book as I find the theme to be irresistible. However, there are a lot of books with that same title. Did you pick the title or the publisher? And did you consider other books currently on the market when the title was selected. I'm an old marketing guy, that's why I ask.


    P.S. I agree 100% with your emphasis on emotion in a romance. I believe that people read romances because of how they make them feel as they are reading the book and not to find out how the story ends as they do in a mystery story. Just stand in a bookstore a while and you'll see women reading the last pages of romances to make sure that not only do they have an HEA but that the HEA is also sufficiently happy!

  35. Wonderful post on the unlikeable hero, Elaine, but if anyone can pull it off, you can. I am so pleased to see this day when your novel will make its debut. It's been a while, but well worth the wait, as I know this is a great book. Hugg

  36. Jeanne, thanks for stopping by. I agree. A writer has to be careful not to make the bad guy so miserable that he's stereotypic (aka not plausible.) Funny--in preparing this article and enjoying this interchange here today, my brain is refueling and I'm going back through my own WIP and detangling some kinks.

    I'm thankful you've enjoyed the post.

  37. Oh, TINA, what will your next job besides author, be? Something for research?

  38. Hi, Vince. Nice to meet you here on Seekerville.

    You've brought up a fascinating question: the difference between redeeming an unlikable, bad-boy character vs. redeeming the villain. I think it all depends on the story, the genre, and the reading audience the author initially targeted. In my situation I wanted to create the story world of a young man and woman from... uh, not to use a cliche here... two sides of the mountain who fall in love, yet life challenges them to remain together. As the story developed and I dedicated my writing to God I knew this character had to be redeemed by the story's end. As for a villain in a story--hmm. Excellent question. I read a very gripping novel not too long ago of a woman falling for a Nazi officer and believe me, I wasn't sure if wanted this union to happen but the author carried off the story well (I won't reveal the surprise ending). So, a conclusion? I guess I don't have one clear cut reply, and thankfully so. Reading is highly subjective. What one reader will love and admire another one will frown upon.

    As for my title, the original was Don't Tell Isabelle. My editor suggested Always With You (interestingly, she did not know that at one time I'd thought of that title as well). Theme wise the new title works well and on many levels so personally I think my editor made a wise proposal.

    And bless you for saying you find my theme "irresistible." Can you see me smiling from upstate NY?

  39. Christine, I need to do a blog post on the "insufferable wait" of writers, but alas, I don't have a lot to contribute that others haven't written about

    Again, I credit you for helping me achieve a turning point in my writing. Just hope I can retain this info in my brain cells.

    And thanks for being one of Always With You's lovely endorsers.

  40. I forgot to add--I'm so glad that my writing tip about visceral feelings in a novel was a help to you Elaine. You and I have both come a long way since we first met at the Minneapolis ACFW conference about 8 or 9 years ago. Wow, what a lot we have both learned, and I'm so glad you are one of my dear writing friends. Let's continue forward to write quality Christian fiction. Hugs.

  41. Oh I so agree Elaine, the insufferable wait of the writer's career. My advice is to make PERSEVERANCE your middle name. However, having said that, the writing apprenticeship is far more than just waiting. That time is well spent in learning the craft, and it is not a craft to be pumped out as quickly as a one-semester course at the local business college. Learning to become a writer takes courses on creative writing, joining writing associations, following blogs like Seekerville, studying the craft, and most of all writing, writing, writing.

    My former creating writing professor once told me that the apprenticeship of a writers is 1,000,000 words. If you're not good reading numbers, that means one million words written. LOL

  42. Welcome, Elaine! This was timely as I'm considering using the "villian" (although he was somewhat redeemed in the story) from my last novella as a hero in the next. :)

    Tina, thanks for re-sharing the list from Michael Hauge!

  43. I generally just give them a dog.

    Or a kid. Sometimes two kids.

    It's amazing how much the reader will forgive if an old grump turns himself upside down to be nice to kids and dogs.

  44. I'm dying laughing because as I was reading the comments, there's Sue Mason's with "As Ruthy says, give them puppies or babies!"

    Laughing out loud!!!!


    Enlist the nurturer within. :) STILL LAUGHING!

  45. I couldn't help but chime on the discussion of bad boy versus villain. It's always a challenge to create villains that aren't those stereotypical mustache twirling bad guys. What I have found is that my best villains come from within me. I take my complex personality (we all have one) and tweak what I think would have happened if God had not saved me.

    As for my bad boys or girls, I take them from within my own psyche as well. By looking back to before I started walking straight with God, I remember back to my journey.

    Personally, I think that all heroes, villains, developing characters come from deep within the writer's soul.

  46. I've been thinking about this very topic a lot lately. I've recently read two books with very unlikeable heroes and yet the authors made me fall for these guys.

    One of them is A Dream For Love by Lisa Belcastro. The hero is a famous actor and has the ego and all the vices we often associate with celebrities. Seriously, major 'ewwww' factor -- until the heroine's adorable daughter starts to work her magic. That's when my frozen heart started to melt. His transformation was truly inspiring.


  48. Christine, you're so right. Life and writing a long time ago have given me the new middle name of Perseverance. And every day there's a new life lesson that teaches me that!

  49. Hauge talks about doing this with the first introduction to the character. Just pick two.

    So Dr. Who would be funny and powerful. We respect the guy because he's a genius and he has a dark humor.

    So while we may not want to invite him to dinner, we are very invested in him as a character.

  50. Okay, I should specify

    This is from Hauge's The Heroes Two Journeys DVD/CD and classes at RWA and other venues.

  51. Missy, now your story definitely intrigues me. You got me at somewhat redeemed (love it!) becomes hero. That's my kind of book.

  52. Kav, thanks for your visit. Isn't Lisa Belcastro just wonderful? :)

  53. Welcome to Seekerville Ruth Blodgett! Always nice to see a new face here. Tell us about yourself.

  54. I realized halfway through book TWO of the Wild Women series that the villain from book ONE would make a nice romance with a secondary character.

    So she was really the leader of the bad guys in book ONE so I went back and wrote her differently. I still had time thankfully.
    I made her far less evil and more the reluctant follower to evil. Then very sorry and repentant when they got caught.
    Then I could redeem her.

  55. ELAINE!!! Welcome to Seekerville, my friend -- great to see you here!

    Wow, all you had to do was mention the phrase "bad boy," and I am SO there!! :)

    As my readers have quickly discovered, I have a HUGE thing for bad boys, and redeeming them is one of my VERY favorite things to do. :) Have done it in every single one of my books in some fashion, so needless to say, this post today not only intrigues me, but motivates me to do it again. ;)

    You asked: "I’d love to know what makes you keep a character in your thoughts, as well as what redeems an apparent bad boy. Have you read any other books with where the author handled redeeming an unlikable hero?"

    Well, Francine Rivers did it in her Mark of the Lion series, and Liz Curtis Higgs did it in her Scotland series, both of which rank in my top favorite series of all time. As far as what redeems a bad boy in my eyes? Well, I actually wrote a blog about this (entitled: STAND BY YOUR MAN: REDEEMING HAUNTED HEROES (OR BAD BOYS GONE GOOD!)) because to me, this is a critical question for romance authors, which is another reason why I enjoyed your post so much. So here's my answer to your question, which I took from that blog:

    To me, there is nothing stronger than a wayward guy gone good. It takes strength of conviction and a lot of humility for a man to bend his knee to God, but when he does, he rises as a tower of strength and manhood, not in his own power, but in God’s. It’s like epoxy—the strength of a man combined with the strength of his Savior, recreating man as he was meant to be—a warrior, a protector, and fiercely devoted to both God and the woman he loves.

    Great post, Elaine!


  56. Elaine, the last novella had a love triangle, and the guy who gets ditched wasn't a very nice guy. But by the end of the story, we saw some of his pain and understood him a little better. So I'm hoping he'll make a good hero! :)

  57. LOL, Mrs. Blodgett! :) Have you been doing kennel work again on your dog selling blog?

  58. Julie, thanks for the big and warm welcome. I'm thrilled to be here.

    Aware you love the bad boys as much as I do I appreciate you taking the time to comment. You said:

    "It takes strength of conviction and a lot of humility for a man to bend his knee to God, but when he does, he rises as a tower of strength and manhood, not in his own power, but in God’s."

    Well said! For that reason I'm relieved Seekers haven't seen my Tyler as wimpy in my above illustration when Isabelle sees tears in his eyes. Of course I won't reveal the exact incident that triggers tears in his eyes or the direction he's going in, plot wise or character wise, or what exactly happens at the story's end, but I agree, to me a man or woman bowing before God signals strength and not weakness.

  59. Thanks for being with us today, Elaine! Sounds as if you've created a very interesting hero! Congrats on your success!

    I haven't written a true bad boy yet, but the information you've shared is intriguing. The Faithful cult sounds interesting as well.

  60. Waving to Tina. She knows I love anything Hauge!

  61. Hi Elaine,

    I'm sooooo excited for your debut novel!! I love bad boys gone good. Nothing like redemption - in a man (or woman) to bring me to happy tears. Ryan, in A Dream for Love, ticked me off so much in the beginning I thought I might have to kill him off! As Kav said above (thanks, Kav!!), Ryan has major "ewwwww" factor. You wouldn't want to touch him with a ten-foot pole. Then . . . sigh . . . he begins to change, and change a little more, and a little more . . . sigh . . . until he asks for your heart instead of stealing it. Sigh, yet again.

    We've GOT to get together this year!!

    Hugs and love and wonderful wishes for a blessed 2016!

  62. Welcome to Seekerville, Lisa!! Are you posting from Cape Cod?? What fun. I guess it's cold this time of year. Vacation destination when I was a kid and it was shall we say, less expensive. We'd stay in rented cottages. :)

  63. Debby, so glad Always With You grabs your attention :) And thanks for having me on Seekerville. It's so fun to be here.

  64. Lisa, it's so good to see you! And yes, I second the motion that 2016 will be the year to meet face-to-face. Ha. Since you've stomached my Brooklyn accent, you probably can tolerate my company. Ah--the hours of bad-boy conversation we can have. LOL.

    In all seriousness though, I think you've touched upon something vital. The writer must make the unlikable hero slowly transform since a bad boy should not change at the stroke of a computer key. Must be gradual, indeed.

  65. Welcome to Seekerville, Elaine! Congratulations on your debut!

    The best part of reading and writing is watching characters grow and change, especially the unlikeable ones. Faith or coming to faith has a huge impact on the character, along with a desire to love and be loved. But most of the time, they still can't change unless forced by events and conflict. But then, most of us don't change easily either. We may mean to, but it's far easier to cling to old patterns.


  66. Elaine, your bad boy hero is intriguing! Character arc and emotional depth are both so important.
    Thanks for sharing such great information and giving us a peek at your debut novel. I'm so
    excited for you!

  67. You're so right, Janet, when it comes to change whether desired or forced. And that's what readers enjoy seeing in a story--change in a character. Why? Because they replace themselves with the character and want to see what the character would do as opposed to what the reader will actually do within the story. Very mind-bending stuff :)

  68. Kathy, it's an exciting time for me, for sure. Yet, one full of surprises and many life lessons. I'm grateful for it all.

    I'm glad you enjoyed this Seekerville feature.

  69. Congrats on "Always With You", Elaine - enjoyed your post, thank you!!

    My fave books are those containing lots of dysfunctional characters who have "issues" - perhaps because it is a synopsis of my life before I yielded control to God. Although I'm not a writer, I know it's possible to redeem a "bad" boy in a book, just as it's possible to redeem a "bad" boy/girl in real life, although the journey may be lengthy and difficult - some people learn lessons more quickly than others. The trials/problems of the characters is one thing that entices me to continue investing my time in reading a book. I personally feel God is necessary for redemption and change in those unlikeable heroes/heroines, both in books and real life. For that reason - my fave "bad" boy/girl books are those where either the hero or heroine has a close spiritual relationship with God, the other does no, but is redeemed by a loving God by the end of the story.

    There are numerous authors who write stories along this line, I can think of none who is more gifted in portraying a "bad" boy/girl redeemed by a loving God than Julie Lessman. I especially love that God is the central character in her books - around which the other figures revolve. She is also very adept at making the reader feel the emotions just as the characters feel them - as Christine recommended to you. There are always those adorable children and pets in her stories also, as commented by Ruthy and others - they always allure the reader and soften the characters who love them.

    Please enter my name in the drawing for a copy of "Always With You" - I'd love to read it!! Thank you!!

  70. Oh, my. Big time. Sheesh. I hate when computers self-correct themselves: my editor is Deb Haggerty with an H and not a T! My apologies, Deb.

  71. Hello Elaine. Congratulations on your upcoming release of Always With You. I enjoy reading about a character's transformation. In reality we are all in process.

    Please add me in for the drawing.

  72. Hi Elaine:

    I went to your website and not only is your "Always With You" story theme irresistible to me, so too is your blog title: "Fusing Family Drama And Psychological Suspense". However, I should tell you that I'm not a very typical romance fan. I was educated to teach philosophy. I think I'd be called a member of your choir. : )

    Also I'd love to 'visit' your setting! I've been fascinated with the Adirondacks ever since my little league days. An Adirondack was the ultimate baseball bat. I'm sure my family took some vacations in the Adirondacks and I'd love to see how you handled the settings.

    BTW: For the life of me I could not find a way to leave a comment on your blog. I wanted to ask Nike N. Chillemi if 'Nike' was a pen name and if not, how does she feel as a Christian fiction writer being named for a Greek Goddess? That should win me a copy of her mystery, don't you think? I also subscribed to your newsletter. Please look in your mailbox. (Some authors don't seem to check their mail boxes very often.)


  73. Caryl, thanks for visiting this evening. I agree. If I'm in a true and perpetual state of change why shouldn't my characters be?

  74. Vince, I think I'm adoring you! Thanks so much for visiting my website and being further intrigued. This debut author thingy is so new to me. Though I'm in a couple of published anthologies, a novel is a whole different species and with it a bunch more crazy emotions. Your kind words and everyone else here today has truly been an incredible amount of support for me and I am so touched and grateful.

    As for my blog, so sorry you've had trouble. If you'd like to return back to the website, please click on the Contact page, fill out the little box of your information and comment and I'll be happy to post it for you (though there's a chance if you send it later this evening I may not get to it until tomorrow because of the day job schedule).

    And super thanks for subscribing to my newsletter--another way to possibly win Always With You.

  75. It's been such a pleasure and pure fun for me to guest here today on Seekerville. I hope I've been as informative as all of you have been a source of beautiful encouragement to me. Unfortunately, the day job wake up call at 3 AM will happen sooner than later and I must sign off for the evening. I'll be sure to check back tomorrow to see if there are any additional comments this evening (although I'm unsure if the comment period will still be open after this evening).

    Thank you, Seekers, for making this a great day for me and for hosting me!

    Good luck in the Giveaway drawing for Always With You.

    Happy reading and writing.

    Blessings to all.

  76. Loved reading about your book and can hardly wait to read it.

  77. I am so excited for your success!! I knew it would happen and can't wait to hold the book in my hands!

  78. Congratulation, Elaine on your book release. I am so excited for you. I loved hearing about your book and would love to hold a copy and read it.

    Deanne P.

  79. Elaine, "Always with You" sounds like a book I'll definitely enjoy reading. Congratulations on your release of it. Dysfuntional characters are so typical of individuals in our society today, until they find a true relationship with God. Thank you for sharing so much about developing your characters on Seekerville today. I'm looking forward to reading this book in the very near future. Thank you for the giveaway. God bless you as you write for His glory.

  80. Ann, hi you lovely lady and beautiful friend! I was hoping to see you here. I'm very curious to know what you'll think of Always With You.

  81. Pat, at this point, LOL, I can't wait to hold the book in my hands either! This is what it must feel like when a baby is a bit late past the due date (g) Thanks for all of your support through the years.

  82. Marilyn, so nice to see you here. That's really the simple basis of my story: all is not right until Tyler and Isabelle accept the love of the One who loves them.

  83. Chiming in again. I too love books about dysfunctional characters. I think that all of us are dysfunctional to a point. I wouldn't want to read a book from the point of view of someone mentally ill, but a bit of dysfunction works for me. Those characters---like in my own books---who suffer from the affects of having an alcoholic father, or a character that inherits his father's propensity to alcohol. Or a woman who has not experienced the love of parents and family like she should have.

    Such a great opportunity in books like that to show the grace and mercy of God and the healing that is available. Plus I love happy endings. Hugs again, Elaine, so happy to see your debut here at last.

    And thank for again for your loving mention of me in your post.

  84. I love novels where the bad guy becomes the hero! Thanks for the giveaway :)

  85. Christine, I'm not done giving you kudos... I'll keep you in suspense.

  86. Sierra, you're my type of reader! How I wish I could meet face-to-face with you and all the others who have posted here for a chat! Do you belong to a book club... perhaps we can Skype? If so, use the Contact form on the Contact page of my website--I'd love to hear from you.