How to Write a Scoundrel in Five Steps by Christy Carlyle
Make him a renegade. Every scoundrel is, in some sense, a renegade. He does not conform to society’s rules. Whether he’s a viscount or a valet, a scoundrel doesn’t give a fig what others think of his outrageous behavior. In fact, he relishes his rebellion and the effect he has on others. To shock a virginal debutante into a blush. To send a society matron searching for her smelling salts. To make a rival livid with disdain. Those are the moments a scoundrel lives for. Even if he’s meant for ultimate redemption (and, of course, he is), a true scoundrel always starts as a rule breaker.
Infuse him with magnetism. A scoundrel must draw you, tantalize you, no matter how much of a rogue he is. A scoundrel should wield a kind of magnetism that’s impossible to deny. A magnetism based on more than his charm, handsome features, and appealing physique, though it helps if he possesses those in spades. Yet even a scarred, flawed scoundrel intrigues the most proper heroine, exuding a charisma that makes her curious enough to look beyond his reputation and bad behavior. When I think of the magnetic scoundrel, Lisa Kleypas’s Derek Craven from Dreaming of You comes to mind. From his first appearance on the page, he exerted a magnetic pull on me, as a reader, and on Sara, the story’s heroine.
Turn up the confidence. Scoundrels rarely regret their sins. At least at first. To be a true scoundrel, a man must revel in his naughtiness for a while. One of the keys to being a successful scoundrel, after all, is acquiring a terrible reputation, and it takes effort to convince everyone around you that you’re an unprincipled man. Part of a scoundrel’s appeal lies in his confidence, whether in his looks, his charm, or some skill that he performs particularly well. And, no, I’m not only thinking of talents in the bedroom. Consider Han Solo, the Star Wars scoundrel we all love. Han may have suspected Leia’s feelings for him, but he knew with absolute certainty that he was one of the best pilots in the galaxy. Confidence is sexy, and scoundrels have plenty.
Dig into his history. He may be the life of the party. Embracing every sin. Indulging every impulse. But the best scoundrels have a history that’s far less about pleasure than their lifestyle would suggest. Often there’s a wound, a trauma, some deeply buried regret that they seek to block out with hedonism and sensual gratification. He can’t escape his past, of course, no matter how much he carouses. My hero, Jasper Grey, in A Study in Scoundrels has never quite gotten past the death of his brother. His guilt is what drives him to overindulge and embrace his role as a scoundrel.
Give him a formidable challenge. Every hero is presented with a challenge. Part of the appeal of a scoundrel is that he usually faces provocation with gusto. Whether he schemes to avoid marriage, or attempts to outwit a clever heroine, a scoundrel never backs down from a dare. Challenge intrigues him, excites him. Probably because his overconfidence convinces him he’ll always emerge the victor. Of course, a challenge often alters the scoundrel in ways he doesn’t expect, especially if confrontation comes in the form of a fierce, smart, determined heroine who strips away his seductive veneer and digs deep enough to unearth the man inside.