How to write a Loveable Rogue

Young - Blood Red Road

(Jack from Blood Red Road is a prime example of a Loveable Rogue, and one of the primary inspirations for this post)

  1. At their first meeting, have him visibly check out your female protagonist. She will be pretty. He will be hot and very charming. He will be aware of these facts. She will be confused.
  2. Establish that he has secrets and is hiding something (likely of significance), but have your protagonist enter into a deal or partnership of some sort with him.
  3. He will demonstrate unexpected leadership qualities and will take charge of the expedition. She will be uncertain at first, but will soon come to accept this as a natural state of affairs, excepting a few notable instances in which her priorities and interests reassert themselves. (Briefly.)
  4. She will save his life. He will save hers. Repeat as necessary.
  5. He will reveal some of his tragic backstory. He may have been an orphan or a slave. He will certainly be an adept thief (failing that, skilled at some unlawful business, such as smuggling). He will at this point be shown to have unsuspected depths.
  6. He will flirt a lot with her, and attempt to charm everybody else. Mostly he will succeed, and she will be confused.
  7. He may kiss her when she does not expect or want it. This is not absolutely necessary; however, there must be a fair amount of physical contact.
  8. There will be a crisis, and he will prove his devotion to her. (He has almost certainly Reformed out of love for her by this point, and given up his skirt-chasing, pocket-picking ways.)
  9. There will be a crisis, and she will think him dead. This is a good time for her to reveal how she really feels about him. (I.e. that she loves him.)

Tangled - Eugene

(Eugene Fitzherbert, alias Flynn Rider, from Tangled, the other Loveable Rogue who inspired this post)

So much for story arc. Here are primary characteristics and facts that will work their way into the plot, but not at any particular point.

  • Loveable Rogues are always male. Female Rogues are more deadly and typically more serious than their male counterparts, and will have a less significant role in the story, whether the protagonist is female or male. All Rogues, however, have a way with quips and repartee.
  • He is roughly her age or several years older than she is. Loveable Rogues are never younger than the woman for whom they Reform. Whether he is her age or several years older (ten or so is not uncommon), he will be worldly and will likely have a tough-guy, cynical exterior. She will be one of the few who can penetrate this exterior. He will likely be uncomfortable with this, at least initially.
  • Any rough-type allies will be drawn to her, not him. They may be drawn by her innocence or by her toughness; either way, rough-type allies are typically much larger and more intimidating than the average person. Their characters are rarely developed, however, so do not hesitate to kill them off as necessary.
  • She will be separated from her allies, but they will arrive when All Hope Is Lost in order to Save The Day. Unfortunately, this does not preclude her from Defeating The Villain personally.
  • Animals will be drawn to her. Not so much to him. When they are, it is proof that he has Reformed. Or at least that he is Reform-able.
  • He will have flirted with many other girls in the past, and be proud of his prowess at charming females. He may even openly boast of his charms. But there was Never Anybody Like Her. So he Reforms.
  • He will likely have a pet name for her (or several). These may vary from “sweetheart” or “darling'” to an irritating short form of her name.
  • She will suspect that he is attracted to her but will deny any reciprocating attraction. She may deny his feelings as well, when asked by other females, despite the fact that he is painfully obvious by this time.
  • He will see her in some state of undress. She will likely see him shirtless at another point.
  • He will lie to her, probably repeatedly. She will, unsurprisingly, become unable to distinguish between his lies and when he is telling the truth. The reader, however, will almost always see through him. It is better if you give your readers an acceptable explanation for her difficulty; however, you could simply have a dense female protagonist.

Star Wars - Han Solo smiling

(Han Solo from the original Star Wars trilogy. Loveable Rogues are at least in common in films as they are in books)

A few books with a Loveable Rogue character.

alannafirstadventure          Zinn - Poison

(I should have mentioned several posts ago that my Capitalized Words are a reference to Diana Wynne Jones’ extraordinary and extraordinarily funny book The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, where the cliches of epic fantasy novels are capitalized and copyrighted as “Official Management Terms” (OMTs). My favourite section of the Tough Guide is “Colour Coding”, which should be required reading for anyone writing a high fantasy story.)

  • Ahhh, what a great post! It made me laugh, and so much of it rings true! I think my favorite Loveable Rogue is Mat from the Wheel of Time series. He’s ridiculous and lewd, but also clever and somewhat charming (until he opens his mouth again), and he’s got one of the most interesting character arcs I’ve read!

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  • Hahahha this was a great post! My favourite loveable rogue is OBVIOUSLY George from the Song of the Lioness Quartet. I mean is there any other? (Other than Han Solo. He’s in a completely different category of adoration. Also I forget that Star Wars is books too)

  • Shio

    This is a /tad/ sexist (what with the pure naive pureness female and the ‘experienced’ male) but still useful. It’s a little heteronormative for what I had in mind but a good tool for knowing what sort of things to subvert – you can mix things up by making the rogue a lady, or less handsome than usual and he relies on his wit and charm to get the ladies…
    (Making my lovable rogue an orc, I think.)

    • Janet

      The Lovable Rogue is definitely based on heteronormative, sexist ideas (norms/tropes). I wrote this post after coming across a few Lovable* Rogues in short succession: they were laughably predictable, both in terms of I knew who they were from about the page they first appeared on, and their behaviour/character arc was highly similar. My goal was to point out how (laughably) predictable these men** are, not to advocate the use of this trope – although I would like to see it pulled off with a orc 🙂

      *Well, they’re supposed to be lovable. I don’t always find them so. They tend to get annoying pretty quickly.
      **Men because there are almost no female Loveable Rogues, although Delilah Dirk might come close.