Monday, June 21, 2010

Diabolical. . . spunk.

Over the weekend I finally came up with the recipe for characters that enthrall and enchant me. And it all started (Thank you, Ms. Hauf!) with these guys!

There is absolutely nothing like DIABOLOCAL SPUNK to make my tummy warm and my toes curl with pleasure. Usually it's a villain that overshadows the hero. . . with style and a sense of humor, albeit a warped one. Occasionally it is a character that what I call a Secondary Delight. You know: that character who grabs the spotlight and steals the show. . . makes you want more, makes you imagine a whole storyline around them. . . with them somehow coming out on top.

And the few times where the hero or heroine is the diabolically spunky character-- well I just want more and more. It's hard to find a book with a truly diabolically spunky hero or heroine. . . because heroes have to do what heroes/heroines do, which is carry the arc of the story on their backs, grow, develop, tend the plot, create life-changing bonds with mates, and bring the story to a satisfying conclusion. And hey, that's plenty for one character to do! So, adding diabolical spunkiness to the mix-- well that's just waaaay past most writers' skill level. And yes, I'm serious about that.

Think about it-- it's incredibly rare to find a character who is a devious delight and who also engenders sympathy and deserves a great love story. The ONE character I can think of who made me feel this way wasn't in a book, much less a romance. It was the infamous Spike from Buffy, The Vampire Slayer. Tell me you didn't just melt when he came on the tube. And yet we laughed at his antics and were horrified by his deviousness-- but had to admire it all the same.
I watched "The Empire Strikes Bac" again for the first time in 15 or 20 years and was struck by how much I mis-remembered the story and the fabulous chemistry generated by Han Solo. In the scheme of things, he's a secondary character-- but he not only steals the show, he steals the heroine and the viewer's hearts! Tell me he isn't the epitome of diabolical spunk!
And who could possibly forget Johnny Depp in this diabolically spunky role:
It seems that Hollywood does a better job of capturing the edgy, attractive character than Romance writing does. Some of the stuff Johnny Depp does is decidedly UNheroic. But in the end, he usually comes through, redeems himself in our eyes and swaggers on. Wow. Makes me want to time travel to the 18th century. Almost.

Another diabolically spunky character from Hollywood's vaults is Eddie Murphy in "Beverly Hills Cop." And of course there is the one who started it all for me. . . Allan Rickman as the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves. In that one performance, Rickman branded on my writer's psyche a template for delight of the naughty/edgy/never-gonna-be-ready-for-Sunday-School kind. If I ever meet Allan Rickman, I intend to drag him down a dark alley and give him just what Maid Marion wouldn't. Okay, I'd probably just give him a big old hug. . . and I'd have to live with the restraining order afterward, but it would be worth it!

And going back further in time. . . there was this guy. . . cool, devious, funny, and always triumphant.


So what about you? Have you figured out what kind of character makes your juices boil and touches your heart at the same time? What is your FAVORITE kind of character? And why do you think that appeals to you?

And as Bugs would say, "Ain't life grand?"

19 comments:

krisgils33 said...

I think either Spike or Han Solo epitomize what you're talking about, in my opinion. Han Solo is definitely the top of my list on that one...it's that indefinable quality that you almost love to hate. Plus, he's sweet on the eyes, so there is no bad there.

Leanne said...

FABU BLOG! Wow, you really got us going on Monday! My vote is Johnny Depp on Pirates TIMES TEN!

Betina said...

Krisgils, Yes, Han is the one for a lot of people. He was so much more manly-- make Luke look like a little kid.

Leanne-- you're so right-- Johnny is probably the most memorable DS character in recent memory, at least out of Hollyweird.

Can you think of others, guys? I'd love to come up with a catalog!

KylieBrant said...

Betina, I love Han Solo and Jack Sparrow...each are the quintessential anti-hero. And seem all the more heroic when they ultimately make the right choices!

Michele Hauf said...

I've never had a term for those characters I love, until now. Diabolical spunk. I just love saying it! And oh, Spike, be still, my heart. He had it in spades. I'm rewatching all seasons of Buffy this summer, but am only in season 1 and already I'm hungering for when Spike drives onto the scene.

I can't wait to read your latest idea, Betina! It will be awesome, as usual.

Debra Dixon said...

Terrific post! I just did a talk about characterization this weekend and I sooo wish I'd had "diabolical spunkiness" in the notes.

It's very true that hero's have a more difficult time pulling this off, but romance may have a little bit of a luxury in that we can always spin that character off to their own story!

Helen Brenna said...

Not sure if he qualifies, but what about Alan Rickman as the Sheriff of Nottingham?

Betina Krahn said...

Kylie, I never thought of myself as a bad-boy afficianado, but I do love thouse guys to ride the line and finally land on the RIGHTside of it!

And Michele, you started the words bubbling up when you sent me that link to the penguins the other day. They are diabolical and too cute and funny and ineffectual to be really anything but spunky. Spike is one of my all time faves. . . and even riding into town in that ratty old car with the blacked-out windows, he had potential. I was so pleased to be able to put into two words what I'd always loved.

Hey, anybody got another diabolically spunky character to savor?

And Deb, I really do love putting absurdities into characters. . . even the words diabolical and spunky clash a bit. . . for humorous effect.

Hey, I thought of another character! Cary Grant in the movie "Father Goose." He was a boozer and unwilling and irascible-- a true curmudgeon, about as un-heroic as they come. . . but it turns out he has a sense of humor underneath it all and got off some great one liners. and when the grease hit the fire-- he was a really good guy who stepped up to the plate. Check it out sometime on TMC!

Betina Krahn said...

Helen, he's the very foundation of the concept! (See my confession in Paragrah 7!)

Great minds. . .

Kathleen Eagle said...

Remember Dustin Hoffman in "Hero"? And Lee Marvin in "Cat Ballou"? Sometimes it's the guy who doesn't want to do anything heroic but ends up being heroic in spite of his best efforts to look after number 1 exclusively. I think diabolical spunk is a wonderful term, especially for the comic character. Does the Trickster Hero fall into this category, do you think? Wile E. Coyote?

I think Jack Sparrow is my favorite, and from what I've read Johnny Depp went beyond the script to create that character. In the beginning the suits at Disney had their doubts, but in the end they let Johnny have his head (as a rider would say) and the rest is multi-sequel history.

Michele Hauf said...

I think sometimes Vince Vaughn plays diabolically spunky roles. He's a bit of a goof, and I love to watch him.

Cindy Gerard said...

Love the new term, Betina! There's an old Tom and Sharon Curtis book - The Windflower - where the hero, Devon, comes across as pretty much of a bad guy - of course until we get to know him better. But he and his buddies, Morgan and Cat are pirates (shades of Johnny D) but they have this Robin Hood-esk quality about them. Spunky, irreverent and of course, sexy as sin. it's been years since I read that book but those characters have stayed with me all this time. I think it might be time to read it again :o0

lois greiman said...

You guys all have great examples. The Windflower...one of my old favorites. Depp, wow!! Spike, yup. Hoffman in Hero...really great.

And you're absolutely right, Betina, they steal the show. Love those secondary characters who insist on being the center of your universe.

Helen Brenna said...

Sorry, Betina. I guess you had me BEFORE the Alan Rickman paragraph and my mind went awandering! He was great in Die Hard too.

This is tough. I can't think of any others!

Oh! Danny DeVito as Ralph in Romancing the Stone! Loved him in that and Taxi. Heck, I love him in everything.

MsHellion said...

You'll have to take a number in the dark alley with Alan Rickman. I toured the Harry Potter exhibit last September in Chicago, and I was THIS CLOSE to touching something Alan Rickman had worn. If the security guard hadn't been right there, I would have touched it anyway.

Love all your picks though! I do love the diabolical spunky!

Christie Ridgway said...

What about Bradley Cooper's character in The Hangover? (First off, I can't believe I liked that movie, cuz I usually don't like "guy" movies but it struck my funny bone). He seemed smarmy, but he really did care a lot about his friend and at the end when he's with his wife and child...

Love me some Han Solo and Captain Jack.

Betina Krahn said...

Ooooo, yes, Danny Devito plays some wonderfully diabolical and spunky characters! Brad Cooper in The Hangover-- yeah, baby! I'd arm wrestle Renee for a shot at him!

And Ms. Hellion, darlin' I'd be willing to take turns. Anyone worth having is worth waiting for!

Windflower-- I'll have to break down and read that. I had my own bunch of wacky pirates some years back. An a barbarian or two and a whole bunch of dogs and not-so-bright henchmen. I do love diabolical characters I can laugh at and watch grow into something more.

Betina Krahn said...

Kathy, Lee Marvin in Cat Ballou-- GREAT example! Sorry, I don't remember Dustin in Hero, but I'll go look him up!

Cindy Gerard said...

Betina you have GOT to read Windflower. It's a classic. I'd loan you my copy but it's in a vault :o)