Occasionally someone pipes up and says the good ol' fangsters are past news, but I still think they're wonderful dark heroes. They also make excellent villains--and I think the secret of their appeal's right there.
Why do some dark heroes attract us more than others? What keeps them from being just plain nasty? My favorites may be a little twisted as well as dark, but there’s always some line they won’t cross, and it’s that restraint that divides these edgier heroes from the villains. Still, a little envelope-pushing keeps things interesting. A good example of this is the old tried and true comparison of Angel and Spike.
Both were good looking in their own way, both had their good and evil moments, and both were capable of thinking as well as fighting. They had that all-important sense of humour. I liked the two characters and enjoyed watching how they developed through the television series.
Still, what made them different in my mind was that Spike was more complex. Whereas Angel was either good or evil (the evil Angel arguably the more interesting of the two), Spike was unapologetically bad, vain, self-aware, selfish and capable of good all in the same breath. He made huge mistakes but kept a whisker away from irredeemable evil. By the end of the series, he chose self-sacrifice knowing there was ultimately no hope that he would ever be with Buffy. Yet, despite his long, long journey toward heroism, he was still himself. Spike would never be sunshine and fluffy kittens.
In other words, a really good dark hero has the capacity to go both ways. He could fall off the wagon at any time and his essential dark nature doesn’t change. There are enough conflicts in his character that his decisions aren’t easy but he ultimately makes the right choices. He knows exactly what he’s doing, what he’s giving up, and why.
In RAVENOUS, my vampire hero, Alessandro Caravelli, is a “real” vampire. He’s a predator that fulfills the meaning of fatal attraction. Only his choice to be a good guy keeps him in check. There are forces, internal and external, that make staying on the right side of the line complicated. Duty, appetite, and his heart’s desire are rarely in sync.
Lucky for him he has a good sense of humour.
As an author, I chose to go with the classic vamp model because, for a really exciting read, there has to be a lot at stake—pun fully intended. The right path for my characters is often the most painful. For me, the best kind of dark hero has to earn his way into the light, and the price he pays for his happy ever after is high.
But he’s never boring. And I make all that hard work worth his while.