Mary at The Bandwagon has a post about bad boys. This is actually a topic I've been thinking about a bit, thanks to my current interest in Days of Our Lives, which features two current bad guys with layers. And when I say bad, I'm not just talking about some guy on a motorcycle who gets the occasional slap on the wrist from The Man. One of the bad boys in question has raped a woman, shot a man, tormented another man and generally screwed with the minds of the entire town. The other bad boy is running a smuggling ring that may or may not include white slavery and is currently verbally and physically abusive to his young, naive girlfriend, whom he's working diligently to alienate from her family. Both of them are intriguing creatures, one more than the other, and there's much message board debate about whether one or the both of them are redeemable.
Soaps notoriously reform their bad guys (rapists Todd from One Life to Live and Jack from Days of Our Lives, former drug runner and paid thug Steve from Days of Our Lives) and they often manage to make it work because they have months and years to build and establish the path to redemption.
But what about novels? Mary asks the question, on her blog, about what books people have read in which a real bad guy was believably redeemed. My question is even harder, I think. Within the confines of a category-length book, have you ever read a true bad guy who gets redeemed by the end of the book?
I have my doubts. First, category books are short, and it's hard to build a believable redemption story within 260 manuscript pages. Also, category readers are pretty picky. They like their heroes heroic from the get go, from what I hear.
There's a story idea I'm playing featuring a hero who was once a con man. He's semi-reformed already before the story starts, but he's not a true hero at the beginning because he still tends to avoid putting himself in a position to have to help other people until someone calls in an old debt he has yet to pay. I'm a little worried about how to try to sell my editor on it. I mean, I know that my hero will find within himself what it takes to finish his road to redemption, but I'm not sure it's going to be immediately evident to my editor or the reader. There'll be signs, but they'll be weak signs, at first, until he finds his inner hero when he's put in the position to protect the heroine and himself from unexpected danger.
What do you think? Will the picky readers who read category books have the patience to let me tell my bad boy's story and help him find his inner hero?