Monday, February 02, 2009

Bad Guys Make the Best Heroes, by Marylu Tyndall

Best-selling author of The Legacy of the King’s Pirates series, MaryLu Tyndall writes full time and makes her home with her husband, six children, and four cats on California’s coast. Her passion is to write page-turning, romantic adventures that not only entertain but expose Christians to their full potential in Christ. For more information on MaryLu and her upcoming releases, please visit her website at

If you’ve read any of my books than you know that in every one, my main characters are not the nicest people in the beginning of the story. In fact, usually they are quite nasty or at least very self-centered and cruel. They are currently committing or have committed terrible sins and most of the time with little regret. They have turned their back on society and on God.
I love this type of character! I suppose because I used to be one. I understand them. I know how they think, what they are feeling—how lost and hopeless and desperate for help they really are. That’s why I write for the Christian market. I love to show how God can completely transform a person from a state of wicked hopelessness to a state of joy and hope and goodness. Why? Because that’s exactly what happened to me. I am a living breathing example of a person who was heading down a very destructive path and would probably now be dead if God hadn’t rescued me.

Don’t get me wrong. I love a hero who is strong, courageous, godly, and honorable, who fights formidable odds and wins. But I love even more a hero who is weighed down with many weaknesses and failings, yet through the course of a story becomes courageous, godly and honorable. These are the types of stories that leave a lasting impression on readers.
Think of all the movies or books that have left a lasting impression on you and I’m sure you’ll discover that at least one of the main characters drastically changed. In the Count of Monte Cristo, Dantes’ original goal was revenge, but by the end of the story, he realized love was the answer.
In the Titanic, Rose must relinquish her safe, comfortable world of propriety and risk all to join Jack’s world of freedom and love In the Schindlers’ List, the hero at first reluctantly tries to save a few Jews that work for him, not willing to risk too much, but by the end, he is willing to risk everything, even his own life to save as many Jews as he could.
But how do we do portray this in a realistic way?

Give your bad character a good reason for their bad behavior. We all know this, but it is extremely important to make this reason believable and strong enough to warrant their actions

Give them at least one redeemable quality. We don’t want our readers to hate them completely!

Gradually allow them to change throughout the story by
a) forcing them into situations where they must face the consequences of their actions
b) placing people around them who model goodness and love by the power of God.
c) Have God reveal his love to them in some way they cannot mistake

In my current novel, The Red Siren, my heroine is a pirate. She dons her breeches, straps on her pistols and cutlass and scours the seas, pillaging and plundering. She has very good and believable reasons for doing what she’s doing, and in her mind, it is her only recourse—a matter of the survival of her and her sisters.
I made her character tough, bitter, strong-willed, dominant an arrogant, all the qualities you’d expect from a pirate. Truthfully, not a very likeable person, nor one easy to get along with. Then I toss in a God-fearing hunk who she falls for, bombard her with horrific consequences to her actions, have God perform a couple of miracles in which He reveals his love, and voila, slowly, she changes.
Even still, I often get comments from readers complaining that they didn’t like such and such character. I always write them back and say. “Good. Then I’m doing my job” because they are not supposed to like them (at first). Every Christian author has a ministry. Mine is showing the powerful awe-inspiring, transforming redeeming love of God. You may not totally like all my characters in the beginning, but I guarantee that if you hang in there, you’ll love them by the end.

Review of MaryLu's book posted today at


Rita Gerlach said...

A wonderful interview. In my opinion Marylu is one of the best Christian authors out there. Her books are riveting. I value the advice she shares in this interview about developing characters with less than redeeming qualities...but who are eventually, through a series of trials and tribulations, finally redeemed.

Barbara E Brink said...

I enjoyed the review of your new book as well as your conversation here. It's always better to have characters with a few bad traits. Perfect people don't exist, but thankfully God can change hearts and use imperfect ones to bring glory to Himself.
I have not read any of your books yet, but will be sure to pick one up. Thanks for the interesting dialogue.

Gina Holmes said...

Hey MaryLu! Thanks for the insightful article. Happy Birthday btw!!

Anonymous said...

Thank-you--enjoyed the post. The comments about bad characters were especially helpful. I would love to win a book and read your work. I'd also be happy to comment about it on my blog:
Six children? You're queen!
Terri Kelly

MaryLu Tyndall said...

Thanks Ladies for your gracious comments! I'm glad my article was helpful. And thanks to Novel Journey and Dionne Moore for having me on your blog!

Avily Jerome said...

Great advice! Thanks for that post!

If it's not too late, please enter me in the drawing. I'd love to win this book!