This character archetype is well-know and (usually) well-liked. He (or she, but usually he) is in a multitude of stories, and in some ways that you might not realize. In fact, the addition of this character to any remotely long-running tale of adventure is almost mandatory, due to the use and versatility of this character.
The word “scoundrel” implies everything you might think: reckless, daring, romantic, skilled, dashing, quick, witty, mysterious, etc. Scoundrels in literature can be side characters or main characters, but, to be fair: they usually devolve from the scoundrel status into some other kind of hero if filling the role of protagonist (more on that, probably, in another article).
From Flynn Rider to Dan from Little Men, the scoundrel is ubiquitous. Not only that, he usually shares many of the same traits: there’s usually not much deviation in the standard scoundrel model (SSM? Nah, forget it). Any kind of story can include him, but trait number one of the scoundrel is this: wittiness.
You might object and say that there’s more to a scoundrel than a quick tongue. I agree, but I also say that a scoundrel can’t be so without a silver tongue. The reason for this is because the word “scoundrel” usually implies “trouble”. Hence, someone who’s constantly getting into trouble needs the right words at the right time to get out of it. See if you can think up some witty lines for your scoundrel, and use them whenever it is appropriate.
The next trait follows closely on the heels of the last: a tendency to get in trouble is essential to the character of the scoundrel. Whether he’s a heavy drinker, a man with a few debts, or has a bounty on his head, getting in trouble with the locals or authorities is a must-have for any scoundrel.
And, not surprisingly, that takes us to the very next essential trait of a scoundrel: the feigned-lazy I-don’t-care attitude about pretty much everything. Since the scoundrel is constantly getting into trouble with all sorts of people in all kinds of places, there needs to be a way he copes with it. Enter: positive go-getter attitude with a dash of I-don’t-care. This allows him to drift from one problem to the next without losing confidence in his skills and abilities.
Man, I’m chaining these traits today. The next one is directly connected to the last: unwavering confidence. Sometimes the confidence becomes a form of arrogant cocky swag, but to the scoundrel, it’s one and the same. The scoundrel keeps moving forward, no matter what obstacles may bar his way. Combined with a sentiment of “I-don’t-care” and a troublemaking demeanor and a silver tongue, your scoundrel is ready to make an entrance into your story.
I know I touched on this but briefly, but the scoundrel is usually (key word usually) a male character. By no means always, but usually. This is owing to the greater independence that men often have over women. Generally, you’d find more men with the attributes that I described as compared to women. Women tend to be more contentious and insecure, along with a better method of staying out of trouble (a method which we men have yet to discover). You can have a female scoundrel, but in my opinion (which you can feel free to ignore) I think a male scoundrel works better.
Usually the scoundrel is a supporting character to the main hero/heroine, but sometimes he’s the main hero. I’ll leave it up to your discretion to decide, but once you introduce the scoundrel, be sure to make good use of him. You’d be surprised what you can do with such a character.
Good luck, and happy writing!
Be sure to check out my latest novel, Book 1 in the Praetors of Lost Magic Series, and our Publications page. Until then, writers!