A bully uses strength or power to harm or intimidate someone. If your character is an evil and a serial killer or trying to kill your protagonist, they are more of a villain than a bully. Either they’re well developed and add many conflicts to the story, or they’re cliche stereotypes bullies are a popular trope to use in fiction. So, people can relate to being bullied, and overall they can be very effective at creating empathy for your protagonist.
You would think writing a bully would be fairly easy because most people can relate to being bullied. You were probably bullied, and you can better empathize with these characters that are being bullied. We all know empathy is something people have so they can write better. Excluding the well-written bullies, there are generally two types of bullies I see in fiction. Either they act as sixth-grader no matter their age, or they have some unhealthy desire to murder the main protagonist.
The only times these two are effective is when you start taking place in sixth grade or in some ultraviolent world where killing is normal. However, in one story, the bully felt like a campy stereotype, whereas all had a hive mind and acted the same way for the sake of plot convenience.
So, not all bullying is the same. Some are more severe; some are less severe, depending on the setting. But it doesn’t apply whether or not you have contemporary or apocalypse in real life. Readers want to see a bully’s character’s transformation where they can understand their faults and fall in love with the victim. So bully romance is the most popular trope and fits in high school/campus life.
How To Write A Bully Character?
Bullying differs depending on where you are, whether it’s middle or high school and inner-city school or rich private school. Even then, the individual bully will act differently, even if they’re from the same school and similar home life. The problem is usually the bullies in fiction are either the rich, famous blonde or both of which are cliche and should be avoided.
I’m not saying you can’t give a bully character blonde hair or make them athletic, but there should be more to them. I will describe my top 5 tips to write a bully character authentically. Let’s go!
1. Make realistic characters
You want to ensure the characters, personality, and the story feels real to the reader. If it doesn’t feel real, your reader isn’t going to connect with them. That connection is pivotal because it will keep them invested in the story.
A book that took place in college where there was a blonde, rich bully who acted like a middle schooler at the beginning of every sentence represents plot weakness. Please don’t do that because it’s important to know that when the tropes are overused, it becomes cliche, and cliches are poor writing.
- The best way to avoid a cliche is to develop your character.
Bullying is terrible, but bullies are also human and a one-dimensional cliche that says many unrealistic. I want to empathize with your protagonist, but you’re laughable if your bully is so much of a joke that they come off as cringe. I’m going to be too distracted to care, despite the fact I want your bullies to be realistic.
2. Give the challenge of proving wrong
I’ve also read stories where the bullying scene has an unhealthy obsession with the protagonist trying to kill the bully. Another one, the bully, hires someone to attack a character. But then, when someone attacks the same character, they don’t. All these stories were about regular school settings, and all the bullies’ behavior was a bit extreme for the setting. Also, the bullies were still treated as regular bullies, as opposed to extremely violent and sociopathic.
I’m not discouraging you from making your bully go extreme. If your setting is severe, it’s much easier to have extreme/toxic bullies, but have your characters react to it for how harsh it is. Don’t treat trying to murder someone as the same thing as calling someone a mean name, including your bully subplots. I recommend having the retribution be proportionate to what they’ve done.
So if the bully coach your character’s mean names, I suggest not killing them because that seems a bit extreme. The most satisfying way to conclude bully subplots is to have the protagonist be successful and prove the bully wrong, not to kill the bully. So reading Harry Potter gets more extreme with each book with how much the evil comes into play versus the school. Malfoy does well in the fact that he says horrible things, but Harry helps him to realize.
3. Create a back story
If the character is relevant enough to have a name, you should prepare a back story for them. You need to know all about your character’s family life, childhood, and interests, even if it’s irrelevant to the story. Figure it out anyway.
- The reason is that the better you know your character, the easier it will be to write for them.
Since you already know how they were raised and what experiences they’ve gone through. You’ll know how they react to certain plot points and what they should say during specific conversations. Moreover, it will ensure that your character’s conduct and choices remain consistent, making them feel real to the reader.
4. Make your characters flawed
More specifically, give them flaws that agree with their back story. This is where you will have to implement a little bit of psychology. If your character were bullied as a kid, that would affect them somehow. Maybe they’re insecure or super guarded.
You can make them a little bitter or mopey. I’m not saying all of your character’s faults have to coincide with their back story, but it’s certainly the most logical place to start. Regardless, your characters must be flawed, no matter where the faults came from.
5. Know how your characters speak
Every single person on this planet has a unique way of talking. Some people are wordy, some are succinct, and others have a great vocabulary. You need to figure out which speaking style works for each character and keep it consistent throughout the book.
Think about the people you know in real life. Some always speak positively or negatively, and some always say unnecessary. It is the stuff you need to implement into your dialogue to make it bully character-specific. Also, it’s essential to keep your dialogue age-appropriate.
To conclude this, you want to create a bully character. You should first create them as an individual with their fears, desires, faults, and attributes. Your villains should think that they’re the hero, or the bully should believe they are in the right. Don’t base them on people you want them to pick or high school romcoms. If you consider this, hopefully, when you write a bully character, it will be awesome.
Ensure you’re not compromising your characters for the story’s sake because your readers will notice if you do. Every action reacts. If you’re writing fiction, there’s probably a conflict in your story that your protagonist needs to navigate or solve. That means your characters are dealing with some heavy situations. It makes them depressed, angry, or delusional; over time, these problems might break them down or make them a hater or bully.
Readers want to see some character growth, downward spiral, or other consequence of the action. In your novel, you can’t throw your characters into a clusterfuck and expect them to come out unscathed. It goes for physical trauma as well. All in all, you need to show the natural change in your characters based on their actions. I hope you find my tips helpful.
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