I need a character to be a bully, but I'm too nice?

Not to be boastful or anything. I think I’m too nice to write actual bullies from my imagination. I can imagine plenty characters going through sad life struggles and being worried about acceptance and all that, but once I need to write a bully who is a bully because he wants power…I can’t seem to make him sound mean enough.

I try to remember characters in books or movies that weren’t 100% villains yet but were annoying bullies. You know, those characters whose existence annoys you as much as it annoys the MC. Those characters that are constantly on the MC for something or other. Those characters that laugh when MC bites back.

Like Tigerclaw before he became too ruthless. Or Draco Malfoy (movie version).

Just rambling about my bully character

I have this character called Valan. He’s a talented Hunter and leader of the Hunters. The clan leader likes him very much and doesn’t see his bully side. On the other hand is the MC Pinti who is the daughter of the clan leader, but she was adopted (found in the forest abandoned).

The things I have Valan bullying Pinti about is how she’s always trying to copy her father to prove herself, how she doesn’t share the clan blood, and how, because of that, he doesn’t believe she’s worthy to succeed her father and be clan leader.

He also does not respect the clan leader despite kissing up to him every chance he gets.

But how to bully Pinti without him repeating the things he’s bullying her for? I can’t keep having him say “You don’t share clan blood like the rest of us. What makes you think you’re worthy?”

What do bullies do? Distancing from friends is hard because Pinti’s friends are super loyal. Pinti does have a dangerous secret, but only her parents know about it. Valan could find out about it and use it to threaten her? But to gain what?

Anyway, tell me about your bully characters that aren’t exactly villains but just annoying antagonists. Idk what my bully can do. Thank you for reading.

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This post intrigued me because I have come across this same issue in my writing past.

My bully character ended up getting rewritten into a more subtle villain, but I would start by asking a few questions.

What is the purpose of Valan’s role in the book? Is it just to provide external conflict? Does he drive Pinti to be better to “prove him wrong?” Is he meant to be used as an indicator of her inner strength to overcome being bullied? What does he add to the story that you think is important?

How old is Valan? If he’s not 15 and under, you’re right, bullying won’t be done the way you mentioned. Once kids get older, bullying tends to be more subtle (at least when girls are involved in one way or another). Is Valan picking on her because he likes her? Or because he’s insecure about his own strengths? If he is a talented Hunter and leader, why does he feel the need to torment an “unworthy” girl? If you try to force a bully character when there’s no real good motivation behind it, it will come off forced, especially if it’s an older boy bullying a girl (which I have to assume it is because he’s the leader of the Hunters). That will make the character feel two-dimensional and he won’t serve as a good foil/antagonist for Pinti if his only purpose is to be a “bully” as an obstacle to her.

If Valan’s disdainful of her because of her lack of clan blood, I suppose you could go full “Malfoy” with a “pureblood” approach. Refusing to interact with Pinti or speak to her with any kind of respect because she’s beneath him. Bullies in many cases work best with a “posse.” If there are other characters (not necessarily Pinti’s friends) he can use as flying monkeys, other clanspeople perhaps, he could easily say loud enough in her hearing “Let’s move somewhere else where there isn’t the stink of dirty blood in the air.” or something along those lines. Without knowing more details about their relationship or the storyline, I can only offer suggestions of things I know from experience. But keep in mind that without proper context or backstory, some of these won’t work:

  • “Anonymous” notes telling Pinti just how inferior she is, left somewhere only she will find it
  • Using an authority figure to undermine Pinti’s legitimacy, whether through lies or manipulation, making an authority figure Pinti’s enemy and (possibly) making her father doubt her as well. The authority figure could be completely aware of it, or, if you want to add more subtlety, unaware they are being manipulated. If Valan is out for some kind of power grab, which your description seems to indicate, manipulating other leaders (which is in line with sucking up to the clan leader) fits very well into that.
  • Additional undermining techniques like messing up something she’s involved in in the name of being “fair” or out of “concern” that Pinti isn’t well-qualified.
  • The “big lie” bullying technique. Take a dozen little truths and wrap them around one big lie OR use true things that would normally be considered positive and figure out how to construct a negative rumor (for example, in my case, my brother and I were very close as teenagers, which would normally be considered a good thing. However, someone then started a rumor that we were incestuous).
  • Pinti’s friends may be loyal, but there’s always one or two who might hear a rumor or second-guess something Pinti says or does. Sometimes, having those friends come and ask you about a blatant lie instead of knowing who you are is worse than losing the friend in the first place. If Pinti starts to believe her own friends can’t trust her/don’t know her, even if they were just asking clarifying questions, she will start to pull away herself. Bullies and narcissists are very good at making even the most loyal of people question if they’re right to be loyal. Sometimes it can just be for a moment…and sometimes that moment is all it takes.

If Valan is only meant to be a “side” villain serving as an additional external conflict, make sure you ask yourself again what the purpose of his role truly is. How does it force Pinti to grow? What does it teach her? Is it necessary for him to be a bully, or can he just be a disdainful jerk who treats her like she’s less than dirt because of her bloodline and not necessarily a “bully” character?

I hope some of this was helpful, I’ll be interested to watch and see what you decide to do!

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Well, I’m mean, so I can write senseless bullies quite easily.

But what will help you grow in writing evil people is realizing that they are your male leads who aren’t in the right. They are your failed MCs. They are the losing side of the argument.

One type is Megamind. He thoroughly believes he is destined to be the bad guy and so is the arch-rival of his city’s hero. So his kidnapping someone is part of his destiny. His plots to take over the world is obligation and reason he lives. He’s like an excited mid-level manager for a company that everyone hate to work for, which is fascinating like a trainwreck, but won’t keep you from going to a better job.

Then there’s Biff from Back to the Future: a classic bully that thinks the world owes him. Honestly, his attitude is every person who whines about life not being fair, wrapped up in a can-do attitude of someone who is going to force everyone to bow to his destiny, with a heavy touch of being an idiot. If he put half the effort he put into bullying into a career or schooling, this guy would have been a hell of a fascinating character. You’re not supposed to like him because it’s a game of “something’s badly off”. You see him as a bit of a joke all the way up to when the MC’s dad decks him.

Or it could be something simpler, like having someone who showers affection on you by torture. They would be a good character, but they expect you to be able to withstand expectations that are sometiems surreal: “I tie you up and continuously cut your arms so you can endure pain, my dear.”

So, for an exercise:

Think about something you hold dear to your heart. Think about how to achieve that goal in the wrong way, especially by means that damage people and comes less from your own merit. If you can think of an “ends justify means” end goal that makes you upset to write in an MC, then you’ve got your archnemisis, right there.

For them to be a bully, all the bad things they do to try to get good results have to harm the MC or those close to the MC.

Going back to Back to the Future. Biff is a simple bully all the way up to the point where he’s punched by the father. That incident quickly shifts him from bully to “should be put in jail”. There is a line between nusiance and monster. Monster comes towards the end of the story.

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So many things to think about! Thanks :grin:

I respond to you but mostly bouncing off ideas

Valan is twenty-two and Pinti is sixteen. Although with their race, sixteen isn’t a child anymore and given adult responsibilities.

Currently, his role is to make the clan break out of tradition (necessary for the plot). Because of old no-killing rules they keep losing battles with another clan and more and more territory is taken. The clan leader (Shaman Yon) is really, really hung up about tradition and stubborn. Even Pinti rolls her eyes sometimes although she does respect him and so does the rest of the clan.

Killing is a big no for their race. Out of the four clans, only one clan is risking severe punishment and killing others. This is a new thing. No one risked killing of others before. Punishment is by the race’s overseers. Shapeshifters. Yeah, there’s all kinds of things in here XD

Hmm :thinking: I suppose other clan members might have similar ideas (and I’m thinking the Hunters because they become the warriors during battle). Valan can be growing his disgruntled followers, perhaps.

Maybe he launches a battle against those who follow the clan leader, and also launches a battle against the enemy clan. He probably is stubborn and doesn’t listen to the clan leader who warns him that those who murder will receive punishment from the overseers.

Maybe the punishment happens so many times it leads to the massacre of the entire race by the overseers (although the overseers don’t tell them why everyone needs to be indiscriminately punished. It’s really because the overseer’s king became fed up with them).

Which then leads to MC being like oh my gosh I can’t trust anyone but my friends and family. And then her going out to find a thing to become powerful to kill her enemies.

Hmm :thinking: Maybe Valan is one of the survivors. That would be awful :smirk:

Hmm :thinking: Pinti wants to prove to the clan that she is a worthy successor. To do that, she must do as her father says. She also has this dark secret that if anyone in the clan finds out, they will tell the overseers about her and she might be killed. Idk how yet, but Valan somehow finds out and is waiting for the right moment to expose it.

Oh my gosh, they did? :open_mouth:

More brainstorming

Well, Pinti’s best friend is a boy who she doesn’t know has a crush on her. He’s also the second best Hunter of the clan despite his young age. Maybe…something here?

Pinti is also a little annoyed at her father for not letting them fight back. But many in the clan respect her father and his decisions. Maybe there could be a moment where they begin to respect Pinti because she’s mirroring her father, but then Valan somehow sets something up that seems like Pinti and her father started an attack on the enemies?

I’ll move these notes to my personal thread later.

Summary

It should force her to be a little more forceful (which she needs to survive out in the wild world filled with Humans (yep, Pinti’s race is not Human)). Valan is really forceful and assertive. He knows what he wants and knows how to get it. Pinti’s not timid, but she constantly follows her father and is running after him. She even helps him hide his secret: he killed someone and tasked her with hiding the body because he has a bad leg right now. The clan can’t find out he went against the rule :face_with_hand_over_mouth:.

Anyway, Pinti thinks becoming successor is what she wants (she really just wants to fit in and belong somewhere). She only recently started taking on more responsibility.

I already have a scene where she’s suddenly put in charge of the defense and is unsure about herself even though her father taught her many things. But she must seem confident because the Hunters have their eyes on her.

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I have a character like this in another story. Immortal assassin Richard knows he is evil and goes out of his way to be even worse. He loves it. He’s so horrible.

Biff? Was that his name? I don’t remember that :stuck_out_tongue:

It’s the one that is the annoying kind of bully, right? You just wish he would go away.

You summed that up quite nicely :grin:

This is definitely Kalis. She’s the leader of the enemy clan of Pinti’s. She believes children up to a certain age must have chains on them to be tough when they’re older. “It’s for your own good.”

Hmm :thinking: That’s a good way of looking at it. Whatever Valan does to achieve his goal, harms Pinti or her father or both. But it can’t be too obvious that he’s trying to put them down because then there’s potential he’ll lose respect from other clan members.

He must be sneaky like Tigerclaw.

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Eeeeeeee!

https://springhole.net/writing/advice-and-tips-on-writing-bullies.htm

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Thankieeeeee! :grin:

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Personally, I have a bully character who uses her influence and connections to keep “weaker” gods and goddesses out of the official Pantheon.

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Do you have examples of some of her actions that you’re willing to share?

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Biff Tannen. What was so funny is he’s got that “mostly hot guy” look of the era down. A lot of male leads were the type who fought to keep the extra weight off, so that way they could be oversized.

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Well, she stabbed herself once but blamed it on a god she doesn’t like because he doesn’t look human enough for her.

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I can see why nobody names their kids Biff any more.

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Biff still sounds like an action punch, especially from early Batman.

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Or a puff of aggressive air coming out of a tire.

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No, but bad for no reason is just like ADHD: personal experience. You hit someone when young: no idea why you hit them, will forget in a minute why you did it or the warning that you will be punished for doing it again. You look back wondering where the hell that came from. I mean, you still learn from it and grow out of doing the really dumb stuff, but a senseless bully is just repeating that one mistake over and over without understanding yourself. You just never met a heavy enough consequence to sober you up.

It’s completely different from the dumb cunning of: if I do this bad I get my way. This is why grown women go into a doctor’s office and hold their breath in a tantrum, in order to force a doctor into giving them the scissors that cut their child’s first stitches (true story from the pediatrician’s office my mother worked for).

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I’d consider that a half-assed blowout.

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If you can’t write a bully, think about the MC. Think about being in their place, with their hopes, motivations, fears, anxieties, etc. Now ask yourself: what words would completely obliterate the MC in this moment? What are they most scared of hearing?

Take the words/sentiment, tweak it a bit to match your bully’s voice, and you’ve got yourself a bully.

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Oh, there’s another aspect: sore winners. A bully is often stronger than you, so a sore winner is a very suitable thing to do quite a few times until the MC overcomes them.

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I’ve begun to do this…I think.

Pinti is most scared of everyone finding out her various secrets.

One she shares with her father (that no one else can know except her mother), one she shares with her closest friends (that no one else can know), and one she shares with her parents (that not even her friends or the rest of the clan can know).

Then she gets a new secret that she can’t share with anyone.

All these secrets the bully can use against her if he finds out. Trying to figure out which one he might find out about by accident.

I’m guessing she’s quite stressed out all the time.

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If she’s scared of being found out, could also have the bullies hinting/tormenting over the fact that she’s hiding something, or trying to get the secret out of her!!

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