Bully Characters & Scenes
Are you building a male or female bully?
What kind of bully are they? https://www.ncab.org.au/bullying-advice/bullying-for-parents/types-of-bullying/ categorizes bullies. Pick one or a combination:
Includes physical contact or damaging of property
Includes name-calling, insults, teasing, racial slurs
Carried out behind the bullied person’s back
Lying and spreading rumors
Designed to cause humiliation, hurt the person’s reputation, or isolate them
Intentional and repetitive using digital technology
Before you add a bully into your story, ask yourself a few questions. The answers will help you build the best bully. What’s their backstory? Why are they a bully? Did something happen that greatly impacted them? Were they bullied at one point by peers or siblings? Are they a narcissist? Sadistic? What circumstances created these traits? Do they lack empathy? Why? Do they care about consequences? Why not? Does your bully have a low self-esteem? Are they influenced by others? Manipulative? Do they engage in random or spontaneous bullying? Do they feel powerful behind a phone or computer screen?
These questions are important but are for the author to know so they can create the character from that perspective. It’s not necessarily something the reader needs to be privy to, though dropping in a few tidbits is not off the table if it fits someplace in the narrative.
You get the idea!
As you build your bully, imagine them in different situations unrelated to the story drama. Let their personality unfold. This way when you’re writing a scene with that bully you will already know how they might react. For instance, how would they react if confronted by another bully? What would they do if the teacher called on them with a question and they didn’t know the answer? How would they react at the movies if others were talking in the seats behind? How would they treat a waiter/waitress? How do they treat a younger sibling or cousin?
Get down to the nitty-gritty!
Think outside the bully appearance box – create a paradoxical bully – one that doesn’t fit the typical profile of the pretty mean girl cheerleader or the big-boned hefty girl whose stature and facial scowl are intimidating on their own even before she spits out her vitriol. Another stereotype is the beefy male who shoves the weakling into a locker and let’s his fists do the talking or the popular football player with an ego so huge it’s hard to believe his head fits onto the field.
Build a male bully who has characteristics incongruent with brawn or athletic status. One whose physical attributes like bushy hair, clown-sized feet, unbrushed teeth, and dry cracked lips never get targeted because he strikes first and commandeers the situation before anyone else, rendering him menacing by default.
Build a female character with an atypical appearance. One who’s marginally attractive with bulging eyes, too many freckles, and braces, but fashionably dressed in designer outfits, and hair and makeup to match. No one dares to mess with her because she comes a from wealthy family.
You catch my drift!
What traits does your bully possess? Is your bully sarcastic, cruel, misogynistic, sloppy, arrogant, or snooty? Do they act with a sense of entitlement, smile when inflicting physical or emotional pain, or possess a cunning, two-faced side that they use to secretly work against their peers?
Slip those traits in!
When including scenes with bullies there must always be conflict. Allow this tension to move your story forward and let the reader see how it impacts the larger plot. For example, if your protagonist lacks confidence and is the one being bullied, construct the bullying scenes so that your main character learns to adapt and grow in some way. That may be standing up to the bully or gaining self-worth through inner dialogue. Suppose the protagonist realizes how different she is from the bully, that the bully has shown him/her who they never want to be. Such a revelation could have a profound impact on the character going forward.
Drop in the impact!
If this is cyberbullying, how does the protagonist react when viewing the digital attacks? Anger? Shock? Tears? Calm eye-rolling?
Pop it in!
Don’t forget description and sensory detail. Effective scenes require both. Where does the scene take place? What’s happening in the immediate environment? Use the five senses so the reader knows exactly what the protagonist sees, hears, smells, tastes, feels. Maybe they feel sweat forming on their upper lip, or butterflies in their stomach. Perhaps they see others gathering near the conflict or hear jeers from bystanders. Remember, not all bullies are found on the playground, some are in offices or other work environments, grocery stores, or the post office. Does the protagonist hear humming of machines or the clicking of fingers on a keyboard?
Use your imagination!
If this is cyberbullying, where is the protagonist when he/she sees or reads the attack? Add sensory detail about the environment.
Get your readers in the know!
AGGRESSIVE & ANXIOUS BEHAVIORS
Describe body language of both bully and victim: crossed or folded arms, brows scrunched together, fists shaking, fighting stance, jaws clenched, chests puffed out, cowering, trembling, sneering.
Keep it going!
Describe contact: grabbing, pointing, pushing, kicking, hitting, slapping, scratching, hair-pulling, destroying possessions, tackling, headlocks.
You get the picture!
For cyberbullying, explain how the digital attack effects the protagonist. Do they cry, become enraged, slam things, throw things, curl up in a ball, or clap back?
Readers want to know!
***Don't forget to draw from real life experiences to build your bully and their scenes. Whether you were the bully or the recipient of bullying, close your eyes and remember those scenes. The feelings of hurt, anxiety, fear, superiority, power, confidence, gumption, etc. can create a realistic and believable passage. Use past memories or current situations to construct the best appearance for you bully character too. Write from your own reality and change the ending. It can be cathartic!