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#bad characters

Human beings are not binary “good” or binary “bad.” Real people have been capable of doing incredible acts of altrustic charity and sacrifice (as much as we can, some might argue the best would be to abolish humanity entirely for the sake of the Earth/other species, and I used to agree with that argument to some degree - and I actually credit my fandom for helping me shake it off a little bit when I realized I was sounding like a certain “Nice Guy” in it, lmao) and sometimes, even at the same time, acts of unfathomable evil and harm.

I get the need for fiction with no surprises and clearly drawn lines of “good” and “bad” for people who need it for that reason. What I absolutely don’t like:

the condemnation of fictional characters that are capable of depicting both, that flip sides, that atone or repent, that conversely sink into further and further evil until they’re screaming past the moral event horizon, that even flip back around to do that THEN come back from it again with a deeper understanding of what drove them to it/who they are. 

the condemnation of fiction from Unreliable Narrator or similar perspectives that makes the readers question their own ethics and morals, their support of the protagonist, or similar.

the idea that writing a deeply ethically or morally flawed/questionable character is a bad reflection on the author’s ethics and morals in real life.

the idea that there are Good People and Bad People as unchangeable classes, that one is placed into either side and has to be there because that’s just how it is (that’s actually INCREDIBLY fascistic as an idea to promote, if not itself racist/sexist/homophobic/etc, and yet some people on here actively promote this idea as leftist or feminist or similar)

the idea that ethics and morality and responsibility are a hivemind of social approval based on disgust and emotion in the moment as opposed to evaluating actual harms, and trying to pick the path that causes the least unnecessary suffering/the least environmental damage/the least violence/etcetera, and that any fiction that portrays an ethical or moral decision (or contains one in the writing process) that seems disgusting or emotionally upsetting is BAD AND WRONG (as opposed to being “not all that is disgusting or upsetting is ethically wrong, and not all that is comforting and happifying is ethically correct” or being “here is why this decision is so wrong, and you get to see and feel WHY.”)

I personally WANT nuance and complexity in my fiction (both in what I consume and what I create.) I want bad characters who go good, good characters who go bad, and people in the gray and murky middle just trying to survive another day. I want fiction that makes me think, and where I may end up thinking one thing at one point and another a couple years down the road, and I want to write the same. I think the movement I see toward “good people write good happy no-conflict stories about good people doing fluffy things, and anyone else can kys,” is troubling in so many ways and you should think about that (namely because adding the last part essentially does make you a bad person)

And before anyone starts discourse over any of the following: this post is not about p*dophilia, maps, or even shipping discourse. (I’m actually thinking more about plot that focuses on things like war or violence or mental illness etc). Nor is this post arguing about tags and warnings: if you write upsetting or angsty content BY ALL MEANS TAG AND WARN IT. 

(The ONLY exception to “tag and warn” IMO is if your content is nonfictional - I do think that sometimes people need to see reality, and if you would rather not “tw: concentration camp” on your images of what’s going on in America, that is itself IMO just as moral a decision as TWing it. Because surprise, sometimes two opposite decisions can be equally ethical or moral, albeit just toward different goals - for example, tw: concentration camp is toward the goal of protecting those with triggers, but NOT TWing concentration camps is toward the goal of forcibly informing people who would deny their existence of them in the hopes of awakening them to the reality we are in…)

It is merely saying that unreliable narration, angst, characters of questionable morals, etc etc are NOT INHERENTLY BAD, writing them doesn’t mean a writer is a bad person or intentionally trying to put bad stuff out there into the world, and “good vibes only” culture itself can be creatively stifling and outright toxic.

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My Least Favorite Tropes

Faux Action Girl: It’s okay for a action girl to be the one in danger and need of rescuing sometimes, but stop with the fake outs. Faux Action Girls tend to be stupid and incompetent and their other strengths gets put on the back burner in favor of making them the damsel in distress. It’s even more frustrating when the narrative tells us that she’s strong but doesn’t actually show us how and why. 

Designated Hero: Don’t expect me to root for someone who is a complete asshole. I don’t care if he’s “flawed and unique” if he doesn’t have anything to give him redeeming qualities or character development I won’t care. Especially if his shitty actions are never called out, or they’re portrayed as a positive thing. 

Token Pink Female/Pink Girl, Blue Boy: Can’t girls be any color other than pink/light red/purple? Now I like pink but I’m so fed up with female characters especially the Token Girl being pink, especially if it only serves as an code for them being the distaff of the male character? I get it if it’s To Sell Toys but, that gets annoying and turns into a stereotype that female characters must always be pink. Why not orange or green? It’s more irritating when the Token Pink Girl ends up having no personality beyond Strong Female Character™ or a trophy between the male characters. She’s essentially “the color pink the character.”

Sassy Black Woman: Because black women can’t have any other personality trait. She can’t be spunky but also knowledgeable, or shy and docile, she has to constantly spit out salty one-liners and act all ratchet and ghetto in order to be relatable. I’m more annoyed that dark skinned girls get pigeonholed into this type of role.

Derailing Love Interests: Screwing up a perfectly normal character in an attempt to shove a pairing in the audience’s faces is one reason why people hate shipping wars so much. You don’t have to warp characters just to make a potential partner look good. Everyone has good and bad traits. It’s especially aggravating when it’s used to promote a toxic pairing/character over a nice character who can be part of a healthy relationship. Quit pitting people, more specifically women, against each other for the sake of pointless romantic drama.

The Complainer is Always Wrong even when he’s right and provides good arguments for said complaints. 

Creator’s Pet: I have a special list coming up for this trope because I really hate it. In short, a genuinely awful character is given love and support by their original creator or author yet has done little to nothing to receive said praise. Also the good and popular characters get shafted or demonized to make this character look good. I happen to share my birthday with one of the biggest Creator’s Pets in Western media (Brenda Barrett from General Hospital). 

Human Focused Adaptation: If I want to see a movie about say, Road Rovers, I want to see the dogs in action, not their owners in their world of boring politics. If I want to see a movie about Bionicle I don’t want some crummy and cliche white kid sucking up the spotlight from the Toa. Basically, this takes the characters from the original franchise and regulates them to special guest stars IN THEIR OWN MOVIE!!!! 

What’s more, the humans from the original franchise are forgotten or never given expanded roles; alternatively they end up hogging spotlight from the actual cartoons and given a stupid and forced romantic arc over helping their friends saving the world. In fact if the original show was about saving the world, expect that to take a backseat to “I gotta impress the person I like so much” or “I have a crummy job” plot. I’ll write more about this trope later on, but for now it’s the one thing about these types of “cartoons to live action” aspects that I hate. 

Bratty Teenage Daughter/Dumbass Teenage Son: Again, teens can’t have unique or complex personalities. If they’re a girl expect to always be a brat or bitchy or so stupid in life they can barely function. If they’re a guy then they always spend their time talking about girls and being dicks and failing school. The teenage girl can’t be nice or nerdy or smart, and the teenage boy can’t be competent or selfless. This perpetuates harmful stereotypes on both ends. 

Other Tropes I hate or find irritating

- Strangled By the Red String

- Woman Scorned

- With Friends Like These

- Badass Decay

- Villain Decay

- Flanderization

- Mentor Occupational Hazard

- Freudian Excuse

- Draco in Leather Pants

- Ron the Death Eater

- Spotlight Stealing Squad

- Designated Love Interest

- Official Couple 

- Revenge by Proxy

- Idiot Hero

- Karma Houdini 

- Jerk Sue

- Flat Character

- Darker and Edgier

- Dumb Muscle

- Love Dodecahedron

- Chickification

- Superhero fights another superhero

- Smurfette Principle

- Disproportionate Retribution

- Tangled by the Red String

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This post might be a little controversial. It’s come to my attention that there is a lot of hate for particular characters that they don’t deserve. Lots of people like to talk about how a character ‘sucks,’ without actually understanding the difference between an objectively bad character and just one that is easy to dislike. I’ll mention a few prime examples here, and a lot of people will probably recoil, but hear me out and note that this is a personally outlook on the world of writing and characters, though I personally believe it to be right.

Characters Hated for a Lack of Likability

If you search anywhere on the internet for the least popular characters in all of anime, there’s an 80% chance you’ll find Sasuke Uchiha (or alternatively Sakura) on the list somewhere. Lots of people hate this guy, and personally, usually for stupid reasons. The most common excuse for hating him is something along the lines of being ‘emo’ or ‘whiny’ (apparently being angry/vengeful for your slaughtered immediate family is only for babies), and people label him as a bad character because of these personality traits.

Here’s the question you have to ask about every character. Are they doing what they were designed for? Sasuke was designed to be a darker, rival counterpart to the main character of his series. He was designed to be disillusioned with the world, designed to be hateful and apathetic, and throughout the series he often fulfilled all of those designs quite well. That said, calling him an objectively bad character is wrong. He sufficiently fulfills the role the author designed him for, making him a decent character at the very least.

Characters Hated for Doing their Job

Are you ready for this? Jar Jar Binks is an objectively good character. Yeah I know you all want to punch me in the face now, but ask the key question: does he do what he was designed to do?

It’s undoubtedly clear to all of us that Jar Jar Binks was designed to appeal to the humor of young children. And you know what? He did that. You can deny it, but the majority of young children that watched Phantom Menace liked Jar Jar. He was specifically created to appeal to a certain portion of the audience, and he did. The fact that less and less of us find him funny as we age doesn’t mean he didn’t fulfill his designated role in 1999.

Characters Hated for Making Mistakes

This one always gets me. I could easily go back to Sasuke again, but let’s use Boromir from Lord of the Rings. Anyone who knows the series knows that he betrayed Frodo and the Fellowship of the Ring, almost dooming them all. A big mistake? Obviously. Does that folly ruin his character or make him a blight on the story or something? Of course not.

There are no real mistakes in writing. Obviously everything that happens was supposed to happen, as ordained by the author. So if the author intended for a character to have a negative influence on the protagonist, or for them to just make a lot of mistakes during their story, then they are once again fulfilling their designated purpose, making them decent characters at the very least.

There are a lot of other things that characters are labeled as ‘bad’ characters for, but to list them all would take all day. So the main thing to remember, if you’re looking to start writing yourself one day, is that you can create a disliked character without them being an objectively bad one.

You can intentionally design a character to be annoying, an asshole, or an idiot. And people will probably try and label them as ‘bad’ characters for having those character traits. But if you create those characters to fulfill an actual purpose, whether or not they do is the most important thing.

A character that actually contributes nothing to the story whatsoever is a bad character. A character that ‘is just there’ is a bad character. Characters without actual purpose are bad characters. Characters that are easily disliked because of what they were designed to do are not.

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frogoperaAnswer
Hi there! I was wondering why you don't like Anasui and Stroheim. I haven't finished part 6 yet, but I really like Anasui from what I've seen of him. And Stroheim was one of my favorites from part 2. No hate, just curious ^^

stroheim is literally a nazi so no matter how good a character he might be i don’t give a single fuck about him and he’s bad, and annasui is predatory and possessive of jolyne in a very very uncomfortable way. also he…..killed and dismembered his last gf????? ooooghh

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My character is a pretty bad guy and can be violent. I HATE it when someone I’m rping with provokes my character and expects him not to react aggressively. It bothers me even more when the rper doesn’t want me to hurt their character but keeps egging mine on. If you can’t handle bad characters, DON’T rp with them!

roleplayingconfessionsfromrpers
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[[cutting it close with 15 minutes to go on the clock, not like anyone reads this bullshit]]

Y K A L E I

She spent the night from arm to arm, dancing in laughter.

She remembers- vaguely, dimly, as it should be- that there was alcohol. Sweet-souring in her mouth, slippery on the floor, sloshing on mugs and bottles cracked open. She sings wildly, at times offkey because she cannot care, because Ykalei loses her voice late in the wee hours of the morning when everyone else can but rasp.

It is her last night, regardless of outcome.

It is her last night, so she caterwauls some tune about a priestess accidentally sinning in every single way, her common mangled by the drink and mauled by her sailor’s accent. She sings of stifling jungles in butchered zandali; she slips over a thalassian mourning song.

Ykalei did not fully intend to sing the last. But it was the wee hours of morning, the sun peeking bleary-red over the horizon. Red skies in the morning, sailors take warning.

Foot soldiers don’t care, she thinks, so she rips into some other bad song to make the crowd roar to forced life again.

Before tonight, she intends to make everyone feel immortal in the way she does not, with sore ribs and a bandaged leg.

S Y N T H I E L

She manages to, if not wake, to remain conscious.

The steady dark is something she can deal with easily. Shock had overstayed its welcome; a determined bite had not. Synthiel can stay aware if she takes it easy, if she focuses on the small things.

She is prone. The hall she is in has gone quiet, static silence that lives in a dreadful way. If she did not know she should be fighting, should be sun-blazing glass and arrow shards; should be healing, there is a sinking feeling she knows where she is and it is treacherous in a way battlefields are not.

The Sunguard would not have taken her back; she knows no one, she trusts no one, she is known to no one and she is useful to even less than that. She needs to stand and fight, because it’s what she knows how to do.

She needs to heal because duty- and that is odd weight on the side of her chest she barely feels but for dulled burning- demands she does. In pitying tones, in doe-eyes made of steel.

(The silence, too, has receded in the way unconsciousness has; the rustle of leaves is familiar and curious. Who is that, and Synthiel does not know who they ask for.)

She is worthless and standing would be sure death. She does not think standing to be impossible; to think that is to give in to the lulling black, painless, tainted by softened voices that reek of someone something anything else.

She curls her left hand’s fingers. Uncurls. Right hand, slower, in pained bursts that near drown her again.

Who is that. (Nothing of importance, not in this life, not in the last.)

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One of my friends had an evil manipulative character, he did something manipulative, and people made such a fuss that they actually were ashamed of the character and took him off their blog. People were saying that my friend was approving of the characters actions. People need to realize Mun does not equal muse.

roleplayingconfessionsfromrpers
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I’ve been working on a book for what seems like forever and I’ve gotten down to the editing but I was re-writing this one part AND THIS HAPPENED!!!!

NO! NO SEXY TIME FOR YOU TWO!

They’re not supposed to hook up so I tried sending them to their rooms and they still kept misbehaving!

She fixed him a cup and made one for herself before venturing back into the lounge. She set his cup on the coffee table and averted her eyes as she walked past him and plopped into Tarek’s chair.

“Thanks.” John sat up and rested his bare feet on the edge of the coffee table.

“If everyone’s off what’re you doing here this early?” Aine glanced over and was relieved to see she no longer had a view of him hanging out the bottom of his plaid boxer shorts.

“I spent the night here last night.” John took a sip of his coffee and explained, “Rebekah had company at our house last night.”

“Company?” Aine thought she knew what he meant but figured asking for details was too rude. “Now I see why you guys need guest rooms at a workout center.”

John nodded his agreement. “Yeah, all vampire workout or community centers have bedrooms. It’s a tradition going back to the days when vampires had to move around more often to evade detection or execution by the humans. We make sure all vampires always have a safe place to spend the night.” John took in her questioning expression and knew what was bothering her. “Rebekah has a few humans she feeds from and fucks. The one she was using last night lives in his parent’s basement so she asked if she could use our place.”

Aine tried wrapping her head around John’s casual attitude toward Rebekah being with someone else. “Doesn’t it bother you?” As soon as the words were out of her mouth she regretted them. “I’m sorry. That’s none of my business.”

“It isn’t but I don’t care. It’s one of those vampire things you probably need to know.” He slid his feet off the coffee table and sat up. “Most vampire relationships aren’t exclusive, especially when you’re talking about two vampires. We need human blood to survive and most of us get excited by the process of feeding.” He leaned back again, “For the most part we place more importance on who you love than who you fuck.”

She took a quick sip of her coffee and asked, “But you used to be human. Did you just change when you became a vampire or …” She trailed off and couldn’t think of a good way to finish her question.

John took a sip of his coffee. “Darius arranged for Rebekah to be my partner. Most Regents don’t want a single Captain of the Guards. They think being mated makes us more loyal to the Area.” John smiled and let out a small laugh. He’d noticed, and liked, the way Aine glanced at him and quickly darted her gaze away when she caught herself staring. He added in the hopes her eyes would sweep over him and meet his gaze, “If I was with someone I loved, I wouldn’t share them with anyone and I’d want them to feel the same way about me.” Her eyes met his as he hoped they would and he took in the dilation of her pupils and how the lighting and her T-shirt brought out the green in her eyes. He followed her line of sight as she admired his face and knew by the way her lips parted that she was imagining kissing his lips.

He also knew she wanted to feed him. He moved to the edge of his seat and took her hand while he contemplated where he should feed. He could feed from her neck. He could see himself climbing on top of her, sinking into her vein, and taking her. He watched as she swept her hair out of the way and licked her lips. It was slight but he knew she was breathing harder through her parted lips.

John took stock of everything he was thinking and feeling and realized he was already locked into hypnosis with her. He shoved the coffee table out of the way, kneeled in front of her, and sunk his fangs into the veins at the inside bend of her elbow.

He didn’t know how he slipped into a hypnosis state with her so easily but he wasn’t going to take advantage and do anything she wouldn’t have wanted. He pulled in her blood and tried ignoring her stroking her fingertips over his bare back while he fed. He closed his eyes and tried shutting off the image of him pleasuring her. He took a final pull of her blood and sent her a mental apology for the images he was sharing.

He sealed his holes, stood, and turned without making eye contact. He stopped before leaving the lounge and asked, “Can we never speak of this again?”

She was quick to agree “There’s nothing to speak of. Nothing happened.”

“Alright.” He still didn’t turn around but he asked, “How about I get a shower, get dressed, and we’ll do our Tai Chi?”

As soon as he heard her breathy, “Sounds great,” he made a run for the second guest room and when he got to the bedroom he ripped off his boxer shorts, dove into the shower, and took hold of his throbbing erection. He pressed a forearm up against the shower wall and rested his forehead on his arm as he stroked his hand back and forth and replayed the memory of her sweeping her hair out of the way so he could feed at her neck. He recalled the way her fingers felt when they traced across his back and he imagined that feeling sweeping over him as he fed from her neck and swirled his fingers over and into her. He tried being quiet but he growled as he thought about thrusting himself into her and releasing.

Aine heard the growl and nervously bit her bottom lip. At least John agreed they’d never mention what just happened but she figured the growl meant he was pretty mad at her and, honestly, why wouldn’t he be? Shit. She’d just shoved an entire personalized porno into his head. The only thing that could possibly make the moment any worse was if he caught her now. She was stretched out on the bed in the other bedroom and was swirling her fingers over herself as she remembered the way he looked bare chested and kneeling in front of her and the image of him using his hand and then his tongue to pleasure her. She combined the memory of his long legs with the picture of him climbing on top of her and thrusting himself into her. She had to hope John didn’t hear her breathy moan as waves electricity pulsed through her and brought her to her peak. Once the waves passed she jumped off the bed, pulled her pants up, and snuck back into the lounge so she could pretend she’d been there the entire time. This had definitely been a morning she couldn’t talk about.

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