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Making "B*tchy" Characters (1 Viewer)

Stormcat

Senior Member
Alas, my poor protagonist, She's found herself in the company of some very nasty ladies!

But how do I make these characters nasty? I'm having trouble with this because I'm Autistic and a lot of real-life bullying goes over my head sometimes. I mean, None of these women are going to lay a hand on my protagonist, so nothing physical will go down. But I still need to learn how to get these characters to tear her down just enough to make her really upset.

For context, she's meeting these characters for the first time at a funeral.
 

Steve_Rivers

Senior Member
Most natural-sounding bitchiness or bullying in real life comes out of our differences. If your protagonist isn't skinny, the bullies can pick up on that. If she has a facial mole, same thing. Poverty is another. Considering the funeral setting, for instance, it might be the way she dresses to a funeral isn't their idea of normal.

I think one of the key things to getting bullies feeling natural and not cliche is to make the "bitchiness" a side note, rather than the main aim of their dialogue.

-For instance, cliche bullying or bitchiness would go...
"Oh look at that tire around your waist, you stupid bitch."

-More natural dialogue of real-life bitchiness would have the focus of the sentence be something else.
"You're so wrong, Marcus didn't think that and neither does anyone else, you fat cow."

Ironically, here, I'm trying to make both of them sound over-the-top and cliche, purely for the point of -where- it occurs in the sentence.
The focus of the first sentence is just an insult and sounds forced, like an 80s bully in an American high school. Unless they get into a real full-blown argument, that statement is unlikely to crop up.
More realistic bitchiness and bullying crops up in natural conversation as those small side notes, tacked on to the main focus of their attention. If a discussion gets heated, then the notes will start cropping up with more frequent additions.

I had to point this out in a beta read just last week.
The writer had two bullies stop walking down the corridor and just pick on a girl because she was holding an album they don't like. But instead of the bullying revolving around the target of their hate (the album) they were just saying "You stupid English c*" Whereas it sounds more natural if they're saying "You limey bitches seriously like listening to <insert band name>? That is SO *!"

More Subtlety
If the bullies are more of a snobbish type, like I imagine might happen at a funeral, then the key is all about the bitch/bully getting the insults in without being open about them being insults. Covering them up in 'good intentions.' Deflecting attention away from what the protagonist has, rather about what they don't.

"Oh darling, you should really try a Gucci bag to match your dress; they are so much more refined for occasions like this."

-With the bully knowing full well that the protagonist can't afford a Gucci bag. The bully is covering the act of being bitchy about the protagonist's poverty and fashion sense by pretending to offer advice. This might be what you want the most, but you can drop in some of the above examples into it as well on a more subtle level, also.

"You're so wrong, Marcus didn't think that and neither does anyone else, but then again I wouldn't expect a waitress to understand."
Notice how I just exchanged "fat cow" from the previous example for the waitress insult? The new insult is now covered up by simply referencing her job status. And, as an insult, it is far more of a subtle dig but is just as insulting as the fat cow.


Those are just some examples off the top of my head, so I hope they help, Storm!
 
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Stormcat

Senior Member
These characters are all of the same social statuses (In fact my Protagonist may actually be a bit wealthier than these bitches) But the mean girls don't like my protagonist because she was "lucky" to marry a prince who rejected all the mean girls before. I suppose mocking her physical appearance would work, but it feels like that isn't enough.

The only physical flaw my protagonist has at the moment is that she's put on weight recently and the clothes she's wearing are too tight. For personality-wise, these girls have literally just met her and know nothing about her, so I'm not sure what I could do.
 
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Terra

Senior Member
The first thing that came to mind was the opportunity for character development of your protagonist. As her creator, what are her weaknesses? Maybe something she doesn’t even realize ... then perhaps the bitches could make reference to that weakness and when they see your protagonists reaction, it goes from there.

Bitches know that snide, sarcastic, and humiliating remarks go a long way. Not easy to convey the manner of speech without saying for instance, ‘she said with a sneer’ .... but, maybe something like “Who does she think she is anyway, marrying a prince? I wouldn’t be surprised if she got him because she went down on her knees in front of him ... if you know what I mean?” To which the other bitches would giggle with delight and so on.

Eluding, gossip, backstabbing without knowing the facts, hints of envy and jealousy in their words, etc etc
 
A lot of bullying goes over my head, too....hmmm.

Maybe they could attack her character. Like, "Oh, I can't believe you would just marry somebody for money," or something, even though she didn't.

They could try to make her appear like a snob or a hypocrite. "Think you're too good for us?" and comments like that. Maybe that's not subtle enough, but eh.
 

vranger

Staff member
Supervisor
Disregard the text the link displays here and click on it to read the lyric. It may give you some ideas. ;-)

 

autumnst

Senior Member
Seconding vranger on the back-handed compliment poem and suggestion. 100% typical of bitchy-type women.

It's all about indirect aggression, generally toward a woman who has something (good looks, intelligence, status, a great life, a nice new purse, it can be anything) that the other women covet. They get jealous when they see someone who has something better than them. Their thinking goes, that it casts them in a bad light... so the reflexive response is to tear her down for it. Women can really be vicious to other women.

A woman can 'compliment' you with the underlying message being a scathing insult. For example, "Ohhh, that shirt looks so good on you!... I'd never be able to pull off leopard print." Or, "Wow, your mascara is really nice! Me, if I tried it, I'd look like a h**ker."

Another thing is gossip. It's the bread-and-butter of these types. You could have these women of low character spread a malicious rumor about the protagonist, and it reaches her by way of a friend or another jealous woman. They could talk about her behind her back, quiet so she can't hear. And maybe when she passes by them, the boldest of the group (its leader or main instigator) speaks up loud enough for the protagonist to hear, saying something judgmental in the third person ("... and she did and said [so and so], wearing [this and that]" - sorry, bad example) so she knows they're talking about her. Catching her gaze too so the meaning is really felt.
 

K.S. Crooks

Senior Member
Start with any physical or mental flaws/weaknesses/insecurities your protagonist possess. Have the other characters bring them up in subtle or obvious ways. The other characters can also mention secrets they know about the protagonist that she's embarrassed or ashamed.
 
Perhaps one of the women has a bone to pick with the protagonist, like she wanted the prince for herself, or thinks the girl didn't deserve the prince. Give the women something to despise or easily pick on the protagonist with, so they can wheedle their way into her psyche.

Backhanded compliments work really well too.
 

Stormcat

Senior Member
So, to help with the research for this scene, I rewatched an episode of Firefly. This one particular scene to be exact:


It's a good scene for what I'm trying to convey, (Even though my Protagonist is nothing like Kaylee) But it's a little too short and there's no helpful man to swoop in to save the day. If this scene were expanding from 45 seconds to say, two minutes, what would you do?
 

Taylor

Staff member
Board Moderator
I have met a lot of b*tchy women in my life. If I had to come up with the most common technique of the jealous b*itch to tear someone down, it is to ask a question that they know will hurt to answer. For example:

Let's say the funeral is for her mother and they knew there had been some tension in the past, they might ask,

"Were you very close with your mother?" (When they knew she wasn't.) or,

How often did you see your mother before she passed?" (When they knew she had been estranged.)

I would need to know more about the situation to come up with some b*tchy questions, but I'll give it a go if you can provide a bit more details about the funeral. I know you say they know nothing about her...but a certain line of questioning could expose her weaknesses with respect to the deceased. It might even be a rumour that one woman shares privately with the other women before the meeting like autumnst suggests.
 
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Stormcat

Senior Member
I have met a lot of b*tchy women in my life. If I had to come up with the most common technique of the jealous b*itch to tear someone down, it is to ask a question that they know will hurt to answer. For example:

Let's say the funeral is for her mother and they knew there had been some tension in the past, they might ask,

"Were you very close with your mother?" (When they knew she wasn't.) or,

How often did you see your mother before she passed?" (When they knew she had been estranged.)

I would need to know more about the situation to come up with some b*tchy questions, but I'll give it a go if you can provide a bit more details about the funeral.

The funeral was for someone she barely knew but had to attend because of social obligations. Also, one of her tormentors is her step-mother-in-law.
 

Taylor

Staff member
Board Moderator
The funeral was for someone she barely knew but had to attend because of social obligations. Also, one of her tormentors is her step-mother-in-law.
Ok perfect! I take it the mother-in-law did not approve of the marriage. Then that would be the line of questioning. They ask her tons of questions about her relationship with her mother-in-law and nothing else. How is your mother-in-law.? Do you see her very often? When the protagonist says she is fine and no, they press on. Well, how much time do you spend with her? Does your husband spend much time with her? How is their relationship since you have been married? Did you spend Christmas with them? Not sure if there is also a mother-in-law from a previous marriage, but they could start in on her too. Do you get along better with your father-in-law's previous wife? I mean this is what they do...and they are relentless. And I know the backhand compliments are good too, but I find the really mean ones stick to the questions because making the person speak of it themselves is more humiliating, than a statement directed at them.
 
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Stormcat

Senior Member
Ok perfect! I take it the mother-in-law did not approve of the marriage. Then that would be the line of questioning. They ask her tons of questions about her relationship with her mother-in-law and nothing else. How is your mother-in-law.? Do you see her very often? When the protagonist says she is fine and no, they press on. Well, how much time do you spend with her? Does your husband spend much time with her? How is their relationship since you have been married? Did you spend Christmas with them? Not sure if there is also a mother-in-law from a previous marriage, but they could start in on her too. Do you get along better with his previous wife? I mean this is what they do...and they are relentless. And I know the backhand compliments are good too, but I find the really mean ones stick to the questions because making the person speak of it themselves is more humiliating, than a statement directed at them.
Um... Mother-in-law is dead. She died before my Protagonist's wedding and never met the protagonist.

Also, My Protagonist never got to meet any of her future in-laws (or even her husband-to-be) before the wedding. It was all forcibly arranged, and Step-mom knows this.
 
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Taylor

Staff member
Board Moderator
Um... Mother-in-law is dead. She died before my Protagonist's wedding and never met the protagonist.

Also, My Protagonist never got to meet any of her future in-laws (or even her husband-to-be) before the wedding. It was all forcibly arranged, and Step-mom knows this.

So that could be another line of questioning. How long did you know him before you were married? How did he propose? How many suitors did you have? Did you have any choice in a suitor? Why did you agree to an arranged marriage? Were you in love with anyone else before? Did you consummate the marriage on the honeymoon night? Was it very romantic?

Do you see the technique? Just think of an answer that your protagonist would be uncomfortable to say, and then think of the question before it.
 

Stormcat

Senior Member
So that could be another line of questioning. How long did you know him before you were married? How did he propose? How many suitors did you have? Did you have any choice in a suitor? Why did you agree to an arranged marriage? Were you in love with anyone else before? Did you consummate the marriage on the honeymoon night? Was it very romantic?

Do you see the technique? Just think of an answer that your protagonist would be uncomfortable to say, and then think of the question before it.

I get the technique, but I need to stress that this wedding was FORCED. On both bride and groom. They had never met before their wedding day. Those questions would not work. And the only other invasive question I can think of would be "Why aren't you pregnant yet?" (The couple was forced to marry to "fortify" the royal bloodline)
 

Taylor

Staff member
Board Moderator
I get the technique, but I need to stress that this wedding was FORCED. On both bride and groom. They had never met before their wedding day. Those questions would not work.
I'm not sure you think they wouldn't work. They are asking questions that she doesn't want to answer.

"How long did you know him before you met?"
"We had never met before the wedding?"
"How did he propose?"
"He didn't propose, it was an arranged marriage."
"How many suitors did you have?"
"I'm not sure, only my parents met with them."
"Did you have any choice in a suitor?"
"Um...no."
"Were you in love with someone else before?"
She paused and swallowed, feeling tears well up in her eyes. "There was someone."
She could see the corners of the mouth turn up on the one in the blue dress who asked, "Did you consummate the marriage on the honeymoon night?"
Her voice began to crack and she looked down wiping the mucus from her nose with her sleeve, she finally murmured, "Yes."
"Was it very romantic dear?"
(Name of protagonist) could not speak, remembering that night and how frightened she was. The woman, all stared at her with glee, waiting for an answer.


I think you are just not b*tchy enough...lol!
 

Stormcat

Senior Member
Here's what I've written so far about the encounter:

The woman who entered with Roderick began to look Chelsea up and down. "Have we been introduced?" she said with a strange unplaceable accent.

"Ah! lady Melantha, this is my wife, Chelsea." David introduced her. "This is my Stepmother, Empress Melantha."

Other white-clad people began to fill the hall as Melantha noticed the condition of Chelsea's clothes. "So how far along are you?"

"Excuse me?" Chelsea asked.

"You're not showing much in the stomach area, so I can only assume the pregnancy is early."

"Oh, I'm not pregnant." Chelsea understood now what Melantha was trying to imply. "I've just been eating well."

Melantha sniffed the air "Shame. Roderick wants grandchildren and soon."
 

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