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Writing an Abusive Character Advice? (1 Viewer)

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Lumiiberry

Senior Member
I'm trying to write my protagonist's partner to be an abusive creep that trapped her in a relationship for a few years. My protagonist grew up incredibly sheltered, and I want to creating a slow boil effect.

Her partner is nonbinary (not that it matters, but I wanted to clarify), and I want to create some dialogue where she finally leaves. I have the physical confrontation to my liking, but I'm shit at creating dialogue, especially for mean/evil characters.

This character should seem cold, sarcastic, and demeaning. I want them to belittle my protagonist, then have her explode back, and finally have them yell and mock her before going in and knocking her on the floor.

I just want some advice for dialogue. Any advice is welcome.

Here's the current dialogue:

“Hey, Jordan, how was work?” I damned myself for having my voice quiver. They looked at me, steel-grey eyes hard and cold as they put away their coat. I instinctively backed away as they approached me like a wolf approaching their prey. Feeling their rough hands cup my face made me flinch, but their lips against mine melted away all fear I had. Despite the rules Jordan makes me obey, I still get butterflies around them.
“Jillian, you don’t need to hide from me. What do you have in your hand?” Their mature, tenor voice made me shiver slightly. I watched Jordan ruffle their short, brown hair as they sighed. They were so much taller than me, as well, so having them tower over me was nerve-wracking to say the least. Jordan cleared their throat, pulling me out of my thoughts.
“Is that letter for me, Jills? Or are you hiding something?” There was a sinister tone to their voice. Shit, I got busted. I slowly raised my hand, shakily handing over the letter to them. They snatched the letter from my hand, giving it a once over before looking at me.
“Cedar Hills Community College? You are hiding something from me, aren’t you, Jills?”
“No, I wasn’t, I-”
“Oh, I have to read this.” Jordan’s face looked like it was about to fold in on itself. They were angry, and I felt terrified. My instincts were practically begging me to run, but my body stayed put. Jordan began to read the letter out loud.
“ Dear Jillian Wells, congratulations! You have been accepted to Cedar Hills Community College as an Early Childhood Development major.” They stopped and glared at me. I gulped, bracing myself for what was about to happen.
“Didn’t I tell you that you were to stay and clean? You should know your place beneath me!” Jordan raised their fist to strike me, but I ducked away. Their fist slammed on the couch hard enough to make a loud bang. While they cradled their hand, I plucked up my courage again; this time I was furious. I was absolutely sick to death of my partner not supporting me, and I knew I had to fight back.
“I’m not your goddamn slave, Jordan! I’m my own person, and you can’t control me anymore!”
Jordan looked at me like I had lobsters crawling out of my ears before laughing hysterically for a few minutes. I felt my rage boil over, but I stayed firm. After they caught their breath, they asked, “Where in the hell would you even go, Jills? You have no friends, your family is gone, and you don’t work! What the fuck are you going to do?”
 

EmmaSohan

WF Veterans
I think you answered your own question? This looks like a polished scene doing what you say you want to do. It seemed normal to me.

Are you dissatisfied with it?

I was reading King once, a scene of the MC talking to a woman and told from his perspective. I had the realization that King, in his mind, knew her perspective too. I decided that's a secret for writing good nonperspective characters. To me, your male (binary) character seems plot-driven -- you want a bad guy. That can be really useful. But a different way to approach this scene (and probably your whole book, alas), is to take his perspective.

For example, if she attends college, there's a good chance she learns things and leaves him. Why would he not fear that?
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
I'm trying to write my protagonist's partner to be an abusive creep that trapped her in a relationship for a few years. My protagonist grew up incredibly sheltered, and I want to creating a slow boil effect.

Her partner is nonbinary (not that it matters, but I wanted to clarify), and I want to create some dialogue where she finally leaves. I have the physical confrontation to my liking, but I'm shit at creating dialogue, especially for mean/evil characters.

This character should seem cold, sarcastic, and demeaning. I want them to belittle my protagonist, then have her explode back, and finally have them yell and mock her before going in and knocking her on the floor.

I just want some advice for dialogue. Any advice is welcome.

Here's the current dialogue:

“Hey, Jordan, how was work?” I damned myself for having my voice quiver. They looked at me, steel-grey eyes hard and cold as they put away their coat. I instinctively backed away as they approached me like a wolf approaching their prey. Feeling their rough hands cup my face made me flinch, but their lips against mine melted away all fear I had. Despite the rules Jordan makes me obey, I still get butterflies around them.
“Jillian, you don’t need to hide from me. What do you have in your hand?” Their mature, tenor voice made me shiver slightly. I watched Jordan ruffle their short, brown hair as they sighed. They were so much taller than me, as well, so having them tower over me was nerve-wracking to say the least. Jordan cleared their throat, pulling me out of my thoughts.
“Is that letter for me, Jills? Or are you hiding something?” There was a sinister tone to their voice. Shit, I got busted. I slowly raised my hand, shakily handing over the letter to them. They snatched the letter from my hand, giving it a once over before looking at me.
“Cedar Hills Community College? You are hiding something from me, aren’t you, Jills?”
“No, I wasn’t, I-”
“Oh, I have to read this.” Jordan’s face looked like it was about to fold in on itself. They were angry, and I felt terrified. My instincts were practically begging me to run, but my body stayed put. Jordan began to read the letter out loud.
“ Dear Jillian Wells, congratulations! You have been accepted to Cedar Hills Community College as an Early Childhood Development major.” They stopped and glared at me. I gulped, bracing myself for what was about to happen.
“Didn’t I tell you that you were to stay and clean? You should know your place beneath me!” Jordan raised their fist to strike me, but I ducked away. Their fist slammed on the couch hard enough to make a loud bang. While they cradled their hand, I plucked up my courage again; this time I was furious. I was absolutely sick to death of my partner not supporting me, and I knew I had to fight back.
“I’m not your goddamn slave, Jordan! I’m my own person, and you can’t control me anymore!”
Jordan looked at me like I had lobsters crawling out of my ears before laughing hysterically for a few minutes. I felt my rage boil over, but I stayed firm. After they caught their breath, they asked, “Where in the hell would you even go, Jills? You have no friends, your family is gone, and you don’t work! What the fuck are you going to do?”

This isn't bad at all. I'm not keen on the use of 'they' and 'their' though. That removes me entirely from the scene, makes me a distant viewer. Use his name or 'he'/'him'. I'd love you to put this in the 'Fiction Workshop' too. There are things I'd like to point out that aren't really fitting for this section.

let me know via PMs if you do put it there too. :)
 

Backstroke_Italics

Senior Member
I've said this before, but the surest way to make a villain feel skin-crawlingly evil is to make them sweet. Make them talk like a good person, with empathetic body language and tone of voice. Give them reasonable arguments. "I just want what's best for you" is so much creepier than "You should know your place beneath me." Talented abusers are never "the bad guy."

But otherwise this exchange seems perfectly well written from a technical point of view. Can you be more specific when you say you're not good at writing dialogue? How does it jump out to you in a negative way when you read it out loud?
 
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