Basic Tips To Write Better (And More Likeable) Badasses
Yet another character type that is often poorly-written by amateurs, many badass characters end up becoming completely unlikeable or even despicable. Here are a few tips to keep these characters from going this route.
Your character needs to be more than tough and talented.
Strong, sexy, smart, skilled, and sassy are all great character traits, but on their own they're going to leave you with a character who is at best forgettable, and at worst completely unlikeable. You build a good badass the same way you build any other character type - by creating a complex, three-dimensional, nuanced character with believable emotions, fears, hopes, vulnerabilities, hobbies, quirks, etc. Don't create a badass who happens to be human; create a human who happens to be badass. (Or if not human, replace "human" with whatever species your character is.)
Stop and ask yourself: if you took away the skills and talents that make your character badass, do you think anyone would care about or want to associate with your character? If the answer is "no" or "probably not," it's most likely time to rethink your character, or plan for some in-story character development.
Don't create an unstoppable kickass machine.
Characters who are so awesome and unflappable that there's no doubt they'll win are boring to watch - people already know how it's going to end. Get some tension in there - put your character in real danger. Let xir genuinely worry. Put the character in a situation xe cannot overcome alone. Badassery isn't always about having the ability to overcome a major obstacle; sometimes it's about having the courage and willpower to face that obstacle. Phil Coulson wasn't badass for blowing a hole through Loki's chest; he was badass for standing up to him knowing he was probably going to die. When Buffy defeated the big bads of each season, it wasn't satisfying to watch because she could take them out by flexing her pinkie - it was satisfying because she had to face and overcome challenges, obstacles, and even losses first.
Be careful that your character doesn't become an amoral/self-centered jerkass.
Many would-be badasses become completely unlikeable because, well, they do whatever they want regardless of how other people might feel about it. In many cases, it's pretty obvious that their writers think the characters can and should get away with it because the characters are (supposedly) just that cool. The trouble is, when a character intimidates, tongue-lashes, or beats up pretty much anyone and everyone who is at most mildly annoying or merely inconveniencing, that character isn't a badass, but a bully. Moreover, it tends to make these characters look incredibly insecure and entitled.
Smirks are not shortcuts to cool.
All too often people treat smirks as a shortcut to say that their characters are cool and badass, which they shouldn't - the character's actions (eg, their ability to handle crises calmly and effectively, even if they're terrified inside) should demonstrate that.
Ask yourself how you'd feel if a complete stranger treated you and people you care about the way your character treats people in the story.
Because that's how a lot of readers will feel when they read how your character treats xir supposed friends or strangers.
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