Chapter 15: 5 Most Hated Characters in Literature & Film

As writers, we invest so much time into our characters.  Sometimes, we even end up knowing them better than we know ourselves.  We think up their back story, and learn who that makes them today.  We spend time getting to know what they would do in the situations we throw them into.  It takes time, and it matters.  Characters can make or break a book.  Often the best serious have the best characters that we either love to love or love to hate.

For the sake of relatability, I decided to limit the list to characters in well-known series.

#1 – Dolores Umbridge from Harry Potter

This one is overly obvious.  I mean, seriously.  She’s more hated than He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named.  How the hell does she manage to be more detestable than the Dark Lord himself?  Well, she makes it look easy.  Rowling took the evil of Voldemort but put it in a pink little box tied with a bow.  Think about how complex she was as a character.  She gave depth to the ‘evil’ in Harry Potter.  Pushed it away from a grotesque villain with no nose, evil minions in skull-like masks, and hideous creatures that suck away your soul.  She made evil look polished.  She showed how even the most refined can have the nastiest layers underneath.  There were obvious hints at her being eccentric.  (I mean, y’all did see her office, right?)  So, what does she teach us?  Your main antagonist has followers just like your protagonist.  Challenge that definition.  Don’t have them the same.  Just as you want your protagonist and side-kick to complement each other, do the same on the other side.  You might make someone so beautifully horrible like Umbridge.

#2 – Joffrey “Baratheon” from Game of Thrones

Okay, let’s be real.  His real name is Joffrey Lannister and his death was the first real happiness any GOT felt either reading or watching the series.  There is nothing worse than watching some silver-spooned little brat play victim.  Even worse?  He had them kill a direwolf.  A very easy (yet cruel) way to make your readers hate a character is to have them hurt/kill an animal.  Literally, nothing sets off people more.  Another is to put them up against your more loved villains.  People hated Tywin Lannister, but they respected his counsel.  When Martin wrote the scene of Joffrey versus Tywin, ending it on the note of Joffrey being sent to bed, it marked Joffrey as pitiful.  We hated him.  Even though we didn’t like Tywin, we applauded him in that moment.  Don’t limit yourself to hero versus villain.  Be bolder than that.  Show your villains up against one another, their dynamic.  It’ll provide more depth and create a bigger bond between them and the reader.

#3 – Gríma Wormtongue from Lord of the Rings

He’s a much smaller character as the others in this list, but is too cringe-worthy to not include.  For those who can’t place the name, he’s the grimy little servant who was whispering in King Théoden in Edoras.  For starters, he sexually harasses Éowyn, being known to “haunt her steps,” aka stalk her.  In the film, he also tries to take advantage of her grief of her cousin’s death to lay on some creepy-ass moves.  He also completely exiles her brother, after he tells Gríma to back off.  Hell, he even claims to have eaten (yes eaten) Lotho Sackville-Baggins under Saruman’s orders.  His only redeeming moment was when he slit Saruman’s throat, but even then we were not sad in the slightest to see him die shortly after.  (That scene only takes place in the books for those who are confused.)  How did Tolkien make someone so detestable that even when their last act was heroic, you applaud their death?  Well, for starters, no one likes a traitor.  People theorize that Gríma was offered Éowyn for his services to Saruman, and that’s why he did it.  What’s worse than someone with no moral code who throws away honor for obsession?  Easy.  Someone who’s willing to force the woman, despite her clear disinterest.  To make it worse?  Make him slimy.  He was too pathetic to stand up for himself.  The moment he didn’t have an army under his illusions of power, he ran away.  So, he’s a coward, too.  Also, cannibalism is always a no-go on people’s radar.  In other words, a very easy (albeit drastic) way to make your readers not like someone.

#4 – Jar Jar Binks from Star Wars

Now, the next two characters are a bit different.  Why?  They weren’t designed with the intention of being hated.  Jar Jar Binks was put into the films as a comedy relief.  Their mistake was the sheer level of stupidity.  There’s nothing wrong with having someone who’s not academically inclined – in fact, I encourage it as to show a more variety of strengths in your characters (just because they’re stupid with ‘academic’ knowledge, doesn’t mean they can’t be savvy with their people skills, or maybe art).  Although there were definitely other things wrong with Episodes I – III, Jar Jar played a large roll in ruining the trilogy.  All your characters (no matter how stupid) need depth.  Make them more than just the idiot.  That’s not fair to them or your readers.  All of your characters should be three-dimensional.  Don’t think that just because your character isn’t classically intelligent, that they don’t have layers.  They do.  Still get to know them.

#5 – Bella Swan from Twilight

I expect more backlash on this one, but plain and simple, Bella doesn’t fulfill the role of protagonist well at all.  She is too dependent.  The second book is literally her trying to kill herself constantly.  The book doesn’t exist without Edward, and neither does she.  Now, I’m not saying suicidal thoughts in themselves are a no-go.  But, please, don’t use them lightly.  That’s a very real problem in society today, and instead of using the opportunity to highlight Bella overcoming the terrible thoughts and finding herself, Meyer had her completely lost until Edward was back.  That’s not okay.  She was not developed enough as a character.  Make sure you establish your characters independently from one another.  Yes, have them complement each other.  Dynamics can be really fun to write.  But, please, make a character more than their dynamic with the other characters.  Give them values and passions past staying with their boyfriend.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

I need to take a moment to give props to JK Rowling on the entertainment front.  She’s literally dipped into every almost avenue possible: books, movies, amusement parks, and the stage.  (Pictured is my best friend, Courtney, standing outside the stage of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in London England.)  Being an author is (sadly) about more than just writing good work.  You have to think about it as a business.  Not necessarily in the same way as Rowling.  But here’s the question I give you: how can I reach a wider audience?

Chapter 14: Action Plan

I’ve been querying the Freedom Game to several agents.  Right now I’m sitting at seven submissions and three rejections.  And, as most of you know, a non-response is still a response.  Every time I see the rejection email, I’m hit with that little twist right in my heart.  Several of the agent are very gracious, reminding me that the literary arts are subjective, and that just because they didn’t connect with my piece doesn’t mean that it’s not good.  Well, nice words aside, that’s exactly what it feels like.

Well, guess what.  I don’t care.  I wrote a damn good book, and I know it.  Is it perfect?  No.  Is it better than my last novel?  Hell yes.  Can I honestly picture it on a bookshelf at Books a Million or Barnes & Noble?  Yes.

I can honestly see my target audience (Young Adult) picking up this book on just an average day.  I can picture them reading about my main character Ethlynn and falling in love with her.  I see people arguing over if she belongs with Nash, the main love interest, or her best friend, Wystan.  I can see my readers growing along with Ethlynn and finding their strength.

It’s going to happen.  I’ll continue querying, and will do so until March of next year.  That’s the deadline I gave myself.  If by then I’ve still only heard rejection, then I’ll self-publish.  Then I’ll self-publish.  Plain and simple.

So, what have I been doing in the mean time?  Writing the sequel.  I’ve told you all in the past how major selling platforms have algorithms set up to help you advertise up until 30 days and then another until 90 days.

Right now, I’m not sure how many books this series will be, but I know it’ll at least be a trilogy.  Even though it’s not for certain that I’ll be self-publishing, I want to be prepared.  (Also, I absolutely love these characters and writing their story.)  If I take the Indie author route, I want to be able to publish the novels within 90 days of one another.  I’m still a business woman at heart, and I can’t imagine not taking advantage of the marketing opportunity.

I’m still presented with the problem: me.  I’m a slow writer.  This year I’ve finished the Freedom Game and written over 17,500 words of its sequel.  In 10 months.  Thinking realistically, I want this second book to be completely finished before I publish the first.  Ideally, I’d like to be well into the third, already outlining the fourth.  (My writing style involves me writing the original outline of the following book whilst writing the predecessor.  This means that I can add in foreshadowing and adjust my subplots to make them more relating to one another.)

What’s the point of all this rambling?  Writing itself is the reward.  I don’t write for anyone but me.  With that said, I want to get books published.  I want them to do well.  The better my books sell, the closer I am to being able to do this full-time.  That means I have to come up with a plan.

My final thought: set up an action plan for your writing!  Make it happen.  Success hardly ever falls into our laps.  You have the same 24 hours in your day as any successful author.  Use them.

Almost Invincible

Miss the release of Almost Invincible?! Click here to get it now!

It’s the third in the White Knight and Black Valentine series from Kristen Brand (aka my sister and role model).  It goes back to Dave’s POV, and what’re two traits we love about the ex-superhero?  His humility and how much he loves his family.  Well, Kristen knows him better than any of us, and she decided to make this book his worst nightmare.

A superhero theme park complete with a White Knight ride.. poor Dave…

A pack of supervillains with a vendetta against him.. getting worse..

His daughter trapped inside said theme park with said supervillains.. well shit..

I know what you’re thinking.  “Now I simply HAVE to get it.  Thanks J.E., for asking me to spend a whole $2.99!  Wait.. that’s not even a whole Starbucks drink.. Okay, I forgive you.”  So I’ll repeat: click here to buy it today!

Chapter 13: Shadows of Motivation

It really is something, writing a novel.  It’s your precious baby that takes months to finish.  One of the hardest parts?  You have no positive affirmation until several drafts in, when you finally feel it’s good enough to show to your beta reader.  Personally, I’m also a part-time author.  This means even the first draft takes me several months to write.  I worked on my last novel for six months before I gave it to the first of my beta readers.

What does that mean?  Any encouragement is most likely only coming to come from you.  Yes, you have a support group (I hope).  Personally I like to text both my sister and best friend different word count updates literally just to hear back that they’re excited about my progress.  I need to be reaffirmed.  Sue me.  But, is that enough?

Sometimes it doesn’t feel like it.  I’m a full-time student, and if you’re not in my boat I’m assuming most of you have a full-time job.  Either way, whenever I have free time my brain is simply too tired to write.  Instead I always take a nap, watch a show on Netflix (I just finished Parks and Rec in only two weeks), or even read.  Let’s not forget about the social life.  When is the time to write?? Well, it’s there.  For sure.  But I have to create it.

That’s easier said than done.  First, I have to find the motivation to even begin, and sometimes, I simply can’t find it.  I’ve kept track of my word count per day (which I of course plan to share upon this novel’s completion) and let me tell you: there are a lot of ‘0’ days.  I have random spikes where I exceed my word count, and some random days where I don’t even hit 1,000 words.

Now, I’ve always been the forgetful type.  This means that my google calendar is filled with every little thing that I have to do.  My phone reminds me and thank goodness, because otherwise I wouldn’t get anything done.  Then I thought about it.  Why am I not scheduling my writing?  I mean, up until now, I’ve always approached it as “once I finish this assignment, I’ll write.”

Screw that!

I went through my calendar and specifically allotted time to write.  It gives me the reliance that I’ve accounted for the time – instead of thinking “I should be studying” or “There’s still that assignment.”  I know that somewhere in my calendar I’ve allotted the appropriate amount of hours for that shit too!  So when I’m writing, I can be completely present.  It’s been such a simple decision.

But the results?  I’ve doubled my weekly word count.  I’m curious how you get yourself back on track when your motivation hides for a bit?