Books

A Book About Writing Bad Guys that Has An Eye-catching Title

Book Review:

Bullies, Bastards and Bitches: How to Write the Bad Guys of Fiction by Jessica Page Morrell

Rating: 4 out of 10 stars

Overview

Pros

  • Uses numerous examples from literature, shows, and film to illustrate her points
  • Decent as a reference book
  • Helpful charts

Cons

  • The way the book handles mental illness is not good
  • The author seems sexist at times
  • For a writer teaching about writing, her wording is not the greatest
  • Typos

Observations

  • Spoils a ton of books, shows, and movies
  • Not particularly useful for anyone other than very amateur writers

Review

I really wanted to like this book, but the eye-catching title did not translate into the great resource for writing villains that I thought it would be. Morrell makes some decent points, but most of them are obvious. That is pretty surprising since she explained that she had spent a lot of time reading to prepare to write this book.

I would say one of her main focuses is summed up in this statement.

In fiction, you toss your main characters out on a limb, preferably a limb that dangles off a steep cliff over a raging torrent of sea below, and that sea has bottomless depths.”

Morrell

Yes, writers often need to make their characters suffer to develop and move the plot forward. But Morrell’s phrasing here and elsewhere is awkward. “Over a raging torrent of sea below”? If something is over something else, do you really need to also use the word “below”? I know that seems nitpicky, but this is a writer claiming to be able to teach other writers how to improve their writing.

I wouldn’t have rated this so low if this was not a repeat issue, and if there were not numerous other problems. I caught typos; for instance “glace” instead of “glance”. She names cockroaches in a list of dangerous predators.

Villains are motivated by either malice or lack of malice to achieve their ends.”

Morrell

What the heck Morell? What does the above statement even mean? It’s completely pointless. It says nothing about the motivations of villains.

She calls characters “story people” at least twice, which just sounds juvenile.

Also, she seems sexist at times. An anti-hero man may be scruffy and is definitely immoral. For a woman anti-hero: “perhaps her slip is showing and her lipstick is smeared, she sleeps with men she doesn’t know well, and she cannot fit into traditional women’s roles.” She goes on to say that anti-heroes are “are always failed heroes or deeply flawed”. So a man is deeply flawed if he is immoral, but a women just has to step out of stereotypical gender roles and expectations in order to be deeply flawed? Plus certain character types apparently can only be filled by men, such as the dark hero or rogue. There is no need for those categories to be gendered, but for Morrell they are. Finally, she often makes generalizations such as “women like a challenge” (when it comes to their love interests). For all these reasons, the book comes off as sexist.

Also, Morrell subverts her own definition of anti-hero later on by making it appear as if any hero who is not completely flawless is an anti-hero–even people who are just oddballs. Such a loose definition is of no use to serious writers.

Furthermore, Morrell’s writing assumes all characters to be straight and cis, which makes her book somewhat lacking, since it could easily have been at least somewhat inclusive.

Morrell has a whole chapter on sociopaths that is insensitive, calling them the “worst-case scenario” for their families in real-life and that they necessarily must make almost all immoral choices. She describes them as dangerous and insists that they are all predators, and that every time they talk they lie. People with mental illnesses are not invariably evil. My god, it’s like this book was written fifty years ago instead of in 2008.

And as for that eye-catching title? Morrell talks about bitches and bullies as character types, but never bastards. Why not stick “bad asses” in the title instead, since it has the same alliteration and impact? She talked about bad asses at length.

In short, this book had many great examples from books, movies, and shows, but that was the only thing that kept me reading to the final page. It is ironic that the best parts of Morrell’s book are the snippets she borrowed from other writers.

I would not recommend this book for anyone, honestly. Even a beginning writer could be led astray by Morrell’s writing mistakes.

If you like my content, subscribe to my newsletter!

Music

Character Playlists: Tristan

Intro

My current work-in-progress is a novel that follows the journey of five “heroes” who must decide whether or not to obey their master, a sentient force whose life energy is inextricably connected with their own. If they follow its prophecies, they risk losing their identities and becoming its pawns forever, but resistance means risking its wrath—and fighting a battle no one has won before. Their story is narrated by a spy forced to recount the heroes’ journey, whose power to read minds offers omniscience but not answers, whose obsession with mortal snack foods and self-destruct buttons could have terrible consequences, and whose passive aggressiveness knows no bounds…

Recently I started making playlists for each of my characters with music that reminds me of each character. These playlists are made up of songs my siblings and I listen to. Below I share my playlist for the character Tristan.

Tristan’s Playlist

Conclusion

This is the link to my full Spotify Playlist for Tristan. I’ll be adding songs over time, so be sure to check it out.

I will post new playlists for my other characters, so look out for upcoming blog articles! The number of songs doesn’t necessarily denote the importance of a character, it’s just how well songs I know fit the character.

Do any of my fellow writers have character playlists? If so, comment below so I can check them out! If not, I challenge you to try it and share!

If you like my content, subscribe to my newsletter!

Writing

Writing Prompts (Collection 1)

1. A love story, but set during the pandemic. The lovers can only communicate via text or social media. Consider play format.

2. Basically the opposite scenario. Two people who hate each other are quarantined together due to pandemic conditions. Perhaps they are roommates that just had a fight and now are forced to spend all their time in the room.

3. An adventurer who once visited a fantasy world and came back to tell the tale is now whisked back to that fantasy world–as an elderly person. What new adventures will they embark on? What old friends will they rekindle friendships with? What old hatreds will rise up in the face of ancient enemies?

4. An alien from another world comes to Earth, but this alien has all the features of a dog and is mistaken for one despite being a sentient being with intelligence much higher than the average human.

5. A researcher looking into their family genealogy come across a few black sheep in the family with dark pasts, and interlocking stories. Or, just for laughs, research your own family history and write about all the skeletons in the closet. At least those of the dead–avoid the scandals of the living ones.

6. A budding chef develops a red meat allergy from a tick. That, along with her gluten allergy, makes it difficult to achieve her dream of becoming the top chef in her state. But she shall persevere, nonetheless!

7. One day, night never falls. Why? How long does this last? How do the inhabitants of Earth survive an endless day?

8. A child goes into a coma and hears everything that is said around them. Do they wake up and confront people or ask about things? Do they lose hope because of what is said around them?

9. An over-powered teen psychic is mega-popular, but people disappear for good after they are “friend-zoned” by him. What happened to them?

10. This one is for the literature nerds out there. The Sound and the Fury, but from Caddie’s perspective.

If you like my content, subscribe to my newsletter!

Music

Character Playlists: Glynnis

Intro

My current work-in-progress is a novel that follows the journey of five “heroes” who must decide whether or not to obey their master, a sentient force whose life energy is inextricably connected with their own. If they follow its prophecies, they risk losing their identities and becoming its pawns forever, but resistance means risking its wrath—and fighting a battle no one has won before. Their story is narrated by a spy forced to recount the heroes’ journey, whose power to read minds offers omniscience but not answers, whose obsession with mortal snack foods and self-destruct buttons could have terrible consequences, and whose passive aggressiveness knows no bounds…

Recently I started making playlists for each of my characters with music that reminds me of each character. These playlists are made up of songs my siblings and I listen to. Below I share my playlist for the character Glynnis.

Glynnis’ Playlist

Conclusion

This is the link to my full Spotify Playlist for Glynnis. I’ll be adding songs over time, so be sure to check it out.

I will post new playlists for my other characters, so look out for upcoming blog articles! The number of songs doesn’t necessarily denote the importance of a character, it’s just how well songs I know fit the character.

Do any of my fellow writers have character playlists? If so, comment below so I can check them out! If not, I challenge you to try it and share!

If you like my content, subscribe to my newsletter!