What it Takes for your Character to Overcome a Bully

Try to look at your weakness
and convert it into your strength.
That's success.
Zig Ziglar
Upstanders unite! An upstander, as described in Bullying: Prevention and Intervention--Protecting Children and Teens from Physical, Emotional, and Online Bullying, by Cindy Miller, LCSW and Cynthia Lowen, in May's post, Bullying 101, is the person who is willing to stand up to the bully. Targets are kids who don't take action, and who are afraid of the bully and can't hide their fears. Often targets don't fit in with their peers.

Through Thin to Thick
Overcoming bullying boils down to developing a thick skin. So, strategies the character in your story needs to build to overcome his tormenters may include:
  • Knowing he's an equal to others.
  • Doesn't accept negative comments without sticking up for himself.
  • Doesn't yell, swear or lecture, but stays calm; and an excellent line of defense is to ask questions.
  • Doesn't accept what the bully says or does.
  • In real life, if everything else fails the target needs to seek help from an adult. But in stories, your character must figure it out for himself.
A Hero is Born
How does your character develop these strategies in the first place? Knowing them are important so you'll know how to show how your character is weak in the beginning of your story, discussed last month, and how your character discovers how to build strengths by the end of your story.

The secret? Self-confidence! Here are some ways you can show how your character builds self-confidence in order to fend off the bully. He needs to:
  • Feel good about something in his life.
  • Feel worthy and loved by others.
  • Know how to ask for what he wants and become an advocate for others, too (so he's not just thinking of himself).
  • Make eye contact when speaking to others.
  • Respect other people, applaud their similarities and differences.
  • Remain positive with others and supportive, never tearing anyone down.
  • Have a built-in value system so that he is not easily swayed by someone trying to take advantage of him.
  • Confront his fears, which helps him develop self-confidence and courage.
My Personal Caveat
The bullying my poor character endured was laced with humor. In the beginning of the story, she was a tad reluctant to engage in physical exercise, looked for the easy way out of things, and lacked flexibility. The bully tried to put her down, but because of the confidence she gained through trial and error (in authorese, the struggle she went through in order to grow), she never bent to the bully's wishes and the bully surrendered like a plucked weed. In the end, the strengths my character developed resulted in the admiration of the other characters, even her bully.

Clipart courtesy of: http://clipart-library.com/
Source: Bullying: Prevention and Intervention--Protecting Children and Teens from Physical, Emotional, and Online Bullying, by Cindy Miller, LCSW and Cynthia Lowen, and personal experience.

The drafts of my first book
make a good elbow rest! 
Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has published over 100 articles for adults and children, and six short stories for children. Recently, she completed Joyce Sweeney's online fiction courses, picture book course and mystery and suspense course. She has currently finished her first book, a mystery/ghost story for 7-11 year-olds, and is in the process of publishing it and moving on to new writing projects. Follow Linda on Facebook.


Karen Cioffi said...

Linda, thanks for sharing these writing tips on how to empower your bullied character. Bringing these tips into the spotlight through fiction children's writing will hopefully help children who find themselves in these situations.

Linda Wilson said...

Yes, that's the hope. More children need to feel empowered and the adults in their lives need to help make that happen. But for kids who aren't getting the help they need, hopefully children's stories will help. I know I've learned a great deal my entire life from fiction and am still learning.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

I see these situations are often difficult for a writer, because readers tend to love strong characters. So the trick is keeping readers enthralled with the protagonist even when she must be rather weak to start with in order to develop strength in the story arc. This article is very helpful. I also suggest that a good development editor might be helpful as well.

Linda Wilson said...

Yes, a good development editor is necessary and priceless once you find a good one. Thank you for commenting, Carolyn. Your insights are necessary and priceless, always!

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