Showing posts with label bullying. Show all posts
Showing posts with label bullying. Show all posts

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:
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.

Bullying 101

Kids are cruel. That's a known fact. Kids who take cruelty to the extreme become bullies. The reality is that bullying is and will continue to be a part of every child's life. Even in institutions with an active anti-bullying program, kids go underground and carry on in any way they choose. You know, like when we were in school.

We as children’s writers want our stories to reflect the lives of young people. We can speak to kids' lives by including a bully in our story and showing how our characters react to her. 

What is Bullying?

The regrettable dynamics of bullying comes in the form of the viscous "bullying triangle" of the bully, the victim, and the bystander.  

Bullying takes on many guises. Its main intent is to hurt someone and is relentless in its delivery. Once a bully zeroes in on a target that he deems small, helpless and/or weak, he preys on his victim over and over by calling him names, recruiting cronies to gang up, and in the worst cases, the bullies can become physically violent. 

Often bullies are bigger kids who pick on kids who they think won’t stand up for themselves, and kids with few friends. But that’s not always the case. A short kid could be a bully as a means of defense against his size, and even a kid who has been bullied can turn into a bully to gain favor from his previous aggressor. As Kaitlyn Blais put it in Bullying Under Attack: True Stories Written by Teen Victims, Bullies and Bystanders, edited by Stephanie H. Meyer, John Meyer, Emily Sperber, and Heather Alexander, “Every kid wants to be ‘cool, popular, and in.’ The problem is that you can’t be ‘in’ unless someone is ‘out.’” Kaitlyn stood up for a victim who turned on her and victimized her. She wrote that she learned from that experience that “there needed to be only one black sheep.” 

Inside a Bully’s Head

First and foremost, a bully hates himself. He is hurting inside. Why? His home life may be unhappy. He may imagine that he has an embarrassing flaw and feels self-conscious about it. So he picks a victim who appears weaker than him and lashes out. If he gets away with it, he feels a sense of power and as his behavior continues, he becomes hooked. Eventually, as confessed bully Michael Ortiz wrote in Bullying Under Attack, Michael lost control and any ability he might have had to tell right from wrong. The hate he inflicted on others replaced the hatred he felt for himself.
Target  Practice
The victim is led to believe that more harm will come to her if she seeks help, and anyway, she doesn't want to be a tattletale. Lacking the proper skills to defend herself, she takes it and takes it until her life spins out of control and she descends into self-pity and worse. In dire cases, the victim may resort to harming herself by retreating into her own lonely world, and worse--cutting and even suicide. If a child is fortunate enough to rise above her unhappy situation, she is often left with long-lasting scars. 
Enter an Audience and the Triangle is Complete
Bystanders witness the bullying--the presence of bystanders actually encourages the bullying. The bully loves to show off his skills, especially if he is egged on. And even if the bystanders remain silent, the bully believes that they are lending him support.

Bystanders might:
  • Look the other way
  • Avoid any people or place where bullying might take place
  • Are afraid or embarrassed to speak up
  • Feel helpless themselves
  • Don't think they should interfere

    When Bravery Wins Out
    Enter the rare person who is willing to stand up for the victim, dubbed the upstander, in the excellent chapter "Understanding Bystanders," in Bullying: Prevention and Intervention--Protecting Children and Teens from Physical, Emotional, and Online Bullying, by Cindy Miller, LCSW and Cynthia Lowen.
    If You’ve Never Been a Part of a Bullying Triangle
    The closest I have come to a bullying situation was breaking up fights as a classroom teacher. Other than that, I have never became involved so I can’t speak from experience. But I have been hurt by girls who I considered my best friends. Granted, the scars couldn’t be as deep as the scars from a bullying situation, but there are scars. For two years I stewed over one friend’s hateful behavior toward me until I forced myself to stop and I finally got over it. The good news? I have a "well of darkness" to draw on in the portrayal of bullies and villains in my stories. I’m thankful for these experiences, for as writers, we draw on every scrap of personal experience and emotion we can.
    Please leave a comment if you’ve experienced bullying and let us know how it has affected you and your writing.
    Illustration: Courtesy of
    Next month: What it Takes to Overcome Bullying   
    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.

Writing From the Heart

Today's post is by Writers on the Move member Gilda Evans. She had some technical difficulty getting the post up, so I posted it.

Gilda's article below is an excellent example of the power of writing. Along with writing books, there is article writing to inform, to enlighten, to touch the heart, to be controversial, to be thought provoking, to shock, to be cathartic, and so much more.

What emotions does this article invoke in you? Please let us know in the comments.


When We Grow Up, revisited

By Gilda Evans

The recent Los Angeles Times article featuring my father has served not only as an inspiration to many, but also as a reminder of things that should never be forgotten. My thanks to my agent, Terrie Wolf, who suggested re-posting this blog story from 2012. It is an appropriate companion to my father’s story which you can read via the link near the end of this post.

And now, a blast from the past -

Yesterday was a beautiful morning – sunny, not too cold with the hint of coming spring in the air. Yet, this beauty was marred by an act so ugly and abhorrent it caused one to momentarily overlook the natural surroundings and become aware of the basest part of human nature. An Israeli flag with a swastika painted on it was placed near one of the gates leading to my daughter’s school. So, one has to ask – what would prompt such a senseless act of hatred? When the children passed by and saw that heinous emblem, who answered them when they asked why? And how did they answer? How confusing for those young people to wonder what they had done to illicit such venom directed at them.

In fact, this type of despicable act has no place in what purports to be an advanced or enlightened society. Whether these acts are directed at one person, or a group of people because they happen to be jewish, muslim, black, gay, female or pink with purple polka dots does not condone the action under any set of circumstances. None of these criteria gives anyone the right to judge another person’s value, character or righteousness. I believe that a person is defined by their words, but even more so by their actions. Stealing is wrong, murder is wrong, senseless hatred is wrong. Yet, there are those who are guilty of these and other atrocities in every ethnic and lifestyle group, including all those I just mentioned (pink with purple polka dots excluded).

And so, it makes me wonder what the human race is going to be like when we finally grow up. We are by nature greedy and territorial. Our genetic make up insures survival of the fittest, and our need to mate is intended to insure survival of the species. So, if we are defending our mate, our clan or our home against an enemy we are programmed to fight and protect ourselves. And because of this programming, chances are there will always be battles to be fought on some level, in politics and in business on a domestic and global scale. But hatred based on the simple color of someone’s skin or lifestyle choice is not given to us by nature. It has to be learned, and is therefore given to us by those of the prior generation who haven’t grown up yet. Those who haven’t learned how to share their toys or play nice in the sandbox. Those who bully and steal lunch money because they can. Funny…isn’t it usually the bullies who end up in jail or in some menial labor job and the nerds they picked on who end up running the big corporations?

Just recently Billy Crystal came under fire for donning black make-up to portray Sammy Davis, Jr. in one of his skits at the Oscars. Even the daughter of Mr. Davis later came forward to say that her father would have given his blessing to his dear friend Billy’s skit. Yet, there are those who still say that it wasn’t ok and choose to take offense at what was intended to be good-natured humor. My question is then, if that isn’t ok, why is it ok for a film like “White Chicks” to be made, where a couple of black guys put on white face and dress like women? Shouldn’t all white females be outraged? The answer, of course, is no. In both instances, those who do take offense need to grow up. One of the basic cornerstones of an adult attitude is the ability to laugh at yourself and appreciate the humor in life. (I’m talking about humor here, not blatant racial slurs or bigotry.) Because the reality is, it doesn’t really matter who the joke is directed at – it’s just a joke, and we’re all just people. When you cut us, we all bleed red. That’s the bottom line, and until we all as a global society take that to heart, we will never get to graduate.

Original source:

Gilda Evans
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Bubba and Giganto: Odds Against Us by Lea Schizas

I'm excited to be a part of the Virtual Book Tours members. The group began end of last year with several writers hopping on board and supporting each other by taking turns touring our books.

I've been proud to showcase my tween-crossover novel, Bubba and Giganto: Odds Against Us, published by 4RV Publishing in 2008. Here's a quick summary on the book:

Bubba hates it when his dad gets a contract for a new project. That means uprooting the family from one city and moving to another. Attending a new school is a major pet peeve of his. His smart alecky nature attracts the bullies in every school he’s attended.
On the first day of school, Bubba bumps into this rather large student. Fearing a confrontation, he wears his tough guy attitude and waits for the punches to begin. Remarkably, the new student apologizes and Bubba and David (aka Giganto as Bubba eventually nicknames him) become best friends.

Bubba and Giganto try out for the high school soccer team and that’s when trouble begins. Bubba knew eventually he’d meet the bullies of the school and he was right.
In the first initial weeks, Bubba learns about a death that occurred the previous year, faces the bullies on several occasions, helps Giganto practice soccer before tryouts, and challenges the bullies to a scrimmage.

Little did Bubba know Giganto held a secret, one that will place Giganto in a deadly situation.

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