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Bullies, Bastards and Bitches: How to Write the Bad Guys of Fiction

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  625 ratings  ·  65 reviews
Get to Know Your Character's Sinister Side


A truly memorable antagonist is not a one-dimensional super villain bent on world domination for no particular reason. Realistic, credible bad guys create essential story complications, personalize conflict, add immediacy to a story line, and force the protagonist to evolve.


From mischief-makers to villains to arch nemeses, "Bulli

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Paperback, 296 pages
Published August 1st 2008 by Writer's Digest Books (first published July 14th 2008)
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Average rating 3.96  · 
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 ·  625 ratings  ·  65 reviews


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Rose
Initial reaction: A strong guide with apt examples on how to craft "bad guys and girls" in fiction. I was impressed how Morrell organized and presented this. Some minor quibbles, but I gained much from reading this and plan to use it as a continued reference.

Full review:

There's definitely an appeal to writing fictitious narratives from the perspectives of people who may not necessarily be heroic. Or, let's face it - they're the bad guys. Jessica Page Morrell's "Bullies, Bastards, & Bitches: How
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Sharon
May 30, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: e-books, writing
This book was recommended to me by my friend and fellow author T.E. MacArthur. I concur with her premise that, no matter where we are in the authorship/publishing game, we can all learn something new.

In this book, author Jessica Page Morrell not only writes about creating the baddies (antagonists and villains) across genders and species, but about how fear itself works. In order to play on the psychology of fear in a reader, Morrell maintains, authors need to understand the biochemical nature of
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Joseph Valoren
Jul 22, 2018 rated it liked it
Bullies, Bastards and Bitches promises to show you how to write better bad guys. How much you get out of it will probably depend on how much of the very obvious information in this book you’re already aware of. A pretty thorough pouring over of the TV Tropes pages on the subjects contained within would render this book basically obsolete; it is less a guide than an index, a collection of archetypes with descriptions and examples attached to each.

What I was hoping for when I picked this book up w
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Bill
Jan 23, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, writing
This book did not live up to my expectations. I read several good reviews and hoped that it would give me a solid foundation for creating the bad guys I need in my fiction. But I found the exploration of badness and evil to be shallow and repetitive. It was not much more than I got out of a few chapters in a more general book about character development. About halfway through the book, I started skimming and scanning the bullet lists. The author did present valid points, I just wish they had gon ...more
Tom Van Boening
Mar 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
There are a plethora of books on writing, and a large handful of books on writing characters, but not many books related to the craft of creating villains. Villains, that is to say very good villains, are highly complex and interesting.

As a writer, I thought it would be best to know how to specifically get villains down before working on the heroes. Your hero is only as good as the villain he or she overcomes, and this is why you need to get villains right.

The book by Jessica Page Morrell hits a
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Sieben
Sep 28, 2019 rated it it was ok
Short impression:
A decent look at complicated characters that is significantly hurt by the blatant scaremongering around neurodiversity and mental illness. The chapter about antagonists for young readers is extremely good, though.

Slightly longer impression:
This book is a perfectly fine (if slightly repetitive) look at complex/"bad" characters and how to write them in a way that keeps the reader engaged. While I think that some bits of advice turn up a lot more often than is strictly necessary a
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Amanda Patterson
Nov 11, 2010 rated it really liked it
This has one of the best titles in the 'how to write a book' genre. It is also written by a good writing teacher. It is packed with everything you ever wanted to know about antagonists.
However, it misses being brilliant. It misses that thread that would make it make sense. It is more of a reference book than the self-help book it pretends to be.
I think that is why readers feel slightly cheated.
Andy Zach
Jun 03, 2017 rated it liked it
As a fantasy author, I learned a lot about writing villains. I was in the middle of writing my sequel, "My Undead Mother-in-law" and it ended up much better (according to early readers; it's not out until July 2017).

Besides villains, Ms. Morrell also covers dark heroes, anti-heroes, sympathetic villains, likable bad guys, neutral characters and truly wicked ones. She has a chapter on psychopaths and sociopaths, too, providing definitions and examples of each. She goes further, giving resources t
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Simone Anderson
Jul 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
I found this informative and well written. I learned quite a bit from this on how to craft better bad guys and villains. I did find some of the language stereotypical - female characters who are anti-heroes have slips showing, sleep with men she doesn't know or know well, or have smeared lipstick or that implying genre fiction isn't as character driven as mainstream or literary fiction. But the author includes examples from genre fiction and literary fiction as well as from movies in illustratin ...more
Floyd Larck
Apr 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: writing
As I wrote in an earlier post this book was worth the purchase just for the chapter titled "Primal Fears" where the author explains what goes in on the human brain when fear strikes. This was a fascinating chapter for me.

As for the rest of the book, it is chock full of information and advice on creating one (or more) antagonists for your current or future novel. This isn't another 'write it this way' book, instead she give you a behavior and then delves into the reasons for an antagonist acting
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Heather Pagano
Oct 24, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: writing
A great character focus addition to the story structure reading I've done this year. I took so many notes from this book and it shed new light on concepts I'd learned during other reading. As a stand-alone read I'm not sure I would have gotten as much out of it. The organization of the book was based on character type, so fundamental concepts were scattered in different sections and often repeated.
L.M. Elm
Oct 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020
Morrell offers up well intentioned advice on how to create memorable antagonists. Tips include listing various types of villains found in genre fiction. Lots and lots of examples from literature and fiction. My one critique of writing craft books, even this book is guilty of it, starts and ends with he assumption writers don't read. Aside from this Morrell still makes a the strongest case for the villain has to be far more interesting than the hero.
Chris Bridges
The book was great, many ideas and templates on creating awesome bad guys, girls, and monsters to scare the crap out of your reader. There's no way a writer can read this book and not get ideas for new projects.
Jasmin
Nov 28, 2017 rated it liked it
This book is useful if you have zero knowledge, and that's okay. People need that help, it is also designed more towards people who outline, plan, or do lots of prework, it won't be helpful for people who write by the seat of their pants. Not bad, but not also as useful to everyone.
Mike Garzillo
Jan 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
If you’re writing a romance, any type of romance, this is a must, especially if you have a female antagonist. The depth required to create a unique bad guy (or gal) will come from the details and examples Jessica provides.
John
Jan 23, 2018 rated it liked it
This book is chock full of valuable and thought-provoking ideas for fiction writers.... but I'm only giving it three stars, because the copy-editing is TERRIBLE: misspellings, typo's, dropped words, and TWO Chapter Elevens!
Lillie
Feb 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
A great resource for writers desperate to tap into the world of villains. I would in no way say that it will be a resource for your entire writing career, but certainly to help you develop some of this characters that are harder to write.
Shannon Stoner
Apr 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Very good, even for expert writers. It explains how to build a diabolical and believable villain.
Rebecca Lyons
Feb 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best books I've read on how to write villains. And the author gives plenty of concrete examples of what she's talking about from published books, too.
A.J. Bauers
Jan 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book is an excellent resource for any writer who wants to dig a little deeper in the characterization of their bad guys, villains, antagonists, and anti-heroes.

One of the biggest problems I find with reading craft books are that many of the book references given as examples for a technique or character types are books known for their literary value, and not so much reflective of the modern reading audience. This book was well-rounded, citing sources from classical literature to science fict
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Caitlin Trepp
Sep 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
I really liked the first 5 chapters of the book about anti-heroes, antagonists, dark heroes, and overall character structure. The last 7 chapters about villains, sociopaths, and kid-friendly villains was mostly about incorporating clichés I wish would die, like true crime stories, using mental illness as being equivalent with badness, evil, madness, etc., and female underrepresentation. The women chapter, known in this book as the chapter on bitches, is like 3 pages where a bunch of different ch ...more
Adrianna
Dec 08, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: writing-craft
4.5 Stars. b\Bullies, Bastards & Bitches: How To Write the Bad Guys of Fiction by Jessica Page Morrell is definitely a book I would recommend for the writer's reference shelf.

Chapters on primal fears, making your character unforgettable, anit-heroes, dark heroes, bad boys to antagonists in the form of bullies, psychopaths, sociopaths, monsters, and lost souls, and delving into the personality of female villains with definitions of type. Checklists, reading lists, movies to watch. Identifying you
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John
Aug 13, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: writing
If you have antagonist problems, this is a great book on how to build compelling bad guys & gals & monsters. I took two workshops with Jessica Morrell at Willamette Writers, but not one on antagonists. I enjoyed her so much I picked up two of her books, and this is the on I read first, because my novel needed bad-guy help, STAT!
Well, done, and covers a variety of baddies, including anti-heroes, bad-boys, bad-girls, serial killers, sociopaths, and more. There is a chapter on how to match a hero t
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Lisa Annesley
4.5*s This is an excellent book on writing the gamut of characters from unlikeable protagonists to bad boys to antagonists to villains to sociopaths and more. Each chapter has sections with bullet points on such topics as creating that character and the characteristics of that character. There's a chapter on matching wits between your hero and your villain (the showdown), and creating depth to your antagonists/villains by creating sympathy for them. BB&B sparked many ideas for me for my work in ...more
Becky Black
Mar 22, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
An excellent writing advice book. And despite the title it's by no means only about writing villains, but also those edgier heroes and heroines who are more what the writer calls bad-asses.

You'll learn about archetypal characters and you'll see characters you already know well fitting into those archtypes, like the "Dark Hero" or the "Lost Soul". (For the Dark Hero I just kept thinking "This fits Sawyer from Lost to a T!")

It took me quite a few says to read it, even though it's not that long at
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Wanda Paryla
Feb 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
The title is what captured my interest in this book at first. And I wasn't let down. This book is very informative, well written, and laid out in such a way that it's easy to follow and simple to find the information you're looking for if you don't want to read it from cover to cover right off the bat.

I wasn't sure how to characterize different bad guys or villains, say if I had more than one in a book. Thanks to this book, I have deciphered how to do this without all the antagonists sounding an
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Alexandria
Oct 22, 2015 rated it did not like it
If the author doesn't break her arm patting herself on the back, it would come as a huge surprise to me.

Unending self-congratulation aside, the author also seems to think women can be shoved into a very small number of categories. She also thinks that women are inherently different antagonists/anti-heroes than men. Everything about her writing screamed "women are only bad for shock value! Men are the default bad guys! Women are harder to make bad because they're inherently good!!1!!11!11!!".

I c
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Charles Ray
Jan 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Bullies, Bastards & Bitches is a politically incorrect title (in today’s PC world), but it’s the absolutely correct title for Jessica Page Morrell’s book on how to write the bad guys of fiction.
Starting with an in depth description of the primal fears that motivate all of us, Morrell than proceeds to chart how to create memorable bad guy (or girl) characters that will keep readers turning the pages of your book, because they see in what you write the things they fear, and they’re afraid to stop
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Jason Burham
Jul 02, 2010 rated it it was ok
As far as writing books go, this was a great idea that I thought was poorly executed. I was hoping for a book on helpful tips for fleshing out potentially iconic antagonists. The examples from this book of "bad guys" consist largely of the one dimensional and/or cliche villain types found in the likes of Janet Evanovich's books. It can get the job done if you just need to have a throwaway villain for a book or two, but if you're trying to tell a story with well balanced dramatic tension and bad ...more
Rita Bailey
Apr 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Bullies, Bastards and Bitches is a The Bible of writing bad boy (and girl) fiction. Not a quick read, Morrell's book gives detailed instruction with examples from contemporary and classic fiction.

No one-dimensional super villains for editor and writing teacher Morrell. She explains the difference between anti-heroes, antagonists, villains and super-villains. and has separate chapters on Sociopaths, Bitches, Monsters, Creatures and Lost Souls, and Bad guys for Young Readers.

Did I say Bible? Make
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