Friday, March 22, 2013


Last week, I started a new series on tough issues in our world that we as fantasy writers can--even should--confront in our fantasy stories. If you missed out on my post last week, I highly suggest that you read it here. In today's post, I'll be talking about another extremely serious issue: bullying.

Most of us have had experiences with bullying before, especially as children. Now a few points, first, about bullies. According to many studies, bullies are often insecure people who tear others down in order to make themselves feel better. Bullies are not automatically "evil." Rather, they are often motivated by envy or resentment and may think that bullying is the only way they are esteemed, valued, or noticed. In terms of personality types, bullies are usually authoritarian/dominant personalities that enjoy controlling others, especially those against whom they are prejudiced.

With that information under our belts, let's turn to bullying itself. Bullying refers to some form of coercion or belittlement, whether emotional, verbal, or physical. Bullying often happens in the presence of a crowd of uninvolved bystanders, which adds to the victim's sense of humiliation. Bullying involves hurting someone through some sort of abusive language or behavior, usually intentionally. In some instances, casual or flippant words may have the same effect as bullying, even if they were not intended spitefully. Some common forms of bullying are name-calling, exclusion from events, verbal or written abuse, and physical violence.

Those who are victims of bullying often suffer the effects of bullying all their life. They typically feel belittled, and sometimes take that out on others by becoming aggressive or bullying themselves. Victims often feel lonely, depressed, and suffer from very low self-esteem. If you have had any experiences being bullied, you will remember the feeling of humiliation and misery as a result. It should come as no surprise, then, that those who are bullied also suffer from increased risk of suicide.

Bullying is a huge issue in our world, and can be found in as many different environments as there are people: school, the workplace, clubs and activities, on the Internet, and more.

Now, how can we translate this issue to our own fantasy worlds? The opportunities are nearly endless. Even fantasy races can participate in bullying, whether as bullies, bystanders, or victims. The psychological consequences of being bullied can add layers of meaning to certain characters in your story. You could include bullying as a backstory for a character, or you could make a character who has to stand up to bullying over the course of your novel.

One thing that I'd like to encourage here is that we, both as people and as writers, should have compassion on everyone involved in bullying. Of course we should condemn bullying wholeheartedly. However, we can also recognize that bullies and bystanders might sometimes deserve some compassion because of the things that are out of control in their lives (although that's not to say we should support their responses). Keep in mind the fact that everyone is hurt by bullying. Look for ways to translate bullying in your story into more complex situations with the potential for redemption.

Let me know what you think. Have you ever written a story in which someone is bullied? Do any of your "bad guys" show signs of being bullies? Have you read stories that dealt with this issue? (Note: If you're interested in finding out more information about bullying, I'd start with Wikipedia's overview here and the US government's stop bullying site here.)


  1. This is a helpful post, Sienna. :) I have a character who verbally bullies my main character in my story. These are some good things for me to consider - thank you.


    1. I'm glad you find it helpful! Oh, I'm glad it's applicable to your story! Keep up the good work :)


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Proverbs 15:1
"A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger."