Thursday, 16 April 2009

Steampunk World's Guide to Badassery: writing bad-ass characters

What is a bad-ass?

Those characters so dedicated to their goal that nothing and no-one will stand in their way. Those characters who will not be stopped. They are larger than life, able to withstand the most dire of physical punishments and still keep cracking one-liners.

Famous Badasses

Bad-ass characters are becoming so popular they seem to fall over themselves in fiction. I have a few personal favourites;
  • John McClane, Die Hard. Focused, unstoppable, takes bucketloads of punishment, cracks one-liners (even one with a Permanent Marker; Now I have a machine gun. Ho ho ho.) and has a catch-phrase.
  • Ellen Ripley, Alien etc. Focused, unstoppable, takes bucketloads of punishment, but a bit short on the one-liners.
  • Porter, Payback. One of my all-time favourite films.
  • Riddick, Pitch Black and Chronicles.
  • Chev Chelios, Crank and Crank 2.
  • Harry Dresden, of the Dresden Files series of novels.

Writing your own bad-ass

You can see from watching the above badasses in action what you need when writing them.

  • Make them hurt. In Die Hard John McClane gets pretty busted up, even getting his bare feet cut up by broken glass. The more pain they can take without going under, the more bad ass they are.
  • Make them focused. All these bad-ass characters have a goal they want that they focus on to the exclusion of everything else.
  • Make them witty. Don't underestimate the power of the one-liner.
  • Give them style. Long, flairing coats, manga poses and so on are all popular in movies. Similar things can be achieved in fiction. Obviously not exactly the same.
  • Make them witty. One-liners are essential.


  1. Making them witty is so important that it was listed twice! :P Good advice, though

  2. Ha, yeah - it's that important.

  3. Yeaaaah Riddick! :D
    Riddick is awesome, I love his one-liners and, well, everything.

  4. Don't forget the original bad-ass: John Wayne, The Duke.