Why your badass character sucks

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Is your character a girl in her 20s who's a quirky, kinda clumsy, funny, totally relatable girl who's such a badass she acts cool as a cucumber while she single-handedly takes out 5 hunky men who are trying to capture her to take her to the villain/her future husband before she makes her escape running in high heels because she's just that talented of a gal?

If so, congratulations, you've written one of the many types of cringy characters. This one is known as the badass.

The badass is always combat-ready, usually at least, sometimes they get caught off guard like when their house gets broken into by bad guys and they were watching The Office in bed and eating snacks lolz but don't worry they sleep with a gun and have weapons stashed over the whole house. They often have had their parents die tragically somehow (usually by the hand of the villain) solely so they could be taken in by their sensei and trained at a young age and shown tough love!

As someone who writes stories revolving around action, crime, and violence, I fucking hate when authors do the badass character type. It is one of the most annoying, boring things you can do. Female characters in particular are way worse than badass male characters because they are always mixed in with the strong independent waman or gender-reversed roles bullshit.

iT's nOt bOriNg, iT's inTeNsE aNd CoOl!! Now, having John Wick moments is something I can definitely get behind and prefer in a book. But, having a character who never experiences any type of actual hardship/loss and is always protected, or who magically breaks into full-on ninja assassin mode out of bumfuck nowhere is something called Plot Armor.

Plot armor refers to the phenomenon in media where the character always makes it out of dangerous/intense situations unscathed physically and mentally. There's no major loss in the story and nobody has to sacrifice anything or make tough decisions to reach their goal in the plot. In simple words, there's little to no real tension.

That mafia shootout your character got in out of nowhere that lead to everyone around her dying? Yeah she killed one of the bad guys with her secret knife she keeps on her, took his gun, and returned fire!  And did I mention she was wearing a REALLY tight cocktail dress, a full face of makeup, AND heels? Yeah, and good thing she had that extra hair tie she totally forgot to take off of her wrist before leaving to tie her long brown hair back! She may have watched everyone around her die violently, but she's fine! No trauma here! She's just mad she didn't kill the biggest bad guy, but she'll hunt him down! Pfft, war veterans and police are so weak for having PTSD from witnessing violence and death!

An example I like to use of plot armor that many people will know about is Twilight. In Twilight Alice Cullen is a psychic and she sees every single bad event that's about to happen so the family can prepare. This is one of the reasons the plot is so fucking underwhelming aside from everything else, there's never risk or surprise because Alice is the plot armor protecting everyone from ever getting caught off guard.

Nor did any characters ever die, seriously get injured, or have to make sacrifices. Yeah sure Bella gets her arm bitten or whatever and breaks her spine having that weird CGI baby creature but those aren't things that truly threaten the characters or impact the plot's outcome. Think of how much more interesting and intense the action and villains could have been if they weren't always prepared for shit or conveniently protected.

Good action and true intensity should have you on the edge of your seat, anxious to find out what happens and brewing with questions as you read. Your badass character? It doesn't bring me to the edge of my seat because I already know nothing is going to happen to them.

Jokes aside, I know very well from personal experience that plot armor and overly powerful characters are easy to do unintentionally. It's easy for writers to get too caught up in the exciting stuff before they realize that the story needs a balance of exciting and tragic.

As I explained what it is, a lack of tension, plot armor is usually pretty easy to diagnose in your plot. But fear not you uneducated writer, this isn't too difficult to fix.

How to fix plot armor?

Stop babying your story. Let your characters get hurt, let some die, let them get stressed out and panic/fumble, let them struggle, give them lasting effects like a real person would have.

And no, your character getting hurt and released from the hospital a day after the incident and going right back to badassery doesn't count. They don't need to lose an arm and leg, but again, lasting effects. They could get something as simple as a cut on their right buttcheek, but the scar reminds them of what happened every time they see it.

And also no, only letting unimportant side characters who we don't really know die does not count either. Let the MC's close friend die or someone that will turn the readers' worlds upside down. Remember, you want to invoke emotion, and there's no better way to do that than being a cruel witch and killing their favorite characters.

Yes, I know some of you don't like fucking up your characters because you love them. But its a necessary evil if ya want shit to be interesting.

Think about your scenarios realistically. Plot armor often doesn't set up scenes realistically, there will always be things conveniently placed for the character, such as getting rescued just seconds before death. Or weapons, exits, and whatever else that allows them to get out perfectly unharmed.

If your character is lost in an abandoned hospital at night when a serial killer starts chasing them, don't make them conveniently stumble into one of the operating rooms where they pick up a knife that was ever so conveniently placed out on the table behind them so they can stab the killer before conveniently, now all of the sudden, finding an exit and running out then going home to sleep like nothing happened.

Or another example of unrealisticness is characters winning/surviving situations they shouldn't. How does a teenage girl survive a gunfight and not only manage to not get shot, but protect herself too? How does the MC with barely any skills or abilities win against a battle with a villain who's been evil for centuries?

Don't write yourself into a corner. A lot of times plot armor also occurs because authors write themselves into corners. They jump into an idea and realize the only way to actually make this idea work is to write the character very unrealistically protected. If you have an idea that's supposed to add tension, think it through and plan it before you get excited and start writing it.

Jumping on ideas no matter what they are is always a bad impulse. Trust me, I've jumped on enough ideas myself and ended up regretting it in my time as a writer to have a PhD in this shit. 

Think of it with cause and effect. The cause is the exciting part of the idea you're ready to pounce with. The effect is what decides if the character will end up hurt, dead, traumatized, or whatever else, but they need to end up something. (I.e Cause: Enemies raid the MC's village. Effect: The MC fights but gets injured, and the events have changed them as a person.)

It's also important to remember that you don't need constant action. Writing action too frequently will often lead to plot armor. It will also get boring really quickly, there are only so many fight scenes readers can sit through before it becomes repetitive. We get it, Addison Moonwell of the Blood Stone wolfpack likes to fight and her inner wolf takes over during it. Enough with the ball-kicking badassery scenes.

And don't raise your story's stakes for no reason. Writing high stakes can be good. BUT if you're only trying to make your plot more intense solely because you want it to be more interesting to readers, chances are your stakes will start to require plot armor in order to be solved. Making your prophecy child MC wanted dead by an entire realm of fantasy creatures or starting your book with the entire world at stake of obliteration is going to take a lot of unrealistic shit to get through, so chill the fuck out. Start your plot small and build on intensity naturally as things progress.

And of course, not every action scene needs to result in loss. Let your character win at times or at first, but they need to lose a couple of times later on. They need to experience highs and lows.

Anyways, if your book has plot armor, it's not the death of your story like it should be the death of your characters. It's simply time to deconstruct your plot and throw some shit at the fan. Sometimes that's easier said than done but just take your time and use your wet meaty noodle to think hard on what you're doing.

Time and patience with your work is honestly the boss key in the dungeon of writing.

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