1. Canary

    Canary New Member

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    Mean Girl Character Ideas.

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Canary, Jun 25, 2019.

    I am currently writing a teen fiction book set in high school. I have a 'mean girl' type character and I'm struggling for ideas on how I can have her be presented as a 'mean girl' 'queen bee' type character without using overly used actions like walking into people or just being mean to the less popular people.

    I have thought of the idea of her being a character the audience can sympathise with. She wears a mask (make-up) to hide her real emotions and is mean to other students because it is a way of coping with all of her own issues. I want her to have a redemption arc as the main character sees the other side of her which she hides and helps her to deal with it all.

    I'm still near the beginning of the book and have yet to show the audience that she is the mean girl character but I don't want to use overly used actions to show this.

    Any ideas?
     
  2. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    I think as a 15 year old girl you probably have more idea than most of us what mean girl characters are really like... that said its important that your characters are complex - a character who is only a mean girl is a 2d stereotype rather than a rounded character

    BTW welcome to the forum and all that jazz.
     
  3. EstherMayRose

    EstherMayRose Gay Souffle Contributor

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    Hi, Canary, welcome to the forum!

    First off, if you haven't already, I recommend watching the film Mean Girls. As well as being iconic, it gives a very clever deconstruction of the habits displayed by Regina, and later Cady, to maintain her status as the school's Queen Bee. One thing I noticed in the film, that tallies with what I've seen in real life, is that a lot of girls pretend to be nice while they're being unkind. For example, Regina compliments Cady's bracelet when they first meet, which Cady recalls when she tells another girl her skirt looks great, only to insult it when the girl moves on. She also chases off a boy who hits on Cady by insulting and belittling him. The girls who made my life Hell at school constantly insisted that we were best friends, and beamed when they greeted me. They insisted that their insults were only jokes. All these techniques mean that if someone calls them out on their behaviour, they can play the victim and claim that they were only trying to be nice (they may even try and flip the script on the victim and claim that they're the bully, which may or may not count as gaslighting).

    Anyway, before this turns into a rant about my high school years, the question you need to ask yourself is what is she hiding? What emotions is she covering up, and what issues do these stem from? I have a mean girl in one of my WIPs who picks on others to feel powerful, in order to escape her feelings of insecurity brought on by her mother's disappointment in her. The book is about her learning to find another outlet for her insecurity which can help her grow past it. If you show the girl's feelings when she picks on others (which can admittedly be hard if she's not the MC), you can create empathy for her, especially if she's not happy. I find that feeling sorry for a character can be a route into (but absolutely NOT a substitute for) liking them, especially if you show her trying to do better. If she's not the MC, you could show the MC seeing her in a state of vulnerability - for example, I read a book where the mean girl found the MC crying because she missed her parents (boarding school) and she comforted her in a stiff, grudging sort of way, confessing that her parents had not come to visit her as the other girls' had because they didn't care about her. This helped humanise her and give the reader understanding of why she picked on people.

    Returning more calmly to the first point, you could have the girl target things that matter to her victims - for example, stealing or destroying an item of particular sentimental value, insulting a talent that the victim hopes to turn into a career, wrecking someone's lunch when they know that's the only meal they'll get all day. This can also help to vary the things she does, which is also important. And one thing that makes a bully that much more insidious - never have them actually break school rules. The fact that everything the people who picked on me did was pretty small in isolation made it impossible to get help from the teachers.

    I don't know if any of this is helpful to the story you want to tell, but hopefully you can take something from this.
     
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  4. Some Guy

    Some Guy Manguage Langler Supporter Contributor

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    Wow EMR. I'm actually using some of this now. :)
     
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  5. Maggie May

    Maggie May Active Member

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    It might be the only part of the MG's life that she can control. Another idea is that it is the armor that protects her from being hurt. In both cases, the loss of control/getting hurt is usually tied to her home life. That part of her life being exposed could create the empathy you are looking for.
     
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  6. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    @EstherMayRose has made some excellent points, in my opinion.

    I particularly liked the idea of doing stuff 'under the radar' or stuff that isn't actually rule-breaking. Stealing, or hitting would probably be rule-breaking. Making mean comments about somebody's clothing might not be. Overly praising something that actually wasn't done well at all—making the bullied person feel really embarrassed—would definitely be hard to nail. Bullies often seem to enjoy the edge game ...getting as close to the edge of getting 'caught' as possible.

    Bullies often attempt to discover weakness in the people they bully. They might pretend to be your friend, find out what bothers you or what you most love or value ...and then they go to town on what they've learned. Again, this can be devastating, but difficult to counteract. It's not something you can 'report' very easily, because it makes you look like a wimp. So you just have to take it. Nasty.

    Mind you, if a bully tries this approach, you can simply pretend you're not bothered at all. They might either quit, or escalate. And if they escalate, sooner or later they WILL screw up. Then you can nail them.
     
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  7. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    i find a punch in the teeth works wonders (although i told my freinds little girl that and she decked a bully two years older than her in in assembly... enter my freind, so sophia why did you hit whatever her name was hasnt mummy told you that nice girls don't fight, sophia: because uncle pete told me it was okay to hit bullies...oh dear )
     
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  8. Richach

    Richach Member Supporter

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    Whenever I need inspiration I read, read, read! I am really back into the book theif right now. The author does alot of things the right way.

    His descriptive language is incredible. He describes characters, scenes in his unique style. I have the audio book and the first two pages alone are worth a listen. I beleive you can listen for free somehow...

    If that book does not inspire people then I dont know what would!

    I think it all comes down to how you show / tell your story and characters. Maybe think about writing the bad girls backstory first. Get to know her, then put her into your story. That way you know how she will react to whatever situation you put her into.

    Good luck and welcome!
     
  9. Lorne Nettles

    Lorne Nettles New Member

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    Just a thought. Perhaps you can do an opening scene when the 15 year old is at home. Her dad is working late at the office again. She's with her highly superficial, somewhat overbearing mother who cares a lot about what others think in relation to their looks, home, clothes, etc. Also, her mom drinks copious amounts of Chardonnay each evening. The girl could be throwing away an empty bottle and washing a glass in the sink after completing her algebra homework or something. She's trying hard to be perfect for the sake of her mom and dad - and it gives off the mean girl vibe. But, all the while it's just her was of coping with the pain.

    Maybe some of those elements will help you. Let me know what you decide.
     
  10. cosmic lights

    cosmic lights Senior Member

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    The trouble is you've given her a "label" all ready which means you'll fit her into a box if you're not careful, and it's good you're asking others for outside opinions and you've had some really good ones so far

    "Mean" people are usually bullies and people bully for obvious reasons. A girl at my school was a real bully. Because she felt she had no control over her life or her emotions, but she could control other people's and make them feel as misery and lonely as she did. It made her feel less alone. They were someone to take her anger out on. What no one knew was that she controlled something else...food. She hid anorexia. It was just another desperate attempt for some power in her life. She killed herself at nineteen, and you don't do something like that for nothing. Does it excuse her behaviour? No. But it gave answers to all the people whose life she made a misery. She was never a happy person.

    People always focus on the victim of bullies, but they don't often see that somewhere in that bullies life they are/have been a victim themselves.
     
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  11. marshipan

    marshipan Senior Member

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    I agree with EsterMayRose that all the mean girls I came across in high school were for some reason also my "close" friends. For instance I had a best friend for a while who spent a lot of time trash talking another girl in our grade (Jessica). She'd go on and on about Jessica in such a negative way. I knew they used to be friends and were neighbors still though. It seemed like an intense situation, where my friend had some dramatic hate towards this girl. She was also a big teaser towards me. Constantly putting me down in a "joking" way. Come to find out she was talking behind my back just as much as she was talking behind Jessica's. She actually hung out with Jessica just as much as me and was "best" friends with her like she was with me. Except in Jessica's scenario I was the one she constantly trash talked. She had some SERIOUS self confidence issues. It was shocking.

    I actually had that happen a few times. Although none surprised me as much as that one.
     
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  12. Maverick_nc

    Maverick_nc Active Member

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    I quite like the idea of using Social media or WhatsApp for this. Possibilities are pretty much endless, especially if you invent your own! But just one idea:
    All the girls are members of a group or site and the mean girl disses/posts comments or pictures about other [less popular girls] fashion or starts rumours about them etc etc.
    Perhaps she's rich and attractive and always in the latest fashion so other girls are drawn to her - but underneath those expensive clothes she's wearing bruises from life at home.... (This is probably too cliched, but just some more ideas)
     
  13. EstherMayRose

    EstherMayRose Gay Souffle Contributor

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    Going back to Mean Girls, the four-way call scene could be so much more effective with social media and group chats, like Maverick said. Imagine her creating all sorts of combinations in group chats so she and other girls can slag someone off in one group chat, and that person is a member of another group chat so they slag someone off from the first group chat, and some people are in both but dare not say anything for fear of risking her wrath... The possibilities are endless. What kind of story are you telling here? What POV are you writing it in? I could offer more suggestions if you gave us some more information.

    Also, I think it would be pretty cool if she actually wasn't superlatively rich or attractive, but instead established her queen bee status through strength of character. Maybe the MC could even have a certain respect for her, as well as her hatred/fear of her.

    The relevant phone scene (ignore the weird music):

     
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  14. Canary

    Canary New Member

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    Thanks for your help already and after what you have previously said, I have watched Mean Girls (I somewhat enjoyed it) and it has given me some ideas.

    To give you some more information, the Mean Girl plot line is a sub-plot as the main idea as its to do with the Main character's love life and her fear of people leaving in which her sub-consciousness creates Aphrodite (Greek Goddess of Love) in the form of a plus-sized drag queen to help her, but that's the main plot so isn't to do with the sub-plot of this mean girl character.

    After reading the ideas of some of the people on here, I've created a basic backstory in which her parents are divorced and she lives with her father and his girlfriend. The girlfriend is just using her father and shes the only one who sees it. I like the idea of her being mean in order to obtain some control so she uses her mean actions as a way for people to listen to her, if you get what I mean.

    I'm still struggling for ideas (that are not overly used) of mean actions that redeemable (again, if you get what I mean). So far, she insults other students and makes many mean comments. The idea of her being nice while being mean behind their backs doesn't really work in this particular idea as the main character, along with her friends, already sees her as mean. I'm just not good at writing mean characters.

    Any new ideas are greatly needed...
     

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