Note: There is a difference between “badass” and “badboy”. I'll cover both in this how-to.
A badass is a character that is so utterly and unbelievably cool, fanfictions will spawn about him/her, and they will have an abnormally big fanbase of squealing girls AND boys. A badboy is a sex god of a boy that makes girls (and some boys) swoon. Badboys are cliché in stories these days (but hey, I'm completely guilty of having these characters in my stories), but badasses NEVER get old.
First, I'll cover the badasses. How do you make a character truly badass and cool and awesome? There is only one thing: make them REALLY good at something. That's it. Oh, and they probably should rub it in some conceited, egotisitical douche's face while they're at it. Give them a skill they're the best at. No one in the story should be better than them at this skill.
According to urbandictionary, a badass is: "Awesome to an extreme level, thereby leveraging unquestionable authority."
And in the words of my good friend on here, Limpid-Purity: "There's just this unspeakable awesome epic feeling that comes whenever a badass walks into the spotlight. 8D"
I can't think of any badasses in literature off the top of my head, so I'll talk about TV shows and movies.
In White Collar, Neal is a brilliant con man and art thief. When he picks a lock or breaks into a safe, it blows our mind how easily and confidently he does it.
In Death Note, Light is a genius and his evil schemes are so brilliant and well-thought out, no one can catch him. He is always self-assured and is ten steps ahead of the cops.
In Iron Man, Tony Stark is a conceited jerk, but he has the brains to back all that up. No one can work robotics like him. He built one of the most technologically advanced robotic suits in a CAVE, with SCRAP METAL.
In Pokemon, Ash turned his hat around, and you knew shit was about to go down. He'd pull some insane move at that point. Though we all know Red is the true badass of the Pokemon world.
Toph from Avatar: The Last Airbender was blind, but she was the greatest earthbender in the world at the age of twelve. She was so talented that she even invented metalbending.
Oh, here's a great badass moment from Eragon's 4th book, Inheritance: The opening scene where Eragon just blows through all the guards without breaking a sweat. He punched a soldier and threw him into the ceiling. Who wasn't impressed at that moment?
The key thing about badass characters is that they are calm and confident while doing something really impressive and mind-blowing. They shouldn't have to try too hard (or it shouldn't LOOK like they're trying too hard). For that to happen, they have to be really good at that skill, whatever it may be (fighting, running, driving, climbing, physics, math, chemistry, etc.). You can have them be born with that talent, or they can work for and acquire that skill. Either way, look out, you've got a badass over here.
WARNING: Do not make your character good at everything. That will make them a Mary Sue/Gary Stu. Make them really good at one thing but really bad at something else. If they're a genius with cars, they can be socially inept. Someone who is the greatest swordsman of all time can get very clumsy around women.
I got this from urbandictionary.com. It's a very good example of a badass showing up a douchebag:
Poser Jock: "Look at my muscles, I can bench 250lbs, I could knock any of you b/c I'm so badass!"
Badass: "Alright. Prove it."
*Poser Jock makes a beeline at the Badass and throws a punch that misses the Badass, and ends up hitting the wall.*
Poser Jock: "Oww, my hand!"
*Badass throws one quick punch to the gut, knocking the Poser Jock out cold."
Nerd #1: "Look, he punched that poser jock out! He's such a badass!"
*Badass says nothing*
Now, onto badboys. Badboys are my favorite character archetype because I'm a hopeless fangirl, so I'm actually going to promote this cliché. (Don't hurt me.)
What makes a proper badboy?
Badboys are those guys who don't follow the rules. They act cool and don't care when they get in trouble. They're usually extremely good looking.
There are the superficial aspects of a badboy that provide aesthetic padding: motorcycle, leather jacket, sports car, alcohol/smoking, sunglasses, guns, muscles, black clothing.
In most stories on here, this is where the author stops character development. They just focus on those superficial aspects and don't go any deeper into the character's psyche. They're just a pretty face, and there's no personality. That's why badboys have fallen into the cliché category. To make them unique, you give them backstory. You give them a legit reason for being the way they are.
I'll use my character as an example because I know him better than any other badboy character in popular literature. Actually, I can't even think of any badboys in popular literature.... (Hamlet was the original badboy. Broody, wearing black, talking to skulls, full of angst, and awesome with a sword. I haven't read that one in a few years, and forgot most of the story, so I won't talk about him and bore you with my Shakesperian ramblings.)
Anyway. My badboy character, Darren, has a motorcycle and a biker jacket and all that good stuff, but he has a reason. Several actually. He grew up in the ghetto with an alcoholic father, and his mother walked out on them when he was a kid because of said alcoholic father. He joined the gang his father had been with.
There, think we're done with characterization? NO. You have to go even deeper if you want to make your badboy fleshed out and developed and three-dimensional.
Darren is smart. He's REALLY smart. (This is what makes him a badass at certain points. He can do calculus problems in his head in seconds. No, that is not nerdy. Okay, maybe a little nerdy.) He goes to Yale University because he's so smart. He wants to turn his life around and get his Ph.D and become a world famous archeologist. Now he has a goal, and remember, having a valid goal gives your character depth.
Done yet? Nope, sorry. Darren has severe depression. He was suicidal for most of the story, but he still goes around making jokes to lighten his own mood. That's also why he drives a motorcycle around—because it's the one thing he finds really fun, and driving around on his bike at dangerous speeds makes him happy for a little while.
Okay, now I'm done. But my point is that you have to give your character LAYERS. The badboy appearance (leather jacket, motorcycle, etc.) is just the icing on the cake. They need REASONS why they act all badboy-ish and don't follow conventional rules and such. Do they skip class? Why? Not just because they're bored or want to look cool. Give them a proper reason that goes deep into their character. Maybe they do something else instead of going to class such as helping out homeless kids or earning money for a just cause. Or is it a darker reason like their father called them useless and hopeless, so they don't think going to class is worth it?
Give them reasons.
LIKE ONIONS. AND OGRES. LAYERS.
YOU ARE READING
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