The Two Keys to Writing a Menacing Antagonist

by Ruthanne Reid | 48 comments

This post is by our newest regular contributor, indie author Ruthanne Reid. Ruthanne writes about elves, aliens, vampires, and space-travel, and she is the author of the Among the Mythos series. You can get her novel, FOR DAWS TO PECK AT, free. Welcome to the team, Ruthanne!

True menace is hard to write.

Spoiler: Writing a good villain is not about superpowers. It's also not about back story. Both of those can help you write a menacing antagonist, but they can also make your antagonist simply silly, or so sympathetic that readers forget to be scared (I'm looking at you, Loki).

Writng a Menacing Antagonist

How to Write a Menacing

So what is the key? A truly menacing antagonist can be summed up in this simple formula: payoff + conviction = actual menace.

Read on to see how this works.

Menacing Antagonist Key #1: Payoff

Everybody wants something.

This is an old writer's trope by now, crystallized neatly by Kurt Vonnegut as, “Make your characters want something right away even if it's only a glass of water.”

But why does the character want a glass of water? He doesn't want water for water's sake. He isn't going to hide it under his bed (assuming his bed is high enough to hide a glass tumbler).

He wants the water so he can drink it and satisfy his thirst.

Nobody wants a thing for its own sake. They want the payoff — the thing they get from whatever they're after. Nobody wants want power just for power, but because of what power gives them — safety, security, pleasure, revenge, control, etc. Nobody wants to be evil just to be evil, or to oppose heroes just to oppose heroes, or to create pollution just to pollute. There's always a payoff.

Yes, this includes the supposed amoral villain who “just wants to watch the world burn.” Even that guy is getting satisfaction for some reason from his behavior. Your job as a writer is to figure out what that payoff is.

And there's more.

Menacing Antagonist Key #2: Conviction

The more your antagonist believes they're right, the harder they'll fight for their payoff.

I'll let these folks at Psychology Today say it for me:

[T]he more strongly people believe their attitude is correct, the more competitive they will be in their discussions.

(Feel free to read “competitive” as “building giant robots” and “discussions” as “razing New York.”)

This really applies to your characters. Sure, the trope of “bad guys” who switch sides at the last moment makes an effective redemption arc (e.g. Darth Vader in Return of the Jedi). But the thing is, that makes the character less scary.

When you have a bad guy who's unsure whether their behavior is right, they waver. They hesitate. You can count on them not to go for the killing blow.

An antagonist without conviction won't press the “Start World War III” button.

An antagonist with conviction will—and that is considerably more menacing.

Your job as a writer is to see how your antagonist believes what they're doing is justified no matter what social mores, common sense, or “morality” says.

Three Examples of Menacing Antagonists

I think it's time for examples.

1. Stephen King's Misery

Plot in a sentence: a bestselling author crashes his car and wakes up not in a hospital, but in the home of a rabid fan—who tortures him until he writes the ending she wants.

Annie Wilkes (portrayed brilliantly by Kathy Bates) is a nurse. She doesn't have superpowers. What she does have is a payoff (emotional completion via a character through whom she's been vicariously living) and conviction (the full, unwavering belief that she has the right—if not the duty—to force the author to do this).

Annie Wilkes in Misery

These two things together make her terrifying. She kidnaps him. She breaks his bones. She drugs him. She nearly takes his life, all over a fictional character—which only makes sense if you consider her payoff and her conviction. (If you haven't read Misery or seen the movie, I'd advise it, but only if you have a strong stomach. Side effects may include deciding to use a pen name and/or avoidance of all public appearances.)

Payoff + conviction = actual menace.

2. The Underminer from The Incredibles

Pixar created both a menacing antagonist and an intentionally silly one in The Incredibles—an animated film which, if you have not seen, you must.

Plot in a sentence: Under the burden of secrecy, a superhero family struggles for unity while facing a foe who seems hellbent on murdering every single superhero in the world.

The first antagonist from The Incredibles I want to look at, The Underminer, was created as a joke. You may not remember him. (Here's a refresher clip, just in case.) He shows up at the end of The Incredibles, serving the dual purpose of lightening the mood and emphasizing that the Incredibles are now fighting together as a family (a major plot point).

Initially, he looks like a credible threat. His heavy machines come crashing up through the ground, causing massive damage and major panic. He's strong, armed, and very dangerous. He's frightening.

Until he opens his mouth.

“Behold, the Underminer! I hereby declare war on peace and happiness!”

The Underminer from The Incredibles

Yeah. That happened. (The delivery from John Ratzenberger makes it funnier. Seriously, go watch that clip.) Why is he so funny? Because who the frick-frack paddywhack would declare war on peace and happiness?

It's an absurd motivation. There's no real payoff. He may have conviction, but his goal is so silly that his credibility goes right out the window.

Now contrast that with this guy:

3. Syndrome from The IncrediblesSyndrome from The Incredibles

For context, in this picture, Syndrome is threatening the protagonist's baby. Yes, his baby. This guy just went after somebody's infant.

Here's why he's so menacing:

As a child, this character idolized the movie's main protagonist, Mr. Incredible. Syndrome was a brilliant kid, an inventor, and felt that Mr. Incredible's powers and position as superhero gave Mr. Incredible worth. Value. Meaning. Happiness.

But when Mr. Incredible refused to take him on as a sidekick, Syndrome went from wanting to be good (because of the accolades, worth, meaning) to being “bad” (where he felt he could find accolades, worth, and meaning). He felt that Mr. Incredible had denied him happiness.

“If we idolize, we must also demonize,” said Jonathan Edwards, and it was never truer than in this movie. Syndrome is a bitter, complicated, empathetic, yet dangerous villain. He wants money and fame; he wants acknowledgment and praise; he wants revenge on the idol who failed him; he wants to have what matters, all while taking what matters away from the one who hurt him. (That linked video clip is pretty self-explanatory.)

That's why he's murdering superheroes. That's why he's building an army. That's why he's doing everything. Talk about a payoff.

Combine that with the full conviction that what he's doing is right (that he deserves it, that he's earned it, that the world owes him all these things), and you have a genuinely menacing villain who won't hesitate to go after an innocent child.

Say it with me: payoff + conviction = menace.

And it's practice time.

How about you? Who is your favorite menacing villain? Let us know in the comments section.

PRACTICE

Take your most menacing antagonist (and if you don't have one, this is a great chance to create one) and give them the chance to explain why they're doing what they're doing.

You're looking for the payoff (what they get from the thing they're after) and conviction (why they believe they're completely right to go after it).

Practice this for fifteen minutes. When you’re finished, post whatever you have in the comments.

Don't forget to comment on someone else’s practice with your feedback!

Best-Selling author Ruthanne Reid has led a convention panel on world-building, taught courses on plot and character development, and was keynote speaker for The Write Practice 2021 Spring Retreat.

Author of two series with five books and fifty short stories, Ruthanne has lived in her head since childhood, when she wrote her first story about a pony princess and a genocidal snake-kingdom, using up her mom’s red typewriter ribbon.

When she isn’t reading, writing, or reading about writing, Ruthanne enjoys old cartoons with her husband and two cats, and dreams of living on an island beach far, far away.

P.S. Red is still her favorite color.

48 Comments

  1. LilianGardner

    Thanks, Ruthanne, for this detailed guide and video clips of how to create an antagonist’s ‘pay-off’ and ‘convinction’ to make the character interesting and credible.

    I’m not-so-good at creating a truly mean, revengeful person, but I’m giving it a try, from an example in real life.
    I’ll post it soon, hoping for some feedback.

    Reply
    • ruthannereid

      I look forward to it, Lilian!

    • LilianGardner

      Hi Ruthanne,
      This is what i came up with.

      Revenge and Betrayal

      Stanley Vance burned with hatred for Bill Summers. Each day
      his hatred grew deeper and deeper, until it became unbearable, like sickening from over feeding on venom.

      Although the incident happened three years back, when Bill
      humiliated him, making him a laughing stock before the crowd, Stanley could not forget it. He could not look people in the face anymore because of this.

      On his day off from work, he strolled to the city park, and
      before sitting, spread his newspaper on a vacant, concrete bench, which was shaded and obscured from view by the branches of a spreading chestnut tree. He wanted to think without interruptions.

      Some junior school kids were playing at cops and robbers, brandishing
      their toy guns and yelling bang! bang as their imaginary shots left the barrels. He watched them for a moment.

      ‘Wish I could shoot you, Bill Summers. Yeah! Shoot you in
      the head and wipe that sick smile off your face for good,’ he hissed, bitter words escaping through locked jaws. His fists clenched tight, showed whitebone from under the taut skin but he didn’t see them, instead he pictured the time he snatched the old woman’s
      handbag on a deserted street, and when he nicked Dave Wilson’s fat wallet, full of crisp bank notes, and the time he…. ‘They never found out who the culprit was,’ he thought, priding himself for his wily actions. ‘I can do it again,’ he said.

      He straightened his back, scowled as he pummelled the side
      of his fists on the bench, more than ever determined to pay back Bill Summers.

      He dared not challenge Bill to a fight because Bill was double
      his size, and strong and muscular from bodybuilding. However, he desired to hear Bill beg for mercy, and apologise for the ridicule he caused. ‘I’ll ask Spike to give a hand. Spike’s the meanest guy around, he’s tough and he’s always ready for playing it rough. He has some weird ideas, too. I hope he won’t expect too much cash for his help’.

      Stanley stood up, folded the newspaper, tucked it under his
      arm and set out for Spike’s place. He wore a satisfied smile and whistled, knowing that the day for revenge was near.

      He reached Spike’s house, saw the muddy scooter on the
      porch, and knew he was in. On the second ring of the doorbell, Spike drew aside the curtain to view the caller through the glass window. Stanley waved his hand, smiled and spoke with raised voice, ‘Hey, Spike, how yer doin? Got a second? I want to ask yer something’.

      ‘Hi,’ Spike returned, rubbed his sleepy eyes, yawned widely and
      ran his finger through his unkempt, long hair. ‘I’ll be out in a moment,’
      he said and letting the curtain drop, disappeared from the window.

      Stanley noticed he was wearing pyjamas, which amused him. He never imagined a tough, mean bully to wear pyjamas. He sat on the rickety chair on the porch and waited.

      ‘So? What d’y wants to talk about?’ Spike asked, stepping
      out of the doorway.

      Stanley went straight to the point, knowing that Spike wasn’t a man for preliminary fancy talk. ‘It’s about Bill Summers. I hate that swine. I want to teach him a lesson and I need your help’.

      ‘I’m sure you can tackle him alone,’ Spike said, ‘or are you
      chicken?’. He leaned against the wall with a cigarette dangling from his lips, to size up the man before him. He drew on his cigarette, rolled the smoke around in his mouth and blew it out slowly, in a long breath. ‘Well, what d’y want me to do? Beat the hell outta him? Set fire to his
      house?’

      ‘Hey, I never thought of that,’ Stan said, ignoring the question of being chicken.
      ‘All I want is to force him to apologize for making a fool outta me three years back. Setting fire to his house isn’t a bad idea at all’, he said, approving.

      ‘What’ll you give me?’

      Something I can afford’.

      ‘Half your next pay check’, Spike drawled, looking at the sky.

      Stephen hesitated for a moment. He visualised the fear in
      Bill Summer’s eyes as they gagged him and soaked some rags with petrol to put around the house, warning him that if he did not apologise, they would set flame to the rags.
      He gloated at the vision of Bill, begging, weeping, imploring and apologising. ‘Like a vulture, ready to wrench a chunk of flesh
      out of live prey, that’s how good it will be,’ he thought.

      ‘Well?’ Spike prompted.

      ‘It’s a deal. I’ll give you the money when we’ve pulled off
      the stunt,’ he said.

      ‘Right! Come on in. Let’s work out the details,’ Spike said, crushing
      out his cigarette and leading the way to his dingy lounge. ‘Bring half of the cash tomorrow, or the deal’s off’.

      ‘OK,’ Stanley said with a bored sigh. ‘I’ll be around tomorrow’.

      When Stanley left, Spike rubbed his hands together. ‘I’ll
      inform Bill Summers about it, for a tidy sum, and make him promise not to disclose it to anyone. Then we’ll set the trap for Stanley after he’s gagged Bill. Stan’s a delinquent and it’s time he got caught’.

      He paused to gather his thoughts. ‘Not bad! Not bad, Spike,’ he complimented himself. ‘Double money in one go. Good shot,
      Spikey!’

      He shut the door and guffawed, emitting a sound as chilling
      as that of a hyena calling to the pack.

      He decided to visit Bill after he and Stan set the date and details for their attack.

    • ruthannereid

      Thanks for this terrific example! I definitely see this guy’s conviction. There’s no chance he’d hesitate to pull the trigger. Yowza.

      My only question is the payoff. What does he think he’ll get out of Summers apologizing? Or, to rephrase, what does he think he lost three years ago that he thinks this will give back?

      I ask because public humiliation clearly upset this guy, but he’s talking about a very private revenge and apology. People who look down on him still would. I’m really curious! 🙂

    • LilianGardner

      I should have added this when Stanley
      (wore a satisfied smile and whistled… revenge was near.)
      ‘He’ll crawl before me, cringing, begging, pleading; I can’t wait to see him on his knees. Oh, how I love the very thought; Bill Summers apologising to mean ol’ Stanley Vance. It’ll bring me some respect ‘.

  2. R.w. Foster

    “Why are you doing this, Drago?”

    “Because my dear Walker. There is too much chaos in the world.”

    “That doesn’t make sense.”

    “Doesn’t it?” The dark dwarf strode up to the chained Carter and smote his cheek. “It was Chaos which took my family. Chaos which killed my Clan. Chaos which caused all my suffering.” He turned his back on his captive and returned his attention to the staked out god. “With Keldur’s power, I will impose Order on the universe.”

    “You realize you’re fruitloops, right?”

    Drago whirled. “What?” His confusion caused his voice to go high.

    The beaten Walker of Worlds smirked, fighting off a grimace as his skin pulled against the dried blood along his cuts. “You. Are. Insane.” He pulled his right arm close to his temple and circled his index finger around it. “Crazy. Nuts. Take your pick.”

    The dark dwarf stalked over. Grabbing Carter’s face in a crushing grip, he leaned close enough for spittal to mist over his prisoner. “I. Have. Conviction. I serve justice.”

    “How, screwball? You are the one who killed your family. You slew your clan. You’re the cause of all your own pain and suffering.”

    An iron hard fist slammed into his face, splitting his lip further and bouncing the back of his skull off the stone wall behind him.

    “No. No. No!” Drago backhanded him. “This is your doing. Not mine.”

    Shaking off the fuzziness around his vision, Carter laughed. “Impossible. I was only drawn to the Realm because of you.”

    Another strike from Drago stopped him from continuing. The dark dwarf turned to his orc bodyguards. “Bring in the herald.”

    They nodded in obedience and left. Drago slunk over to the bound god. “Well, Keldur. Will you surrender?” The woodlands deity turned his head away, not deigning to respond. “Good. I was hoping you’d answer this way.” He showed a grin. The missing teeth showed how much damage he’d suffered in the fight with Carter.

    Grunting noises caught his attention. Drago turned to see his guards dragging in what appeared to be a small boy child. They shoved the herald to their master who then lifted him by the throat. Dangling his newest captive over the spread eagle god, he leered down. “How about now, Keldur?”

    Reply
    • ruthannereid

      Wow! This guy sounds like a major piece of work. I’m so curious how he came to cause his family’s death while blaming it on chaos. Am I right in saying his payoff would (in part) be cessation of the guilt he feels over that?

      There’s certainly no doubting his conviction!

    • R.w. Foster

      Maybe you are, and maybe you’re not. 😉 We’ll see; if I ever decide to finish it.

      By the by, did Drago seem menacing?

    • ruthannereid

      Yup. That assurance of his own righteousness bled through so clearly.

    • R.w. Foster

      o/ <– me cheering

    • Mike Stevens

      Thanks for clarifying what that was – had me worried for a while.

    • R.w. Foster

      Glad I was able to ease your mind, Doc. 😉

  3. Krithika Rangarajan

    Oh my – I am not a fiction writer, but your insights and examples had me hooked! You are a fabulous addition to ‘The Write Practice Team’

    Thanks Ruthanne #HUGS

    Kitto

    Reply
    • ruthannereid

      Thanks, Kitto! You put a smile on my face. 🙂

  4. Gary G Little

    Arrrggghh … I hate this. I know who the guy is, Jack Dunslo from my Bad Cheese story, but every time I try to describe him, to give him some character, he slips away.

    Was he dropped on his head as a baby? Nah. That’s just silly.

    In the universe I’m creating slavery has cropped it’s ugly head up again, and Dunslo is a slaver, the question is why? The ships he preys on are huge, measured in tens of kilometers by tens of kilometers, but are typically unarmed and easy pickings for Dunslo’s pirate vessel The One-Eyed Jack. But why is Dunslo a professional prick? He’s not a Nemo’ish character, but from whence cometh he?

    Arrrggghhhh … (hey he is a pirate)

    Maybe … his father was a former commander of the FS-541, The Admiral Blue, and disowned him when Jack was convicted of nefarious activities, stripped of rank and cashiered out of the service. Dad dies, Jack steals the FS-541, and eventually goes after the Edinburgh. He’s getting back at dear ol’ Dad?

    Reply
    • ruthannereid

      Possibly! That would be a motivation. There’s also the possibility he’s making money off it, which begs the question what money would provide for him (retiring, etc.).

    • Gary G Little

      Thanks Ruthanne. That recalcitrant character that would not play may be coming together. I need to add this to the story, and maybe do some description of the ship. How about a cylinder 20 Km wide, with farmland bending up from the left, and forest on the right lifting upwards to beautiful blue sea directly over head? This could be fun, but would someone that never heard of Clarke’s Rama series, or a Dyson sphere be interested? Talk about a real fairyland.

    • ruthannereid

      That’s a great description!

      As for that character… ooh, the stubborn ones are such a pain. Is there anyone he can talk to, anyone he might actually explain himself to? Not in an evil way, necessarily, but perhaps someone he thinks would understand and agree wtih him.

  5. Luther

    Mr. Willard, after ordering them to leave, watched the two boys push their bikes back in the direction from which they had entered, through the woods and away from him and his beautiful oak tree with it’s healing, empowering spring. He had to find a way to stop them from spreading the word about his spring. If other people knew what these waters held, he would be excluded from the woods and he had no intention of returning to a lonely life of rejection from adult society.
    His parents were poor drunkards and his family had been shunned by neighbors who had only come to respect him in recent years, because of the powers that the spring water had given him and the healing that other adults had experienced. There were several neighbors that were now dependent on him for regular sips to maintain their health. He would not go back. He would do whatever it took to hurt these boys to stop their intrusion into his world.

    Reply
    • ruthannereid

      Oh, that’s spookily intense. I fully believe this guy is a danger to thise kids. Great tidbit!

    • Luther

      Thanks, it was fun.

    • Thomas Furmato

      Nice Luther. Is this a story in the works?

    • Luther

      Yes and no! Mr. Willard is a character in a short story that I wrote, but I could possibly turn the short story into something longer. This practice helped me focus Mr. Willard’s personality.

    • Kiki Stamatiou

      There is a nice intensity to this piece. Very potent and heart pounding excitement. Well Done.

  6. EndlessExposition

    Warning! If by any chance you have only just started reading or are planning on reading the Skulduggery Pleasant series, do not read this comment! It contains SERIOUS spoilers!
    That said. One of my favorite villains of all time is Lord Vile from the Skulduggery Pleasant series – because he is the alter ego of the hero, Skulduggery Pleasant. Skulduggery becomes Vile after witnessing the murder of his family. Vile gives him a way to vent his destructive rage and to feel control again after being helpless to save his wife and child. What makes Vile so scary is that he was created by Skulduggery’s love for his family; Skulduggery, a very good man, becomes a monster created by his own pain, and when he’s Vile he’s capable of anything. Freaks me right out.

    Reply
    • ruthannereid

      YES. And totally works with Skulduggery’s character, too. It makes such horrible sense.

  7. Mike Chaplin

    Gary Oldman from the Professional.. An insanely corrupt police detective who truly believes he can and deserves to do whatever he wants to do and get away with it.. The best part is when a guy shooting at him hits his suit and he proceeds to kill the guy..then unload his revolver in him.. than start to reload to continue to shoot him.. One of his lackeys stops him and says “boss hes dead” his reply “but he ruined my suit” lmao.. so great and menacing..

    Reply
    • ruthannereid

      I haven’t seen that one, but I love Gary Oldman. This sounds utterly creepy and riddled with dark humor. Great choice!

  8. Tom Farr

    I love what you wrote about payoff. I was just thinking about this as I was writing about antagonists. Really good villains have to have a motivation for wanting to stop the protagonist from reaching his goal. I’m working through that now with my current story.

    My favorite menacing villain would have to be Lex Luthor in Smallville.

    Great post. Loved the examples from The Incredibles.

    Reply
    • ruthannereid

      Thanks, Tom! That’s a terrific example. Payoff fascinates me, because it isn’t always a bad thing… but once you combine it with the conviction that they MUST have it, things get messy. Great reference!

  9. Carrie Lynn Lewis

    Ruthann,

    Welcome to The Write Practice. What a way to get started!

    My favorite, most menacing villain is actually a couple of characters; one seen and one unseen.

    Sauron (Lord of the Rings) is the unseen. The all consuming power willing to destroy everything that exists in order to regain possession of the One Ring. His payoff isn’t clearly defined in the movies, but it is in the books and goes all the way back to the Silmarillion, the book in which Tolkien describes his world from the very beginning.

    Suroman, on the other hand, is the seen menace. He begins as a good guy (a white wizard) and his search for the One Ring begins with good motives. Get hold of the ring and wield it for good. But he falls under the power of Sauron and turns evil, though it takes a good while before his former confederates realize he’s become an enemy. He’s the perfect symbol for Sauron, who also began “good” and turned “evil”.

    I’ve been writing for quite a long while but confess that I’ve never before considered the concept of payoff. I’ve written plenty of villains, but haven’t always understood why they want what they want.

    I still don’t, but at least you’ve given me the tools to figure things out.

    Thanks and best wishes,

    Carrie

    Silmarillion

    Reply
    • ruthannereid

      Hi, Carrie! As it happens, you’ve commented on one of my favorite books of all time – the Silmarillion. 😀 (I might or might not have tried to explain to my husband with wild gesturing.)

      Even Morgoth’s payoff is fascinating to me; why did he want the secret fire? To be like Illuvatar… which, to him, meant the best, the most beautiful, the one WORTHY of worship, the one accumulating it, the one creating all the best stuff.

      If I can help you figure out the payoff in any other way, let me know! I only learned about it myself while taking classes in psychology and realizing how it applied. 🙂

      Thanks for your comments!

    • Carrie Lynn Lewis

      Ruthanne,

      Ah! Another Silmarillion fan.

      Thanks for the thoughts on Morgoths’ payoff. You articulated it much better than I’d been able to in the past. It’s 100% accurate, too.

      You’ve already helped me with determining the payoff for villains, but thanks for the offer of additional assistance.

      I look forward to your next post.

      Best wishes,

      Carrie

  10. Thomas Furmato

    There is no escape. I’m a prisoner here, and I’ve explored every possible way out, except maybe one. I’ve contemplated that, but would rather live under a lunatic than die just for the sake of being free. To me, death isn’t freedom, it’s an excuse to not fight, and I’m a fighter. So when I say that there is no escape, don’t take that as a statement of my helplessness, hear it as my declaration for war.

    I’ve listen to the words and they never makes complete sense. I’ve heard the reasons, and they always have some thread of logic to them, but the more I think about them, the more senseless they become. For once, I would just like quietness. I really don’t want to hear all the explanations, or how things are going to be better. Things are not going to get better, at best, they are going to stay the same; and that’s okay. At least, that’s what I tell myself.

    You know what else I tell myself? Grow up and stop whining, everyone has a hard life. This world wasn’t made for you to be happy in. It’s what I have to believe to survive. When I see good things I appreciate them. When I see happy people, I’m happy for them; and sometimes I’m happy. But I’m reminded that life is a battle, and you don’t always get to wave a banner in a battle. Sometimes you fall back and bandage your wounds, sometimes you watch those around you suffer.

    I keep up the good fight. I don’t take myself too seriously. I am my own worst enemy, and that’s okay.

    Reply
    • ruthannereid

      Very interesting! I love how this guy’s perspective clearly shows that he’s the “good” guy in his eyes. It’s a great example because it could be from the protagonist’s point of view… but it’s not.

      Really good job with this!

  11. A.E. Albert

    Having a real purpose also makes them more believable, hence intensifying our feelings for them.

    Reply
    • ruthannereid

      No question, AE Albert!

  12. Matt O'Berski

    I hate people upon sight. It’s true. I don’t care whether
    you’re black white purple green orange or yellow, if you’re different from me
    and could somehow be considered ‘better’, I hate you.
    I hate white people the most.

    It was a Monday morning. I actually used to love Mondays, if
    you can believe it. I was sitting outside on my front porch just tying my shoes
    and enjoying the sniff of the fresh flowers in the air when mami hollers out
    the front door to papi, who had just crossed the road for the paper – a car is
    in the way so he doesn’t hear her. He never will hear her. That car – full of
    people I don’t know – shot him dead.

    I ran over to my papi and cried out nonononono, pounding my
    fists on his chest, just waiting for him to sit up and say it was a all joke.
    It had to be a joke.
    The next day I was hit with the punch line. The cops came.
    White cops. They arrested my mami for a crime she didn’t commit. They arrested
    her because they could. Because they had to get their quota of my people put
    away behind bars, had to get that ticket off their desks. Because they could,
    they changed my life, my life that had already been changed.
    And so I doubt. Immediately.
    I will not respect you until you earn it and you continue to
    earn it. Flawlessly. Forever.
    It can’t be done.
    You might as well give up now.
    And if you’re white, you’re as good as dead.
    I went to school that day. The cops that arrested my mami
    made me go to school. They put my in a prison with the smiling faces of
    children who had no idea and no interest in ever having an idea of the problems
    in my life.
    And so I made problems for them. I could control that.
    I made my way up the ranks but remained unseen by the
    administration. They had their hands full with bigger problems. I wish I had
    bigger hands to hold my own.
    It didn’t take me long to get a nickname: Dennis the menace.
    The teachers called me it. To my face. When they heard they were going to have
    me in class the following year, some of them quit.
    I made teachers quit.
    They’re lucky.
    It always seems like my teachers are always white. Why can’t
    they get me teachers that are like me? Teachers that like me? Teachers that I
    don’t worry are going to treat me as a suspect the moment I walk into their
    room?

    Reply
    • LilianGardner

      You’ve done a good job here, Matt. I can feel the deep-rooted hate of the antagonist oozing out of every pore, and his self-righteousness, too.

    • Matt O'Berski

      Thank you Lilian! I read back through it and have to admit I barely remember writing it – the 15 minutes were a blur. I’m glad something good… or rather, something menacing, came of it. How do you think I could improve it even more?

    • LilianGardner

      I’m at a loss, Matt to suggest any ways of bettering your story. Maybe a last sentence that goes like this, ‘I want to be a teacher, too, and show everyone how teachers can be kinder and more understanding to school kids; kids like me’.

    • ruthannereid

      Wow, Matt, this is really raw. I respect how this child, treated with racism, becomes a racist himself. It shows the incredibly bad flaws in the system. I just wanted more – I need to see where this is going! (For example: why no teachers “like me” comes right after the explanation that this person causes trouble wherever they can – which would explain why people like this person don’t get to be teachers, if that makes sense. It made for a powerful and humbling simile!)

  13. Kiki Stamatiou

    Fulfilling His Duties
    By Kiki Stamatiou a. k. a. Joanna Maharis

    Tab Jones walked into an electronics store looking for a good sound system stereo for his home. While looking at the different stereos in the electronics store, someone sneaks up from behind him, and konks him on the head, knocking him out, sending him
    crashing to the floor.

    The thug who knocked Tab Jones on the head was none other that Harvey Whitcomb, a former childhood friend, always getting lost in the crowd during their high school days on back. He hated being invisible. “There must be some way I can stand out in the crowd. Someday I’m going to be somebody in this world. No matter what I have to do to get noticed by the world, I’ll make it one day. I’ll show all those goody goody kiss ups in school I a person worth getting to know. I don’t need to be the nobody at this school
    nor any other anymore,” he muttered to himself while fulfilling his duties as the high school janitor.

    So after work, he drove over to Tab Jones house, waiting across the street, watching for him to leave for his outings like he usually does.

    Following him for several miles in his own car, Harvey Whitcomb walked far enough behind him in the store where he could keep a close watch on Tab without getting caught.

    Sneaking up on him from behind, he did the only thing he could. Silence Tab temporarily, while he lay on the floor unconscious.

    When no one was looking, Harvey snatched Tabs wallet, looked through it for cash. There was $300 in there in addition to credit cards.

    Snatching them up, he put them in his pocket and stuffed the empty wallet into Tab’s mouth.

    By the time Tab was conscious again, Harvey was already in the process of paying
    for expensive equipment with Tab’s credit cards. However, when the cashier asks for
    identification, Harvey goes ballistic, by pulling out a jackknife from his pocket and stabbed the cashier in the chest, “I’ll make celebrity status in this town yet. No
    more shall I be a nobody.”

    “You’re crazy,” muttered the cashier in almost a whisper as he fell lifelessly to the floor, with his blood gushing out from his chest. Harvey struck a vein on the man’s chest who died instantly.

    Security came running after him, after catching the incident on camera.

    Harvey was placed under arrest, read his rights, and hauled off in a police car. However, not before his face was caught on camera for the six o’clock evening news.

    Other customers in the store caught in incident on video through the use of their Smart Phones. The video footage went viral instantly.

    “I’m finally somebody. I’m not invisible anymore,” he shouted, as the police forced him into the police car in handcuffs.

    © Copyright, Kiki Stamatiou, 2015

    Reply
    • ruthannereid

      Yikes, Kiki! This felt a little like watching the nightly news play out!

    • Kiki Stamatiou

      Thank you so much, ruthannereid. That’s the effect I was going for when I was writing it. After writing it I was worried it wasn’t realistic enough. However, now I feel relieved, because it turned out the way I hoped it would. Your feedback reassures me it is realistic. I thank you so much for that. Also, thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment on my work. i really appreciate it.

      Have a good day.

  14. Triforce Mario

    Damien Reveres is a 10 year old who lives with his brother and sister. Despite his age, he is a very dangerous and menacing figure in Aarons Life

    Reply
    • Triforce Mario

      Sorry messed up
      Damien Reveres is a 10 year old who lives with his brother and sister. Despite his age, he is a very dangerous and menacing figure in Aarons Life, and is willing to kill Aaron no matter the cost. He lived with his father, mother, sister and brother. He was the youngest. Damiens father was a drunk, who didn’t love his kids, and was forced to marry his mother due to impregnating her, his sister was a prostitute in High School, and his brother was a thug and heroin addict. His mother only loved Damien, who seemed to be the only good person in their family. His mother and father were going to get divorced, but on the way to court to do so, they get killed in a car wreck, leaving Damien with his siblings. His siblings abused him, and once, his sister raped him (Since shes 18, and hes 8). He eventually ran away with a revolver, planning to kill himself in the woods, until he was found by Z, a god like being. He took care of Damien along with 5 other kids, and taught them Dark Dreamcast, to see if they can over throw the King Dreamcaster (Aaron.). Damien thought Z could be his new father figure, but he barely paid attention to him. Until Damien killed all five kids using his new found powers. Z congratulated him and sent him off to find and kill Aaron. Two years later, once Aaron begins his quest, Damien constantly hunts him, and tries to kill him on multiple points. Its found that Damien hated Aaron because Damien and Aaron had a similar life, but the difference was: Aaron had love and happiness, and Damien had only hatred and depression.

      Yep.
      That is Damien.
      A very depressing character I have.

    • person mcpersonface

      wait, these are characters you made yourself? this seems like a very interesting story and i wanna read it lol.

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