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Edgy Stereotypes Which Will Not Actually Make Your Characters More Edgy

1. Tattoos
They’re not necessarily a symbol of rebellion. I have a couple tattoos, and I promise you I didn’t get them to stick it to the man; I just happen to like art. Don’t use a tattoo as a way to make your character seem like a bad boy/girl.
2. Clothes
Hip clothes and thrift store skirts don’t automatically make someone edgy. Some people wear baggy pants because they like to be comfortable, not because they’re gangsters. Some people shop at thrift stores because they can’t afford JC Penneys, not because they’re trying to be “alternative.” Clothes are like costumes; they’re not built-in personalities for your characters.
3. Quirky Names
Christening your love interest Darien Marco Silver doesn’t mean that readers will automatically believe he’s a sexy rebel with a motorcycle. A name is just a name; your character needs a personality as well.
4. Sarcasm
A little snark goes a long way toward rounding out a character’s personality, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that your character is One Bad Dude. Sarcasm is a form of humor – it’s not always about defiance.
So, how do you give your rebel characters that extra edge? What tricks have you seen in YA literature that are used to make characters seem more interesting?
Kristin Briana Otts

Kristin is an aspiring YA author with an abiding love for her dog, ghost hunter tv shows, and rainy days.

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  1. I feel it's all about keeping it really simple. My character's a rebel so she dislikes authority figures and acts out. There's no physical signs - clothing, tattoos, funky hairstyle - that label her as "edgy" because, for me, that's trying too hard.

  2. Keep it simple. That's all you need to make a character a rebel. I think when you try to explain and to go for "edgy" you end up with a caricature.

  3. I haven't had too much experience with rebellious characters in my writing, but I just wanted to say THANK YOU for number three. I can't STAND it when people use names as personalities. Not just for rebels, but for quiet personalities or beautiful characters, etc. It just drives me mad.

  4. I love Community!

    I've read so many books where the author relied on physical description to prove that her rebel is really rebellious, but I don't buy it until they do something interesting. :)

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  6. I think the best way to write about rebel/edgy characters is to show it through their actions. Numbers 1-3 seem more like "telling" than showing (ie: "Jen had pink streaks in her pixie cut hair"). I myself am kind of new in this department (if writing rebellious characters can be seen as a department LOL) since none of my previous MCs have been as rebellious as my current one. But I try to show it by having him actually do things that could be considered rebellious (for instance, jumping off of an ambulance when he really should be going to the hospital) while also mixing in a little witty sarcasm here and there.

    I think Melissa Marr and Holly Black do edgy quite well,but I'm still trying to figure out how exactly they do it. ;)

  7. "this sounds WAAAAAY more like sarcasm. inflection is SOOOO interesting." i love abed.

    i also love this post, because i just finished reading yet another book about a girl who's totally rebellious because she has dyed hair and tattoos, and for all that the other characters were freaked out by her rebelliousness...that seemed to be as far as her rebelliousness went. sigh.

  8. It really bugs me when writers describe their work as "edgy". It feels the same as calling it "fantastic" to me.

  9. "Edgier," not "more edgy,"


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Item Reviewed: Edgy Stereotypes Which Will Not Actually Make Your Characters More Edgy Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Kristin Briana Otts