Strung-out

Internal Conflict:  Five Conflicting Traits of a Likable Hero.

1.  Flaws and Virtues 

I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but characters without flaws are boring.  This does not, as many unfortunate souls take it to mean, imply that good, kind, or benevolent characters are boring:  it just means that without any weaknesses for you to poke at, they tend to be bland-faced wish fulfillment on the part of the author, with a tendency to just sit there without contributing much to the plot.

For any character to be successful, they need to have a proportionate amount of flaws and virtues.

Let’s take a look at Stranger Things, for example, which is practically a smorgasbord of flawed, lovable sweethearts.

We have Joyce Byers, who is strung out and unstable, yet tirelessly works to save her son, even when all conventional logic says he’s dead;  We have Officer Hopper, who is drunken and occasionally callous, yet ultimately is responsible for saving the boy’s life;  We have Jonathan, who is introspective and loving, but occasionally a bit of a creeper, and Nancy, who is outwardly shallow but proves herself to be a strong and determined character.  Even Steve, who would conventionally be the popular jerk who gets his comeuppance, isn’t beyond redemption.

And of course, we have my beloved Eleven, who’s possibly the closest thing Stranger Things has to a “quintessential” heroine.  She’s the show’s most powerful character, as well as one of the most courageous.  However, she is also the show’s largest source of conflict, as it was her powers that released the Demogorgon to begin with.  

Would Eleven be a better character if this had never happened?  Would Stranger Things be a better show?  No, because if this had never happened, Stranger Things wouldn’t even be a show.  Or if it was, it would just be about a bunch of cute kids sitting around and playing Dungeons and Dragons in a relatively peaceful town.

A character’s flaws and mistakes are intended to drive the plotline, and if they didn’t have them, there probably wouldn’t even be a plot.

So don’t be a mouth-breather:  give your good, kind characters some difficult qualities, and give your villains a few sympathetic ones.  Your work will thank you for it.

2.  Charisma and Vulnerability

Supernatural has its flaws, but likable leads are not one of them.  Fans will go to the grave defending their favorite character, consuming and producing more character-driven, fan-created content than most other TV shows’ followings put together.

So how do we inspire this kind of devotion with our own characters?  Well, for starters, let’s take a look at one of Supernatural’s most quintessentially well-liked characters:  Dean Winchester.

From the get-go, we see that Dean has charisma:  he’s confident, cocky, attractive, and skilled at what he does.  But these qualities could just as easily make him annoying and obnoxious if they weren’t counterbalanced with an equal dose of emotional vulnerability. 

As the show progresses, we see that Dean cares deeply about the people around him, particularly his younger brother, to the point of sacrificing himself so that he can live.  He goes through long periods of physical and psychological anguish for his benefit (though by all means, don’t feel obligated to send your main character to Hell for forty years), and the aftermath is depicted in painful detail.

Moreover, in spite of his outward bravado, we learn he doesn’t particularly like himself, doesn’t consider himself worthy of happiness or a fulfilling life, and of course, we have the Single Man Tear™.

So yeah, make your characters beautiful, cocky, sex gods.  Give them swagger.  Just, y’know.  Hurt them in equal measure.  Torture them.  Give them insecurities.  Make them cry.  

Just whatever you do, let them be openly bisexual.  Subtext is so last season.

3.  Goals For the Future and Regrets From the Past

Let’s take a look at Shadow Moon from American Gods.  (For now, I’ll have to be relegate myself to examples from the book, because I haven’t had the chance to watch the amazing looking TV show.) 

Right off the bat, we learn that Shadow has done three years in prison for a crime he may or may not have actually committed.  (We learn later that he actually did commit the crime, but that it was only in response to being wronged by the true perpetrators.)  

He’s still suffering the consequences of his actions when we meet him, and arguably, for the most of the book:  because he’s in prison, his wife has an affair (I still maintain that Laura could have resisted the temptation to be adulterous if she felt like it, but that’s not the issue here) and is killed while mid-coital with his best friend.

Shadow is haunted by this for the rest of the book, to the point at which it bothers him more than the supernatural happenings surrounding him.  

Even before that, the more we learn about Shadow’s past, the more we learn about the challenges he faced:  he was bullied as a child, considered to be “just a big, dumb guy” as an adult, and is still wrongfully pursued for crimes he was only circumstantially involved in.

But these difficulties make the reader empathize with Shadow, and care about what happens to him.  We root for Shadow as he tags along with the mysterious and alternatively peckish and charismatic Wednesday, and as he continuously pursues a means to permanently bring Laura back to life.

He has past traumas, present challenges, and at least one goal that propels him towards the future.  It also helps that he’s three-dimensional, well-written, and as of now, portrayed by an incredibly attractive actor.

Of course (SPOILER ALERT), Shadow never does succeed in fully resurrecting Laura, ultimately allowing her to rest instead, but that doesn’t make the resolution any less satisfying.  

Which leads to my next example…       

4.  Failure and Success 

You remember in Zootopia, when Judy Hopps decides she wants to be cop and her family and town immediately and unanimously endorse her efforts?  Or hey, do you remember Harry Potter’s idyllic childhood with his kindhearted, adoptive family?  Oh!  Or in the X-Files, when Agent Mulder presents overwhelming evidence of extraterrestrial life in the first episode and is immediately given a promotion?  No?

Yeah, me neither.  And there’s a reason for this:  ff your hero gets what they want the entire time, it will be a boring, two-dimensional fantasy that no one will want to read.  

A good story is not about the character getting what they want.  A good story is about the character’s efforts and their journey.  The destination they reach could be something far removed from what they originally thought they wanted, and could be no less (if not more so) satisfying because of it.

Let’s look at Toy Story 3, for example:  throughout the entire movie, Woody’s goal is to get his friends back to their longtime owner, Andy, so that they can accompany him to college.  He fails miserably.  None of his friends believe that Andy was trying to put them in the attic, insisting that his intent was to throw them away.  He is briefly separated from them as he is usurped by a cute little girl and his friends are left at a tyrannical daycare center, but with time and effort, they’re reunited, Woody is proven right, and things seem to be back on track.

Do his efforts pay off?  Yes – just not in the way he expected them to.  At the end of the movie, a college-bound Andy gives the toys away to a new owner who will play with them more than he will, and they say goodbye.  Is the payoff bittersweet?  Undoubtedly.  It made me cry like a little bitch in front of my young siblings.  But it’s also undoubtedly satisfying.      

So let your characters struggle.  Let them fail.  And let them not always get what they want, so long as they get what they need.  

5.  Loving and Being Loved by Others

Take a look back at this list, and all the characters on it:  a gaggle of small town kids and flawed adults, demon-busting underwear models, an ex-con and his dead wife, and a bunch of sentient toys.  What do they have in common?  Aside from the fact that they’re all well-loved heroes of their own stories, not much.

But one common element they all share is they all have people they care about, and in turn, have people who care about them.  

This allows readers and viewers to empathize with them possibly more than any of the other qualities I’ve listed thus far, as none of it means anything without the simple demonstration of human connection.

Let’s take a look at everyone’s favorite caped crusader, for example:  Batman in the cartoons and the comics is an easy to love character, whereas in the most recent movies (excluding the splendid Lego Batman Movie), not so much. 

Why is this?  In all adaptions, he’s the same mentally unstable, traumatized genius in a bat suit.  In all adaptions, he demonstrates all the qualities I listed before this:  he has flaws and virtues, charisma and vulnerability, regrets from the past and goals for the future, and usually proportionate amounts of failure and success.  

What makes the animated and comic book version so much more attractive than his big screen counterpart is the fact that he does one thing right that all live action adaptions is that he has connections and emotional dependencies on other people.  

He’s unabashed in caring for Alfred, Batgirl, and all the Robins, and yes, he extends compassion and sympathy to the villains as well, helping Harley Quinn to ultimately escape a toxic and abusive relationship, consoling Baby Doll, and staying with a child psychic with godlike powers until she died.

Cartoon Batman is not afraid to care about others.  He has a support network of people who care about him, and that’s his greatest strength.  The DC CU’s ever darker, grittier, and more isolated borderline sociopath is failing because he lacks these things.  

 And it’s also one of the reasons that the Lego Batman Movie remains so awesome.


God willing, I will be publishing fresh writing tips every week, so be sure to follow my blog and stay tuned for future advice and observations! 

I think one of my biggest flaws has always been that I see beauty in things that I probably shouldn’t. When I was 15 I met this woman at the trap house with about fifteen and a half teeth left and a scar on her chest from almost dying one too many times. I thought she was an angel, because she had these green eyes that were sad, always so sad, but alive, fierce, there was a fire in there still, after all she had lived through. I thought she was beautiful because of her frizzy mess of hair and cracks in the pavement of her eyelids and crows feet that turned up when she smiled. I saw the scars on her lips, her face, from imagined bugs, and I saw this lifetime spread out before me, a map on her skin. She was beautiful because she told me why when he put a gun to my head I better positioned it to kill me and dared, ‘do it.’ She was beautiful because she helped me grasp that sometimes a lifetime with an end goal of self-destruction doesn’t have to end in burning out and collapsing, we were never as bright as stars, we don’t have to number our days ourselves, our time is up when it’s up, and it’s okay to stick around and see how it ends. I remember her telling me why it was thrilling to put needles in my skin, even though sometimes it took an hour of bleeding to find a vein. She told me why, when I was beaten within an inch of my life, I told him 'hit me again, please.’ Why, despite my unending vanity, I still would put slits in my skin with the razor that, once upon a time, I was using to cut lines of coke with, and fly. I’ve always found devastation beautiful. Empty buildings, broken windows, red eyes and bleeding gums. She asked me, 'Honey, do you think that by destroying yourself, you’ll like yourself as much as you like pretty broken things?’
—  No idea when this is from
SVT Reaction to Realizing They're in Love With You


A/N: Thanks a lot for your request! Sorry that I couldn’t cover the prompt in every aspect that you wanted; I’m only one person. This one kinda got me in my feels but I liked writing it, nonetheless. I hope you like it! (Also note that I try making my reactions as gender-neutral as possible so sorry if it throws anyone off!!)

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Seungcheol: This man would have to sit down for a while, completely isolated to make sure that his feelings were clear. Not that he was unsure of how he felt towards you, he just wanted to confirm if that feeling was actually love. After much deliberation, he’d smile gently to himself and mumble, “I love them.. I love (Y/N)…” As for the confession, he’d probably hint that he’s in love with you rather than directly saying it to you because he’s someone with quite a bit of pride and I feel that it would somehow not let him directly express his feelings to you. But if you can’t catch on to any of his hints quick enough, he’ll surely tell you

Jeonghan: He’d be sure of his feelings towards you immediately. No need to think about it for this guy; just acting upon it. Don’t get me wrong though, he’d be very nervous about telling you, but he would try so hard not to let it show. When he does confess, he’ll be very direct because he doesn’t want to waste time. He’d make sure he’s made you laugh a lot and once the laughing has faded, he’d stare into your eyes and say, “You know I’m in love with you, right,” with the most optimistic look in his eyes pls don’t break his fragile little heart

Jisoo: He’d giggle as soon as he realized that this is what he’s feeling. He’s a very gentle person so his reaction wouldn’t be anything too exaggerated. When he tells you, it would be after a strung out series of cute, small, yet meaningful, gifts. He’ll most likely write it on a tag and attach it to one of the many small gifts he got you and wait for your reaction with the cutest smile on his face. Once he sees you’ve read the tag, you’ll hear the softest, sweetest “I love you” ever spoken

Junhui: This boy would be a hot mess the moment he accepts the fact that he’s in love with you. Despite his seemingly cocky attitude, he’d be in panic mode about how he’ll tell you because he wants to tell you directly but is not sure how. Jun’s confession to you will most likely be really serious and really intimate, for lack of a better word. But the boy is really dorky so he’d be another one to laugh off all the previous stress of admitting his feelings to you

Soonyoung: Hoshi’s the type whose whole world just completely lights up after he acknowledges that he has deep feelings for you. Hyper, energetic Hoshi? Double it because his love for you will fuel him even more. And goodness, this boy would overdo it, on the confession side of the scenario. One word: serenade. He’ll come up with a cute choreography to tell you and he’ll be really giggly and somewhat shy the whole time. None of this would take place in public though. He’ll probably do it during a movie night when he comes back to from the kitchen with a soda, or something of that sort. Brace yourself for lots of smiles and laughs and yelling once you return his feelings with a simple “I love you too”

Wonwoo: He’d be really calm about his realization. He’s also another member to be really indirect about it until he realizes that he doesn’t have any other method of confessing but to plainly say “I’m in love with you.” He’ll wait til you bring up an opportunity for him to say it, even if it means he has to wait weeks or even months; the man has patience. He’d be very sweet about it though, of course. Serious, but very sweet.

Jihoon: His reaction wouldn’t be anything to spectacular. He’d let out a small laugh and the only word he can force out would be “wow.” Now the confession, you already know what I’m about to say for the confession: Woozi will write you a song. It’s a very overused concept for Jihoon, but it’s also the most fitting. He’s a very creative being and wants to make sure he expresses his love for you the way he knows best. He’d play a soothing song about his feelings for you on his guitar and subtly say “I love you,” after playing the last chord of the song and wait nervously for your response.

Seokmin: Would tell you on accident as soon as he realizes he’s in love with you. He’d be just as shocked as you because he didn’t yet process the fact that he said it out loud and not in his mind. Once you assure him that it’s fine and that you love him too, he’d laugh it off and have no regrets about the way he had confessed

Mingyu: Honestly, this kid wouldn’t even be surprised with the fact that he’d fallen for you. He’d casually accept what his emotions were. However, he’s also the type to be entirely too nervous to even begin to think about telling you. He can’t really think of a way to tell you so he eventually tells you after a date when he’s walking you to your door and gosh, he’ll have the biggest smile on his face for the rest of the night. He’ll probably go home and do that little squeal that he does sometimes i’msorry

Minghao: Upon his discovery of his feelings for you, he would be a mix of happy and nervous. Minghao would know that he had fallen for you much long before he actually decides to tell you. So when he eventually does say it, he’ll feel so relieved to finally share such important information with you. He’ll be the type to just directly say it with the most amazing timing for doing so. After confessing, the two of you will just relax in each other’s company in comfortable silence

Seungkwan: Oh goodness, this worrisome little ball would be so nervous to tell you once he comes to terms with this feelings. He’ll consult with his trusted members and ask them for advice, regardless of how embarrassing it would be for him; he’d rather be embarrassed in front of them than in front of you. Whenever he does say it, it’ll be really fluffy and meaningful and there’s a strong chance that he’ll say it by accident btw

Hansol: Aw, Hansol’s reaction to being in love with you would be really cute. It’s like a really cute state of disbelief, but in the best way possible. Similar to Jihoon, he’d want to incorporate music into the confession because it’s such a big part of his life, just as you’ve become. He’d make you listen to a song that describes how you make him feel and he’d tell you directly and then he’d kiss you really sweetly and passionately after bye

Chan: I feel that confusion would be the most overpowering feeling in Chan’s heart after identifying how he feels towards you. He’d constantly question himself, things like, “How did I get to this point?” Whenever he decides to tell you, he’d try to play it cool, which, in all actuality, makes him look kinda silly but it’s something about him that you’ve always admired about him. He wouldn’t be very nervous but he’d mainly be concerned about your reaction when he says those magic words

Release and Relief (Part 2 of 2)

Summary: Dean and Rowena have an arrangement that gives them both what they need.

Part 1

Warning: dom!Rowena, sub!Dean, being restrained during sex, rimming and pegging, rough sex

Word Count: 2300

A/N: I got an ask about Dean x Rowena and had never really thought about them before. I was instantly inspired to write them, and this happened. It ended up being long enough for me to break it into two parts. Hope y’all enjoy! XOXO


His turn to get fucked.

Fuck, yes.

Dean nods enthusiastically, not caring if he seems pathetic or desperate or strung out. He probably is all of those things, and that’s the beauty of it. He’s allowed to be those things here, isn’t he?

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