character bleed, magician, read around the rainbow

Read Around the Rainbow: someone insults your main character! (Oh no!) How do they react?

Our Read Around the Rainbow topic this month is, “someone insults your main character—how do they react?” And I actually have a LOT of thoughts about this—I’ve written similar scenes into stories! (There’s definitely more than one in the Character Bleed books. One involves Colby’s mother. She’s awful.)

Obviously answering this for ALL my characters would take ages—though I’ve probably got head-canon about them all, so, please ask!—so let’s pick a few, including the current WIP at the end…

One: my Character Bleed boys: three out of four (we’re including Leo and Sam along with Jason and Colby, even though the Leo/Sam book isn’t finished yet) of them are actors (and Sam’s a photographer), so in that sense, they’re all…sort of used to dealing with…some level of insult/critique/random people having Opinions? If it’s just the usual dull roar of the background, they’ve got used to handling that, not looking at it, etc. If it’s something more personal, though, like Colby’s ex saying vicious things, or someone on a set being all surprised that Jason’s a good actor and not just muscles… Jason’s got a mostly decent level of self-esteem and he also genuinely trusts that Colby and Jillian (their director) know something about good acting, and they cast him, even before he was in love with Colby, so he’ll lean on that. He might be unhappy for a minute, and do some internal, like…okay, no, I know the insults aren’t true, let’s think about that rationally, right…but then he’ll be okay. Though he might want to go hug Colby, and be hugged in turn.

Colby, on the other hand, has basically zero self-esteem but impressive acting skills, and will one hundred percent smile sweetly and either find a way to change the subject or just simply agree: “oh, no, of course you’re right, I wouldn’t’ve given me that award either, and I do absolutely agree, I’m not that special, and horribly overrated as an actor, and I do sometimes think I’ve got stupid hair, so you’re not in fact wrong…” which in his head is completely true and consequently confuses the hell out of the person trying to insult him. And then he’ll go home and curl up and get very quiet and sad, and then try to do something nice for someone else, just to try to do something good. (Jason hates this whole reaction with the protective fury of an entire legion of protective bodyguards, and will a) punch someone very hard for causing it, and/or b) carefully sit down and put an arm around his fiancé and gently get Colby to talk about something random and fun for a minute, baking or calligraphy or a new gay steampunk werewolf romance novel, and then even more gently coax Colby into admitting that he’s not okay and would like to be held, please; which is a big deal as far as asking for help.) (If someone insults Jason in Colby’s earshot, Colby will promptly turn around and become simultaneously the sweetest and sharpest angry kitten ever: “oh, sorry, were you just saying my fiancé should just go back to doing blockbuster action movies, because he’s good at those? He is extremely good at those, because he’s good at every role, and you know I’ve always loved the John Kill franchise, and I’m sure you weren’t meaning to insult my taste in movies, because I do think, you know, the Academy seems to think I know something about good filmmaking, and as it happens I’m writing the next John Kill installment for Jason, because I wanted to, so of course you didn’t mean to insult the genre or either of us, and since you didn’t mean it, then we’re absolutely fine here, aren’t we…?” The first time that happened in public, Jason ended up hauling his fiancé into a thankfully empty men’s room for wild fantastic sex.)

Leo, on the other (third?) hand, would find a way to turn an insult into a joke, verbal or physical: “oh, you’ve called me a fluffy-haired potato-brain, how’d you know, it is true that I think about potatoes frequently…baked, mashed, roasted…[goes on listing potatoes for several minutes]” …if it’s something about his appearance, he’ll promptly exaggerate it, like, “I do have noodle-like arms! Let me wiggle them for you!” …The ones that actually do hurt, though, are when friends unintentionally dismiss him as being basically “the funny friend,” the person who’s a good time but not someone you’d call for anything serious. Because he wants to be reliable, a good friend, actually included, not just the comic relief. So if someone whose opinion he trusts says something like, “well, of course nobody’d trust Leo with [insert important thing],” he’ll laugh along – “I wouldn’t trust me either!” – and then just take it and bleed internally with it and never ever say anything to anyone, especially because he knows it was an unintentional stab-wound. Sam has a LOT of emotions about this. He’s starting to figure out that Leo is hurting a lot more than anyone notices, and also that Leo would rather silently be hurt than make someone else feel guilty. (We are going to have a moment of Sam actually saying something to Leo’s friends about this!) Sam, if someone insults him…he also kind of tends to shrug it off, because he’s fairly self-deprecating—he hates his job (when we first meet him), he doesn’t think he’s anything special, he thinks he’s decent-looking—not ugly, not movie-star handsome, just a regular guy—he knows he’s doing the best he can and he’s not perfect, so, okay, nice to know you think that, moving on. The one that would hurt would be…if he showed someone his art, and they insulted that. Because he loves his art, and he puts himself into it. He’d probably be polite about it, on the spot, but then go home and have a TON of self-doubt: what if he’s not really good enough? And Leo would promptly find a way to make him laugh, and remind him that sometimes people’re just jerks for no reason—look at the random shit people say about Leo as an actor, just for existing!—and then point out that, actually, he’s got a show coming up, he’s being paid for this, so for every negative person there’re so many more who believe in him, including Leo himself, so perhaps they should have sex now, not that that’s causal, just that Leo would like to kiss him a lot?

Two: Magician (it’s one of my favorites, I have to answer!)…Lorre is both used to and saddened by insults. He’s perfectly aware that a lot of people don’t like him, and at this point he’s more…amused by that/willing to concede that he probably deserves it. He has a certain amount of personal arrogance—he knows he’s pretty, he knows he’s magical, he knows that, without exaggeration, he is literally unique and special—so no random person’s opinion’s going to change that, especially if it’s just a totally random shouted “you’re a dick!” or something. Like, fair enough: he has been. But he’ll be sad about…say…someone looking him in the face and telling him he hasn’t changed, he’s always going to be a selfish prick. Because he has been trying hard to change, and it hurts when people don’t see that, and then he’ll start to think, maybe I can’t ever make up for everything I did… Younger Lorre, like, a century ago, would’ve just turned the person into a toad. On the spot. Zero regrets. (Gareth will, in the best manner of heroes, step in to play defender. Gareth doesn’t start arguments but will get into one on Lorre’s behalf.) As for Gareth: he’s such a Nice Boy that no one really insults him! It’d be too hard. The worst you could say is, like…naïve, maybe, except he isn’t really. Heroically stubborn. Optimistic. Lorre sometimes says this with exasperation, but he also loves Gareth, so really he loves that too.

Three: the current WIP, “Apprentice’s Luck,” which is set in the Magician world, though with new characters…let’s see. Given the nature of Talis’s magic, this just probably wouldn’t happen, for Reasons; but for the sake of argument, if someone did come up and insult him…really he’d probably be entertained. Like…look, random person, I grew up on the city streets, I’m a magician now even if I’m bad at it (again, Reasons), the universe tends to go my way, I’m very usefully tiny and adorable, I think I’ve acquired a very handsome royal guard as a lover now, I’m good, honestly. (Jer would, upon hearing someone insult Talis, turn around very slowly and smile, not in a friendly way, very much like a tall handsome lion with well-honed muscles and at least one weapon somewhere on his person.) Jeryn would have a…complicated reaction to insults, I think. He’s generally happy, he’s got friends, he’s calm and competent and good at his job, he’s attractive (like, amazingly so, everyone-stop-and-stare-when-he-walks-in attractive, though he’d blush if someone kept pointing this out)…he’d also efficiently defuse a situation like an imminent tavern brawl or drunken shouting by, like, just tossing someone outside into a horse trough. But—and this is a big one—he’s got a well-hidden lonely fear about not being good enough, especially given some Things Involving His Family. So a comment that pokes that specific fault-line—you didn’t do this right, you should’ve done more, why didn’t you do better?—even if it’s totally a joke, like, why were you the second-best in that friendly guardsman knife-throwing competition?—that will go right in and twist said knife. And he’ll pretend to be absolutely fine, and grin and laugh with everyone, and then stay up all night for seven nights running, just practicing, so he can be better, so he can be good enough. (Talis: you know that’s actually not a healthy thing to do, right? I mean, I miss you. In bed. At night. And you can’t just not sleep. You always tell me it’s important to take care of myself. So…maybe listen to yourself? And come lie down with me. No, I’m not trying to make you take a nap, this is totally for me, I had a hard day and I like playing with your hair. I love your hair.) (Jer: *sighs, comes over, cuddles close for requested hair-petting, falls asleep within two minutes*)

Gosh, that got long! And probably rambly! Hopefully it was at least interesting! If you want some thoughts on other characters—Kris and Justin from A Demon for Midwinter, say, or Henry and Theo from Spells and Sensibility—feel free to ask; I’ve probably got head-canon for those too…I write character-first, usually, so that’s always what I know most about: them as people!

Come check out my fellow RAtR authors’ thoughts!

A.L. Lester

Ofelia Grand

Holly Day

Fiona Glass

Ellie Thomas

Addison Albright


10 thoughts on “Read Around the Rainbow: someone insults your main character! (Oh no!) How do they react?”

  1. Hi I would like to hear about the reactions of Kris and Justin from A Demon for Midwinter, say, and also Henry and Theo from Spells and Sensibility! Thank you, Best regards, DW.


    1. Oh, yay! ❤ Let's see…

      Kris, as a (getting older) rock star, is also kind of used to the background noise of People Not Liking Celebrities, especially ones who used to have a wild reputation. For the most part he'd probably shrug: yeah, we were fuckin' lunatics, I know, fair enough, and yeah, we had some terrible fashion sense… He's (relatively) comfortable with getting older (though he does still like the way he looks with shaggy hair and some jewelry), and he knows Justin loves him, so, that's all good and well-balanced. He'd be more hurt by someone commenting negatively (and just to be mean, so not, like, a thoughtful expert commentary) on his music – especially something he really loves, something from the come-back album – and although he wouldn't mean to, because he's an empath, some of those emotions would bleed outward and suddenly a lot of people nearby would start feeling upset, until he got it under control. And if anyone insults Justin, well – an angry empath can do a LOT.

      Justin is…well, he *used* to be less used to random insults, because he wasn't anyone in particular. But there's been a lot of online pettiness (and also support!) since he got outed as a demon. He's been trying to cope with that. The support – because there is a lot of support, since he's done some pretty heroic things, saving people! – helps. He tries to think about that. And he knows his family loves him, and Kris loves him – and being able to feel that, given Kris's powers, also really helps: it's tangible. (If someone insults Kris, Justin – depending on the person and the type of insult – will either shift into the more visible demon face and smile at them with pointed teeth, or else explain, using his music-industry expertise, precisely why they're wrong about Kris Starr's career, in detail, with overwhelming examples and historical trivia.)

      Spells time! Both Henry and Theo are…hmm…I'd say they both started out with decent self-esteem, but they've both been through a lot. People don't tend to insult Theo because a) magician, b) librarian, and c) technically a marquess, titled, with money – you don't want him upset with you, and you might need a favor. People (students or faculty) do sometimes get impatient with their librarian, the way people do, though! And Theo also has that deep-down little loneliness that comes from not being loved by his family, so comments about him not being wanted/not good enough for Henry will sting. He's pretty good at quick retorts – he's good with words, so he'll have a comeback, verbal not physical – but he'll be hurt by something like that, inside.

      Henry…people also tend not to *outright* insult Henry, because, again: a) magician, b) war hero, and c) he was always the kind of person everybody liked, popular, charismatic, handsome, good at sport at school, and so on. But he might be faced with, like…pity for him, being injured, these days…or someone saying that a farmer's son isn't good enough for Theo (which Henry suspects is true, but fuck that, if Theo wants him, Theo can have him, scars and all)… His reactions are more hair-trigger these days, especially if someone comes up and touches him or gets in his space; that might go badly and explosively wrong. He's angrier and less patient than he used to be. He's aware of it and actively trying to work on it, but some of that's ingrained reflex/PTSD, now. He knows Theo loves him – especially by the end of book two! – and that helps: Theo genuinely, truly, believes he's a good person, and Henry wants to be that for Theo. (If someone's mean to Theo, or if Theo's brother says something unintentionally hurtful – meant to be teasing, but it'll actually hurt Theo – Henry will say something back. He'll try to be polite about it, especially with Theo's brother the duke, but he can't let it go if Theo's hurting. Protective instincts jumping in.)

      That also got long! But I do have lots of thoughts, so thank YOU! ❤


    1. This was such a fun topic, because I absolutely have answers for all of them! It works well with how I write, which tends to be character-first (versus plot, etc).

      Both Jason and Leo would totally be fine doing, like, the “celebrities read mean tweets” videos. Leo’s answers would be outright funnier and super-quick, but Jason’s pretty good at deadpan or just silent eyebrow-raise reaction expressions. Colby couldn’t (and shouldn’t, says his therapist) even try the mean tweets thing, no matter how carefully curated. He either just wouldn’t be able to, after the first couple, or else he’d do the kind of acting that’s the reason he has a lot of awards, and make it through, and afterward go find someplace small and alone where no one’ll see him completely fall apart, and *then* get up and pretend to be fine and bake a giant elaborate cake to bring to whatever production meeting or table read is happening later, and smile for everyone. (Which is of course a terrible coping mechanism, concealing all the hurt! They’re working on it. Jason’s pretty good at noticing and – with love – not letting him lie about being okay when he’s not.)

      Lorre, assuming there was the equivalent of Mean Tweets in that fantasy universe, would pause thoughtfully after each one to say, “let’s see, you’d make a nice hedgehog…oh, well, you’re dumber than some rocks I’ve known, aren’t you, that’s not how you spell that…I think *you’d* make a nice tadpole…when you’ve been alive for three hundred years, you’re allowed to have opinions about my hair [heavily implied sassy “…bitch” tacked on there]…” but he wouldn’t actually do any of it, not these days. As long as it’s not truly personal, he’d probably be more amused, and then start coming up with more and more over-the-top responses just to make Gareth laugh. :p

      Liked by 1 person

      1. …also, now I really want to write the scene of “Colby and Jason read *thirst* tweets together,” because they WOULD do that one, and it’d be HILARIOUS. Because Jason’s public persona is very much Nice Guy Action Hero Muscles, But Also Slowly Admitting To Being A Sci-Fi And RPG Nerd (which isn’t too far off), and Colby’s public persona is Everyone’s Favorite Adorable Fluffy Cardigan-Wearing Cupcake-Baking Gay Best Friend (which is also not too far off except for the whole erotica-reading, probably thinking up wordplay innuendo during interviews, decently kinky, probably the one of them who comes up with the bondage or role-play ideas, side that no one knows about).

        So the intern gathering thirst tweets is trying to find some sort of balance between “funny” and “the reaction will be great!” and “let’s not shock poor sweet Colby Kent TOO much, only a LITTLE,” and Colby is having the BEST time looking at Jason and saying innocently, all wide-eyed, English accent exaggerated for effect, “Jason, love, explain this to me, why on *earth* would someone write something like ‘have you seen Colby Kent’s hands i would let those hands tie me up like a pretzel and pour salt on me’ –” while 100% knowing Jason had him tied to the bed with the fancy rope the night before. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

    1. …it’s SO TEMPTING. Because Jason would be desperately trying to keep a straight face, while being in awe that Colby can keep the sweet & innocent act up so damn flawlessly, when they both KNOW…and he’s also definitely thinking about what they were doing last night/what he’s planning for Colby as soon as they’re done, thoughts which might start being a problem on camera… 😀 😀


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