Three Awesome Reasons Why Books Are Rebellious

Well, I felt like writing about books today. This is mostly because one of the things that getting back into reading regularly again several months ago reminded me was how wonderfully rebellious books are 🙂 And, yes, I’m talking about pretty much every novel here – from the pulpiest paperbacks to the most high-brow hardbacks.

After all, whilst I could spend this article reminiscing about all of the “edgy” novels that I read during my teenage years, I thought that it would probably be a lot more interesting to look at books in general. Which, incidentally, brings me on to my first point….

1) Your own path: Firstly, books are rebellious because you have to find your own path. There are so many books out there that it’s perfectly possible to read a hundred books and then find that everyone you know has only maybe heard of two or three of them. So, in our hyper-social age, the path of a reader is a refreshingly solitary one.

Likewise, whilst there are well-known books, there isn’t really that much of a “mainstream” with books in the way that there is with films or videogames. As such, when you read, you have to look for authors on your own, you have to know your own tastes and you have to forge your own unique path through the many millions of books available. And, in this age of mass media, this is pretty rebellious.

Then, of course, there is the actual experience of reading. When you watch a film, you will see exactly what every other viewer sees. But, with a book, everyone pictures the story differently. In other words, you actually have to use your imagination and think when you are reading. You might even learn something about yourself too. And, in this age, these things are at least mildly rebellious.

2) Books can do more: Because a novel is primarily the work of one person sitting down and writing, books have a lot fewer limitations than more “mainstream” things like films, TV shows, videogames etc… do. And I’m not even talking about things like “special effects budgets” either (although it is interesting to note that, for example, a sci-fi novel from 1992 can still be even more spectacular than most modern CGI-filled films).

Because a book is usually the work of one author, that author has a lot more creative freedom than a large group of actors, programmers and executives do. In other words, books can tell the kind of inventively imaginative stories that film companies, game companies etc… don’t think that mainstream audiences will instantly like or understand.

For example, the sci-fi novel I’m reading at the moment (“Linesman” by S. K. Dunstall) is an epic saga about intergalactic politics, with a main character who interacts with spaceships by singing to them.

Clive Barker’s “Weaveworld” is a novel about fragments of a lost world that are hidden in a carpet. “The Arrivals” by Melissa Marr is a bizarre western set in a post-apocalyptic alternate dimension. I could go on for quite a while, but books can tell the kind of imaginative stories that film studios don’t think that you want to see…

In other words, with books, there is actually something for everyone. You have a lot more choice than “generic superhero sequel #345“, “gritty realistic drama #403” or “multi-player action game #267“. And in this age of cinematic universes, hyper-popular TV shows, mainstream gaming culture etc… this is kind of rebellious.

3) Durability, access and control: A book is a physical object that doesn’t require batteries, wi-fi or “updates”. As long as you don’t set it on fire or anything like that, it will probably work as well in fifty years’ time as it does today. If you find an old or a brand-new book, you don’t have to worry about “system requirements” or anything like that – as long as you can read, then you can read it.

Likewise, if you have a word processor or a pen and paper, then you have the tools to start writing a book. And, the best part is that because stories (in English at least) all use the same 26 letters, there is no difference between a “low budget” novel and a “high budget” one in the way that there is with films, games etc… The quality of the writing depends on the skill of the author (and possibly their editor too).

Not only that, if you happen to buy a physical book which later changes publishers or has some kind of formal issues, the publisher can’t remotely “delete” it or remove it from your shelves without breaking the law. You can freely re-sell your physical books or buy them second-hand. Likewise, when you buy a physical book – it’s yours. There are no greedy subscription fees or anything like that.

In other words, in an age where everything is moving to “the cloud” or turning into subscription-based online services and where tech companies/game companies are always pushing people to “upgrade” in order to access the latest things, good honest books are one of the relatively few things that actually treat the audience with respect. And, in this era of history, this is gloriously rebellious 🙂


Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

Four Ways To Make Your Audience Feel Like Rebels

The night before I wrote this article, I ended up thinking about what several of my favourite creative works have in common with each other and the answer was “they make the audience feel like they’re rebelling“.

They’re the kind of things that don’t necessarily aim for shock value, but which just feel “rebellious” when seen, heard, played or read.

So, I thought that I’d look at a few ways that you can do this in your own creative works:

1) The journey, not the destination: A lot of what makes the audience feel like rebels isn’t the content of a work, but how that content is presented to them. In other words, things like your narrative voice, the background details in your art, the art style you use, the emotional tone of your song lyrics etc… matter a lot more than you might think.

In other words, rebellious creative works are more about the “journey” than the “destination”. They’re about the audience having the chance to experience hanging out with a really cool narrator, character, musician, fictional world etc.. than they are about telling a good story.

For example, the actual stories in Hewlett & Martin’s “Tank Girl” comics are bizarrely nonsensical things which, if they were written in a more “serious” way, wouldn’t be that good. Yet, these comics are so compellingly, rebelliously re-readable because of the eccentric characters, the anarchic “attitude” that these stories have, the hilariously puerile comedy and the gloriously detailed and unique art style:

This is an excerpt from “Tank Girl 2” (1996) by Hewlett & Martin. As you can see, it uses a very vivid and distinctive art style and contains some fairly unique characters. Even though the actual “story” of this comic makes literally no sense whatsoever, the comic is still very “rebellious” due to it’s attitude, characters and humour.

So, the journey matters more than the destination.

2) Intelligent writing/visuals: Likewise, just because you want your audience to feel like “rebels” doesn’t mean that you should write badly, draw badly etc.. If anything, having a very good command of the intricacies of language and art can actually make a work seem more rebellious since it gives the audience the impression that they’re hanging out with someone cool, intelligent and/or interesting.

For example, here’s a quote from Hunter S. Thompson’s “Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas” (1971-2): ‘It was treacherous, stupid and demented in every way – but there was no avoiding the stench of twisted humour that hovered around the idea of a gonzo journalist in the grip of a potentially terminal drug episode being invited to cover the National District Attorney’s Conference on Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs.

Although the novel that this quote is taken from is a wildly bizarre, satirical, countercultural classic – this quote actually uses rather formal and almost “literary” language. Although this is a novel with a drug-addled narrator, the prose here has the kind of clarity which only comes from carefully-crafted, sober writing. So, craftsmanship matters a lot more than you might think.

Likewise, using copious amounts of profanity won’t automatically make your audience feel like “rebels”. Using a measured amount of profanity in a carefully-chosen, clever and funny way – on the other hand – will. So, be funny, sparing, creative and intelligent with the profanity in your creative works.

3) Politics: Strange as it may sound, don’t get too political. Or, rather, don’t be too “serious” when you inevitably get political.

The best rebellious creative works have fun with politics. Regardless of which side of the political spectrum they land on, they actively attack pompous over-seriousness and self-righteousness. They often also have a very slightly “apolitical” quality too by actively ridiculing both “sides” of a political issue through showing what unpleasant features they have in common with each other.

But, when rebellious creative works include politics, they will often just quietly lead by example.

For example, they’ll just show characters who are typically sneered at by mainstream society in a more positive light. They’ll show authority figures as being stupid, hypocritical and/or malevolent. Or they might just show characters gleefully breaking petty, stupid and/or unjust rules, without anyone raising an eyebrow (or, conversely, show people over-reacting to said transgressions in a hilariously exaggerated way that highlights the ridiculousness of the rule in question).

4) Emotional satisfaction: In short, the best way to make your audience feel like rebels is to give them something. Whether it is acceptance, belonging, laughter, a different worldview etc… you need to give them something.

Because, despite all of the technical stuff I’ve mentioned, making your audience feel like rebels is an emotional thing. It’s the feeling of “wow” that comes from seeing something that is so different in perspective and tone from mainstream entertainment. It’s the feeling of “Wow! I didn’t know how to put that into words” that your audience get from something incredibly profound that they wouldn’t find in mainstream culture.

A great example of this type of rebellious emotional satisfaction can be found in an astonishingly good webcomic called “Subnormality” by Winston Rowntree. Often, these comics will make some kind of point or express some facet of the human condition that isn’t often explored in mainstream creative works. And, Rowntree’s comics are some of the most emotionally-profound, but rebellious, things that you’ll ever read as a result:

This is an excerpt from “Duel” (‘Subnormality #219) By Winston Rowntree (2014), which contains an example of the kind of profound, emotional introspection that makes this comic surprisingly “rebellious” when compared to more mainstream offerings.

So, yes, give your audience something. Whether you make them laugh, make them think, make them feel better or even make them see the world differently, give them something.


Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Three Tips For Adding Some “Safe” 1990s-Style Rebelliousness To Your Art, Comics, Fiction etc…

If there’s one word that sums up popular culture during the 1990s, it is “rebellion”. This was an age where, especially in Britain and parts of America, a lot of popular culture had a bit more of an “attitude” to it. Creative people during the 1990s yearned to push boundaries and to shock in a way that just isn’t really done these days.

Of course, a lot of the “rebellions” of the 1990s look endearingly tame or eye-rollingly immature these days, but there’s a certain nostalgic charm to them. A sense that, even with the limitations of the time, creative people either had a bit more freedom or at least wanted a bit more freedom.

Although it would be probably be fairly unwise for creative people to try to re-create an “authentic” updated version of the rebellious attitudes of the 1990s these days, we can at least emulate some of the “safer” parts of the rebellions of the 1990s in the things we create, if only for nostalgic fun and/or amusement.

1) Careful use of profanity: One of the amusing things about the 1990s is that, despite the more rebellious attitudes in a lot of creative works of the time, there were a lot more limitations when it came to things like profanity. After all, this was an age when Gompie’s “Alice, Who The X Is Alice” was considered something of a “notorious” song just because the chorus contained a well-used and commonly-known four letter word.

Even the “edgy” computer and videogames of the age (and the gleefully immature video games magazines of the time) seem remarkably tame when it comes to profanity. I mean, games from the 1990s sometimes actually bleeped certain four-letter words on the rare occasions that they used them. It was a hilariously uptight time. And, yet, stuff from the ’90s still manages to have more of an attitude than modern works that face no formal or informal restrictions on the use of four-letter words.

The main reason for this is that creative people of the time were forced to be a little bit more creative with how they rebelled. They actually had to be a bit more clever with their humour. They had to find ways to make slightly less rude words (eg: damn, bollocks etc..) sound just as “edgy” as proper profanity. And, most of all, they couldn’t always rely on using just one word as a lazy crutch to make their work seem “rebellious”. Instead they actually had to, you know, rebel.

So, if you use fewer four-letter words, you can ironically give your creative works more of a 90s-style “rebellious” atmosphere.

2) Subtle liberalism: These days, whenever a “liberal” creative work appears in the mainstream, there’s usually a lot of fanfare, opinion pieces on the internet and furious online arguments. For example, although I haven’t yet seen it at the time of writing (and, as such, have no opinion about the quality of the film), you can barely even mention the modern remake of “Ghostbusters” without inviting a flurry of furious arguments from all sides of the political spectrum.

The irony to all of this is that pop culture during the 90s was sometimes more liberal than it is often given credit for. It’s just that creative people didn’t feel the need to broadcast this fact to the world, they just got on with making things and let them stand on their own merits (with any liberal elements being just a part of the whole, rather than the main selling point). They focused primarily on making enjoyable creative works that just happened to be slightly “liberal”.

There was less emphasis on “making a point” and more of an emphasis on making things that everyone could enjoy, which just also happened to be slightly progressive.

For example, for all of the modern discussions about the diversity of playable characters in computer/video games, games back in the 1990s were occasionally more diverse than you might think- but it wasn’t usually used as a major selling point for games. After all, that’s what the actual gameplay is for.

Whether it was “Rise Of The Triad: Dark War“, “Unreal“, “Urban Chaos“, “SiN“, “Alone In The Dark“, “Shadow Man”, “Resident Evil 1-3“, “Blood II: The Chosen“, “American McGee’s Alice” etc… the range of playable main characters in cool games from the 90s (and very early 2000s) were sometimes a lot more diverse and/or sensibly-designed than some modern critics give them credit for.

Likewise, TV shows at the time were also able to be surprisingly liberal – without making this the entire selling point for the show. For example, the best thing in the superhero genre during the 1990s was a (surprisingly good) TV show about Superman (that just happened to be a slightly liberal romantic comedy too). And I haven’t even started talking about shows like “Star Trek: Voyager/ DS9, “The West Wing“, TNG“, “The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air“, “Babylon 5“, “Goodness Gracious Me“, “Bits“, “Bugs“, “The X-Files” etc.. The 90s contained so many examples of liberalism done right.

So, yes, if you want to add some 90s “rebelliousness” to your work, then don’t make a big deal about the liberal elements of anything you create.

3) Innovation: For all of the publicity that the immature “shock value” of things from the 1990s get, creative works from the 1990s were often rebellious in a more subtle (and far more interesting) way. Creative people were often a lot more eager to innovate during the 1990s than they are these days.

There was a real attitude of going against the “established” way of doing things back then. Yes, some of the creative experiments of the 1990s either failed or just look incomprehensibly silly these days – but people were more willing to experiment. Creative people were more willing to break with tradition out of curiosity or just because they could.

For example, one series of comics that was apparently sold in newsagents during the 1990s were Neil Gaiman’s “Sandman” comics. These were a far cry from the usual silly superhero fare, instead focusing on telling a grand mythological story about seven ancient beings (each one representing an element of the human condition) and their interactions with humanity. The comic is intelligent, nuanced and complex. And, at the time, it was probably at least slightly groundbreaking.

Likewise, the 90s was also the decade that saw the introduction of the “Scream” films. Although they look cheesy and old-fashioned now, they were a brilliantly sarcastic reaction to the (surprisingly conservative) slasher films that had been so popular during the previous decade. They took the conventions of this genre and they did something a bit different with them.

So, yes, if you want a bit of ’90s-style rebelliousness in the things you create, then try to innovate a bit.


Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

Three Reasons Why Comics Are More Rebellious Than Other Mediums

2016 Artwork Why Are Comics So Rebellious

Well, today’s article was originally going to be titled “The Joy Of… Tank Girl” but, instead of rambling about one particular comic series, I thought that I’d take a look at comics as a whole.

One of the things that makes comics such an outstanding medium is just how rebellious they can be. Whilst you probably won’t find a huge amount of rebellion in the pages of a generic mainstream superhero comic (given how this genre evolved as a direct result of comics censorship), virtually every other type of comic can be surprisingly rebellious. Seriously, it’s part of what makes comics… well.. comics.

Whether it’s a candidly autobiographical comic like Marjane Satrapi’s “Persepolis”, whether it’s a stylised manga comic, whether it’s the wonderfully outspoken satire in Warren Ellis’ “Transmetropolitan”, whether it’s a gory horror comic, whether it’s Alan Moore’s “V For Vendetta”, whether it’s the general anarchy of old childrens’ comics like “The Beano“, whether it’s a slightly eccentric syndicated cartoon in a newspaper or whether it’s an out-and-out punk comic like Alan Martin and Jamie Hewlett’s “Tank Girl”, comics are a wonderfully rebellious medium 🙂

So, why are comics so amazingly rebellious? There are several reasons for this.

1) Most of them aren’t mainstream: Generally, whenever there’s something about “comics” in the media, it’s often about the very mainstream superhero genre (and the two major publishers of these comics). Although this is kind of annoying, it also has something of a fringe benefit too.

Although there are obviously exceptions to this rule, most real creativity tends to happen outside of the mainstream. I mean, just look at heavy metal and punk music. These can be some of the most musically complex and linguistically intelligent genres of music out there (if you don’t believe me, then just listen to some Bad Religion, some modern Iron Maiden and/or some Cradle Of Filth), but they very rarely appear on the radio or on television.

Because they have a dedicated fanbase, and because they don’t have to focus on appealing to a “popular” audience, these genres of music can focus more on actual creativity and self-expression. The same is true for many comics too. Except, of course, for the superhero genre.

Being outside the mainstream, and slightly out of the public eye, also gives comic creators more freedom of expression too. Although comics certainly aren’t immune from controversies, it’s very telling that virtually all of the modern comics-related controversies tend to be about mainstream superhero comics.

Since most comics aren’t as famous as these comics, they’re less likely to attract controversy – meaning that the creators thankfully have more freedom to include rebellious, edgy, cynical, subversive, risque and/or satirical content without the fear of a major controversy.

2) They have all the advantages of film/TV, but none of the disadvantages: Like film and TV, comics are a visual medium that grabs the audience’s attention instantly. They’re also a medium that often doesn’t require a huge amount of “effort” to enjoy.

However, unlike films and TV shows, a comic can be created by just one person. One person can be in charge of literally everything that happens in a comic. In other words, comics can easily contain the same degree of unique self-expression as a novel can. Not only that, there are fewer barriers to entry when it comes to making comics. Theoretically, all you need to make a comic is a pen, a pencil, an eraser and some paper.

In addition to this, no-one has tried to formally censor comics (in Europe and America, at least) for at least a couple of decades. However, if you want to release a film in Britain, you are still legally obliged to get the approval of the British Board Of Film Classification first. Although the BBFC aren’t as bad as they used to be, they’re still not above doing things like counting swear words, setting rules about how certain subjects (eg: drug use etc..) are depicted and, in rare cases, even banning films.

But, thankfully, with comics, there are (usually) no censors to get between the creators and their audience.

3) Comics don’t have to be “realistic”: Yes, you can buy comics with very realistic art, very realistic characters and very realistic settings, but these are a relatively recent development. For most of their history, comics contained stylised art and a wide array of exaggerated, comedic, eccentric and just generally interesting characters. This means that they are the perfect medium for satire, parody and all sorts of other interestingly rebellious things.

Because comics don’t have to be realistic, they can do a lot of things that more “realistic” mediums like film and television can’t do easily or cheaply. If you want to include a ‘special effect’ in your comic, then the only question is “how do I draw this?” If you want to include an elaborate location in a comic, you don’t have to worry about building a set or using a green screen, you just have to work out how to draw it. Comic makers have far more practical freedom than filmmakers do.

Likewise, because comics traditionally don’t include “realistic” art, this changes the audience’s expectations slightly. Not only does it add more uniqueness to the story that is being told, but (with the exception of biographical comics) it’s also a very clear signal that “this is fiction, and literally anything can happen here“.

In other words, even the art in a comic tells the reader that they are entering a world of pure imagination and pure creativity. They are entering a small corner of the mind of the person who wrote and/or drew the comic. It tells the reader that they might encounter strange things, unusual opinions and all sorts of other stuff. Now compare this to the rigid storytelling conventions and visual traditions of the average Hollywood film….

This alone usually means that comics can be far more rebellious than most other mediums can be.


Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

Find Your Own Definition Of Rebellion – A Ramble

2015 Artwork Find your own version of rebellion article

Although this article will hopefully eventually contain some useful advice about writing and art, I’d like to apologise in advance about writing yet another rambling opinion article rather than a “serious” advice article. If you just want to read the “advice” part of this article, then it’s probably worth skipping to the last few paragraphs.

I don’t know, I’ve been feeling uninspired over the past couple of days and – well, rambling opinion articles where a writer extrapolates universal “truths” from their own subjective thoughts are much easier to write than serious articles when you can’t think of anything constructive to say.

If you don’t believe me, then just look at the opinion pages of any modern… No, I won’t go there. It might offend a wide variety of opinion columnists on both sides of the political spectrum. It could cause a Twitterstorm. Hell, it could even cause a real controversy.

Of course, we have a very strange attitude towards controversy these days. Back when I was a kid in the 1990s and a teenager in the 00s, controversy was a good thing. If something was controversial, then it was usually worth trying to see, listen to or read.

Even if I didn’t really understand why something was controversial, I’d still try my hardest to experience controversial things. When I was a young teenager, I bought a second-hand copy of Peter Wright’s “Spycatcher” because I’d heard that it had been banned by the Government for a while. I never actually really read much of it because I quickly found that it was pretty boring, but just the fact that I owned a previously banned book was kind of a cool thing.

As a slightly older teenager, I videotaped the notorious “blasphemous” opera that was based on “Jerry Springer” when it was on TV and sat through the whole thing, despite the fact that it was basically a boring two-hour opera with a few surreal things and four-letter words in it.

Likewise, when I was a kid, I constantly (and with no success) pestered my parents to let me watch “South Park”, despite the fact that all of the show’s clever social satire would have probably gone completely over my head back then. It was controversial and “offensive”, therefore it deserved to be watched.

Hell, if a CD had one of those silly “explicit lyrics” stickers on it, then it was usually worth buying – even if it was total crap. Likewise, one of the many reasons why I enjoyed reading splatterpunk novels when I was a teenager was because they were the closest thing to the “previously banned” VHS and DVD re-releases of old 1980s “video nasties” that I wanted to buy but, unfortunately, looked too young to convincingly lie about my age to video shop owners.

Back then, controversy was cool. Controversy was rebellious. People had to try really hard to be controversial and, when they succeeded, their work would be well-recognised and get lots of free tabloid publicity.

These days though, standards have slipped somewhat. Not only is it very easy for something or someone to become controversial these days, but controversy is now seen as something that is terrible, rather than rebellious.

Call me naive but, for a brief while in the 1990s and 2000s, it seemed like people were becoming harder to shock. It seemed like, if someone disapproved of something, they’d either just ignore it or possibly say or write a few polite words of criticism, ridicule and/or disapproval.

For a while, it seemed like the world was going to take the same brillantly cynical attitude towards controversy as this hilariously sarcastic punk rock song does.

But, these days, it’s gone in the complete opposite direction. Whether it’s because of a few people on the right or a few people on the left, we’ve ended up in a situation where it’s both easier to rebel than ever before – but also undesirable to rebel.

It was then that I realised that I hardly ever produce anything rebellious these days.

But, of course, were I to “rebel” – my work would probably not be labelled as “rebellious” because we’ve lost the idea of what it is to rebel creatively. Or, rather, not enough of us have tried to find what it is.

You see, rebellion is a very subjective thing. One person’s idea of rebellion is another person’s idea of hyper-conformity. So, in many ways, the only way that you can rebel these days is to work out what you personally consider to be rebellious and then to create works of art and fiction that fit into your idea of rebellion.

For example, my own definition of rebellion is both liberal and conservative. Although I don’t want to go into detail (lest, ironically, I cause a controversy) I find some liberal ideas to be rebellious and I find some conservative ideas to be rebellious. Then, of course, there are ideas like free speech which I find rebellious, but both sides absolutely hate (albeit for different reasons and in different ways).

Your own definition of rebellion will, of course, be totally different. But, you’re never going to produce works of art and fiction that you think are cool until you’ve found it.


Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

Art, Writing And Rebellion

And, yes, I'm aware how ironic "mandatory rebellion" probably is...

And, yes, I’m aware how ironic “mandatory rebellion” probably is…

As tempted as I am to turn this into yet another introspective article about self-censorship, I thought that I’d look at what happens long before I even start to think something like “oh my god! I can’t post THAT on the internet!” and end up editing my work.

Yes, this will be a weird article about my emotions and about the creative process – but it might be useful to you.

The fact is, when I create something which I later end up watering down, removing or editing beyond recognition, it usually feels like the best thing I’ve ever made! Not only that, the process of actually writing, drawing and/or painting it usually feels about ten times more fascinating and meaningful than usual too.

And, when I’ve finished, I usually find myself spending at least twenty minutes doing nothing but admiring my work.

In those twenty minutes, I feel like an artist, I feel like a writer – I feel like someone who has something to say. I feel like a “rebel”, I feel serious. Then, satisfied, I queue my work up to be posted online weeks or months later. Of course, due to my worries about what people will think, it rarely gets posted in full a few weeks later.

But, instead of talking about self-censorship, I’d like to talk about the feelings that I’ve just described. You see, whether you publish something or not, the feelings I’ve described in the last few paragraphs are something that an artist and/or a writer should feel on at least a semi-regular basis.

This feeling is, quite literally, liberating – in the sense that you’re liberating all of the meaningful/ interesting/ bizarre/ hilarious/ transgressive/ shocking/ cynical/ explicit stuff from your mind and setting it free on the page.

Whilst this can sometimes be cathartic, I’d argue that it’s something more than mere catharsis – it’s more a sense of being able to say something about yourself, your imagination and/or your worldview that you can’t quite express by just talking about it.

Generally speaking, most of the best (but not necessarily the most popular) art, fiction and music comes out of this exact state of mind. It appears when someone decides to unapolagetically make something unique out of a part of themselves, which no-one else could possibly ever create.

In a way, it’s a little act of rebellion against what everyone thinks and what is considered “normal”. And, well, I’d argue that in order to be an artist or a writer – you have to be something of a rebel.

Why? Because it’s what makes creativity feel fun and worthwhile, it’s what keeps us practicing our writing and/or our art. Because, let’s face it, if we have the omnipotent power to create facsimilies of life and to alter them in any way that we want, then conforming to what is considered “normal” or “ordinary” just feels… pointless.

It’d be like having a fast and powerful car, but only ever being able to drive it at 10mph. It’d be like going on holiday to somewhere fascinating and then spending all the time in your hotel room. It’d be like having a super-fast internet connection and only ever visiting one text-based website.

So, even if – like me – you’re the kind of creative coward who hides a third of their best work, doesn’t even make another third of it and edits the remaining third beyond recognition, then you still need to create these “rebellious” pieces of work.

Even if you never show them to anyone, you still need to create them in order to keep up your enthusiasm for making things and to remind yourself why you decided to become an artist or a writer.

So, go on, make something rebellious!


Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂

Five Tips For Writing Rebellious Characters

Damn it! Why is my hair censoring my super-rebellious "Block Authority!" T-shirt?

Confound it! Why is my hair censoring my highly-subversive “Block authority!” T-shirt?

Let’s face it, the most memorable types of characters are the ones who don’t follow the rules. They’re the kind of characters who think for themseleves and seem to be able to get away with saying things that most people wouldn’t dare to say and doing things most people wouldn’t dare to do.

Let’s face it, rebels are just a lot more memorable and compelling than ordinary and unremarkable characters. This is why, to use an old example, Robin Hood is a pretty famous and well-recognised character compared to, say, the Sheriff Of Nottingham.

Chances are, when you read about these characters, there’s at least a small part of your soul that wishes that you were more like them. And, if you don’t “fit in” in with the society around you in any way, then it can be refreshing to see a positively-portrayed character who doesn’t fit in rather than seeing such characters being demonised or seen as “freaks”.

Anyway, these kind of characters tend to be very slightly more common in comics than in prose fiction (eg: Spider Jerusalem from Warren Ellis’s excellent “Transmetropolitan” comics or Tank Girl in Alan Martin and Jamie Hewlett’s amazing “Tank Girl” comics) but they appear in pretty much any medium which can be used to tell a story. They’re that cool. So, how do you create a character like this?

1) What is their philosophy? If someone is rebelling against something – whether it is a corporation, religion, society or culture – then there’s usually a reason for it. So, if you’re writing a rebellious character, make sure you know why they’re rebelling. This may be due to their experiences and/or it may just be due to their personality and worldview – whatever it is, make sure you know what it is before you start your story.

Yes, James Dean may have inspired the whole “rebel without a cause” thing back in the 1950s, but your “rebel” character is first and foremost a character. As such, they should have a decent amount of characterisation. Creating a two-dimensional character who exists purely to rebel against things just for the sake of it may work in a comedy story or as a background character who only appears briefly, but your character will probably be fairly two-dimensional in any other context.

So, if one of your main characters is a “rebel”, then you should work out why they’re rebelling against everything and you should show your readers why they’re rebelling too. You should at least give your readers a brief glimpse into their philosophy, worldview and emotions.

After all, how can your readers empathise with your character if they don’t even know who they are and why they are the person they are.

2) Subtle can be better: Sometimes the most compelling and inspiring “rebel” characters aren’t the ones who go around giving the finger to anyone in a uniform or playing outrageous pranks on people in authority. They’re the ones who are more quietly subversive, the kind of people who don’t fit in and don’t give a damn about it. They’re the kind of people who have unusual interests or unorthodox lives and yet still seem to somehow survive and thrive in this stiflingly conformist world. Sometimes it might even seem like they live in their own world. In many ways, this is probably more of an introverted form of rebellion than an extroverted form of rebellion.

These kinds of characters might seem a lot harder to write than more outwardly-rebellious characters, but they’re not too difficult to write. Basically, just make your character into someone who isn’t afraid to be herself or himself regardless of what anyone else thinks. It’s that simple.

3) Dialogue: Yes, rebellious characters can get away with saying some pretty outrageous things and, if they’re well-written enough, these can be both hilariously funny and thought-provoking. And, yes, some of the best “rebel” characters can turn swearing and insults into an art form on a par with Russian Mat. But, at the same time, if they’re going to say something outrageous, then it has to be inventive and well-written.

In other words, your character isn’t inherently rebellious just because they use a lot of four-letter words. Pretty much everyone does this when they’re angry or shocked or in suitably informal company – it’s nothing special. Plus, using the same word repeatedly in your character’s dialogue can also get kind of dull and repetitive after a while too.

So, either save all of the best words in the English language for special occasions in your story and/or give your character’s dialogue a highly-descriptive and almost poetic feel.

4) Honesty: The best “rebel” characters usually end up illustrating some fundamental truth or other about either the society they live in or the human condition in general. They make people question the structures, society and cultural narratives surrounding them. In other words, they’re honest characters who think. This doesn’t mean that they never lie, cheat or steal but it means that they see the world in a more honest way or they speak truths about the world that those in power would rather everyone didn’t really think about.

At the same time, don’t make your “rebel” character too heavily political either. After all, political fanatics (of all types) usually end up being as bad, despotic, flawed and/or annoying as the people they’re opposing.

5) Subcultures: If you’re a lazy writer, then you’ll probably try to make your character a “rebel” by putting them into one of the cooler subcultures in the world (eg: punk, goth, heavy metal etc…) and turning them into a cliche or a stereotype.

Now, whilst it’s likely that your character might be drawn to these subcultures because they value independent thought and looking at the world in a slightly different way, your character will probably already have these qualities before they discover the subculture. They don’t suddenly magically become “rebellious” just because they wear a particular type of clothes or listen to a particular type of music – all of these things should just be expressions of your character’s unique personality and not a substitute for it.

If someone tries really hard to “perfectly” fit into a subculture, then they aren’t a rebel. They’re fashionable. And fashion is the opposite of rebellion. Think about it.


I hope that this article was useful 🙂 If you want any more inspiration, then check out this hilarious clip from “Red Dwarf”.