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My story is an epic fantasy that, while it satires and mocks tropes, also still has consistent characters and worldbuilding. In the story, there is a group of minor-antagonists who compete with the protagonists. They are a parody of hated tropes, and they all get killed in the end. Some examples include the self-insert and sexist Mary Sue.

I do not want to make them just empty caricatures to hate. Yes, their role is just to be hated, but how can I write them so, while meant to be hated, they still feel like actual people (minus the sympathy?)

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I know three ways to make an audience hate a character:

  1. Giving characters a "holier than thou" attitude. One of the easiest ways to make the audience hate a character is by having them constantly act superior to everyone else, even when they're clearly not. Arrogant characters can be fun if they have other redeemable qualities like cleverness, a secret soft side, or true bravery in a dangerous situation, but these characters would be prideful simply because they can be. They're sore losers. They always have to have the last laugh. They'll cut you in line because they want to be first, etc.
  2. They're hypocrites. Few things are quite as annoying as a hypocrite. This plays into the arrogance part too. Imagine a character who constantly brags about how "humble and gracious" they are. They complain about the real heroes "Not being heroic enough" while simultaneously being unheroic themselves. For example, the heroes rush into battle to save the town. Then their opposites steal all the glory, claim they did all the work, and lie to the town by complaining that the real heroes were "cowards who hid while we did all the work". Hypocrites who act nice up front but are secretly jerks. This brings me to my third point.
  3. They get everything even when they don't deserve it. That's a surefire way to make the audience hate them almost undoubtedly. They're horrible people but the universe hands them everything on a golden plate. Fame and fortune? They got it. Beauty and perfect social etiquette? They've got it. Adoring fans everywhere they go? Yep.

This goes perfectly with the idea that one is a self-insert and one is a Mary Sue. By nature, those characters get everything. They get all the powers. All the adoring fans. All the love interests. But they're horrible people.

Realistically I think you could have them essentially be spoiled rotten.

The universe always handed these people everything they wanted. They got all the powers and all the wealth and no one ever told them no in their life, which turned them spoiled and arrogant. The heroes are the first people who've ever gotten in their way, and it probably annoys them.

Those are just a couple ways to do it. Though having them spoiled to the point of getting desensitized to everything around them seems like a pretty natural progression to me.

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Show their journey:

These are minor characters, so I'm uncertain how much effort you want to put into fleshing them out. To make someone hated, just have them do vile things. Kill a dog, or a child. Steal from the poor. Exploit the weak or mock the handicapped. Beat the helpless or betray a trust.

Less ethical but just as effective is to play on the biases of your audience. As unpleasant as it sounds, people hate those different than themselves. Make the characters ugly, or irritatingly beautiful, fat or skeletally thin, and of a despised group in the society of your reader (fascists/communists, White supremist/minorities, slavers/slaves, tax collectors/poor, poorly mannered/snobby and elitist, war profiteers, etc.). Obviously, some of these choices make the author look scummy depending on the audience, but that's how people make characters despised. They are meant to fulfill a simplistic function in the story. Dehumanize them and make them monsters.

But if their humanity is important, then by all means make them human.

I think what you really need to do is make them LESS hated. You are setting them up with tropey, stereotypical characteristics, so hating them isn't a challenge. The challenge is making them relatable enough to seem like real people. So show how they came to be what they are. Give a backstory demonstrating what led them down a despicable path, or show them struggling with the evil choice but choosing it anyway.

Point out the seduction by drugs that led them to a life of crime, or the painful moment they were betrayed and stopped trusting anyone. Show the speech by a parent where they are told how anyone else is inferior and that failure will result in them being no better. Talk about the day they caught the rabbit and struggled with the choice to give in and torture it or let it go. Discuss their deep faith in a god that demands human sacrifices.

I'm not saying that there aren't intrinsically evil people. But even for these, you can show them listening as a child at a therapist's door as Mom or Dad is told their kid is a sociopath. Tell the audience about their demonic heritage that makes choosing good impossible for them.

A stereotype arises from nothing and fulfills a function in a story. They are forgettable and unrelatable. A person has a story to explain them, or at least shows a struggle or reluctance for what they do.

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One method is to look to stories that you enjoy, with characters that you really like and identify those character traits that endeared you to them.

Then, do the opposite

According to Brandon Sanderson, Samwise Gamgee is most people's favorite character in Lord of the Rings, because he is really good at being a good friend to Frodo. What if he was always complaining, and handing the pack to Frodo. Asking, "Are we there yet?" And, eating all the lembas? We'd feel very different about Samwise. I suspected we'd root for Shelob when they fight. That Frodo would be better off without Samwise as his extremely selfish friend.

Other Examples:

  • We like brave characters -- so maybe your annoyotagonists, are cowards.
  • We admire gentle and sophisticated characters like Gatsby and Tom Bombadill -- so maybe your lame-otagonists are bullies and coarse mannered.
  • We enjoy competence in characters like James Bond and Dirk Pitt -- so maybe your pathetic-togonists only think they are competent, but are incapable of performing even basic task like sharpening a sword.
  • We respect characters who uphold high ideals and act on their principles, such as Atticus Finch -- so maybe your two-faced-togonists profess high ideals but act only in their self-interest. Maybe the blame others for their failures and take credit for others successes (this is called Schnieder's Axiom after its inventor)

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