bully bystanderI went to a “Bully Prevention Training” this week for my job as a teacher, and I was actually surprised at how interesting it was, and as usual it made me think of writing. I have sort of a one track mind that way.

I think a lot of kids think that anytime anyone does anything mean to someone else, it’s bullying, but it’s actually not. Here’s the “official” definition from the Olweus Bully Prevention Program:

“Bullying is when someone repeatedly and on purpose says or does mean or hurtful things to another person who has a hard time defending himself or herself.”

So it has to be aggressive, repeated, and aimed toward someone who doesn’t have the power to stop it.

Bullies can definitely make interesting characters in stories, but they’re usually secondary characters, like Dudley Dursley in Harry Potter. In fact, I can’t think of any main characters who are classic bullies. Can you?

Perhaps the most interesting part of the bully training had to do with the most influential and biggest group in a bullying situation, the bystanders! I’d never even considered these people as having roles in a bully situation but they do These are the people who watch the bullying and generally they either 1) support the bully, 2) don’t actively support the bully but do nothing to stop it, 3) leave the situation because they don’t support the bully but are too afraid to do something, or 4) tell the bully to knock it off and rescue the person being bullied.

When you have characters being bullied or bullying another kid, what are the bystanders doing? How do they play into the situation? Or is the bystander a main character who’s conflicted about doing something to stop the bully? Almost every single adult at the training had participated as a bystander in a bullying situation as a kid or teenager. I think there’s some good potential for stories there. What do you think?