This is going to be a challenge. Giving tips on a character type that I really don’t get along with? Strap in your popcorn and let’s see where this wild ride takes us. All tips are spontaneous with the minimal amount of thought . . . Also, fueled by sleep deprivation even though I got a full night of sleep prior to this. Whatever.
- Give the character something to be self-righteous about. This might seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how often a character is made to be a pompous jerk simply for the tension. Much of being self-righteous deals with a social or moral path that they are confident about. It’s about judging others by this and trying to convert them. If there isn’t a clear, stable system fueling the character then it falls flatter than a piece of paper.
- To give the character some longevity, do NOT make this their only trait. Maybe they’re a nice person and helpful, but they get on these rants at times. Perhaps they only have an issue with one character. If all they are is an asshole then nobody is going to like them and you risk harming the overall story. Readers may wonder why the other heroes keep associating with this character too.
- If they are targeting a specific character with their self-righteousness then you should give a deeper explanation. It can come out gradually or said bluntly, but you need to explain why everyone else gets better treatment. You need to have the target react as well because just ignoring it won’t create the proper tension. Again, you would simply have an asshole being an asshole with no opportunity for growth.
- Self-righteous villains are fun and can go over the top. Still, you need to reign them in at times to prevent them from going goofy. This morality that they are preaching is taken seriously by them, so you need to demonstrate this. Regardless of you finding them ridiculous, you need them to have some level of seriousness if they are to be seen as a real threat. Of course, you can ignore this if the entire concept is a spoof on something.
- Religious self-righteousness is really easy to do and incredibly common. Do it if you want to, but people are more surprised when the priest isn’t trying to convert every goblin to his way of thinking.
- Eventually, you will have to decide on what will happen to this character. It’s very difficult and kind of improbable that they will retain all of their self-righteousness by the end of the story. I’m not saying a full change of beliefs, but an alteration can show growth. Otherwise, people wonder why they went on the adventure in the first place because they haven’t changed. This is another reason why you shouldn’t make this their only trait too.
- Keep them consistent. If seeing someone eating boiled eggs instead of scrambles sets them off then they need to do that every time. Not to the point of it becoming old, but enough to remind the audience that they have this sense of egg superiority. Yeah, not my best analogy, but you get the point. I think. Just make sure their code doesn’t change simply because you want to have some arguments. These characters should have a bigger purpose than tension factories.