Put some “Leeroy Jenkins!” in your writing

It’s been a long weekend here with Monday being a holiday, and I’ve had some time to indulge in one of my time-wasting fun hobbies, playing Guild Wars 2 (don’t worry, the post is writing-related… I’ll get to that). The guild I’m in is small, but we have our fun, including a spreadsheet shared on Google Docs in which we document all our hilarious (mis-)adventures and references to some gaming-related things we feel everyone in the guild should be aware of.

For those who don’t know the reference, “Leeroy Jenkins!” became an infamous battle cry by a character of the same name in another MMO (Massively Multiplayer Online) game, World of Warcraft (which I don’t play but like most people I’ve heard of it). Apparently, his guild was meticulously planning their strategy and setting up their forces out of range of where the one of the harder boss fights in the game would begin when he simply charged into range of the boss, kicking off the battle, and yelling “Leeeeeerooooy Jenkins!” His guild attempted to come to his aid, but all the careful planning was out the window and he got everyone killed.

So what’s the point of my post, and how does it relate to writing, I hear you ask? Well, here it is:

The next time you write a story, I challenge you to introduce a character into it (not the main character, but a side-kick maybe, or the “bad guy”) who adds an element of chaos and unpredictability. The extent of chaos added is up to you, and will of course depend on the genre. But having a “wild character” who doesn’t always act the way someone with more common sense would expect can be both fun and a nice way to direct the action in an unexpected direction (of course it shouldn’t be abused as a deus ex machina plot device, but you get the idea; use within reason). Make sure that character’s motivation is a good fit – is he (I tend to think it would be a “he”, though a “she” could work just as well) deeply troubled, or does he have a twisted sense of humour, or perhaps a social or mental disability? – and plant some seeds for it early on. He could be anything from a “troll” to a “sassy mischief-maker”, from a “compulsive impulsive” to a “common-sensically-challenged dolt”, or from someone who thrives on beating long odds to a plain “tool” – and have fun with it.

Some characters that come to mind in some of my favourite stories who are unpredictable to some extent are the Fool from Robin Hobb’s Farseer trilogy, and Auri from Patrick Rothfuss’ The Kingkiller Chronicle trilogy. Both were very positive characters; a negative example was The Joker from The Dark Knight (brilliantly portrayed by the late Heath Ledger), whose absolute lack of fear and lack of respect for anything arguably made the story much more interesting.

What are your favourite “Leeroy Jenkinses”? Have you ever created characters who cause chaos? Do you think it could be a good idea or is it something you’d rather stay away from?

About Amos M. Carpenter

Web dev by day, author by night, and generally interested in (and opinionated about) way too many things.

Posted on 2 June, 2014, in Tips, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. A character who brings chaos into everyone else’s lives can end up being annoying for the READER, and that’s not a good thing. I’d rather see one who “thrives on beating long odds” than, say, someone who treats everything in life like a Three Stooges routine.

  2. Yes, I agree – everything in moderation. You don’t want the readers to throw up their hands in disgust and say, “There’s no way anyone could’ve seen that coming!” The reference to Leeroy Jenkins completely messing up a carefully laid plan that affects many is, of course, an extreme example, and would hinder rather than help a story. But what can make a story interesting (“can” being the operative word) is if you give the reader hints that a character is prone to somewhat irrational behaviour (it should still make some sort of sense from that character’s perspective) and give them that premonition of, “Oh, I just know he’s going to do something stupid soon…”, followed by, “Aha! I knew it!”

    Thanks for commenting, Thomas.

  3. I used to Guild Wars and can’t wait for the day I can afford Guild Wars 2! 😀 It looks like a great game, even though I don’t normally go for MMOs.


    I think this is a brilliant idea 😀 Having a character that just adds some sense of randomness, and chaos. I never really thought of that before, but it is definitely going in one of my books at some point!

    • The game is awesome – fixes all the major problems other MMOs have and it’s a bargain for US$50 (sometimes half that when it’s on special) with no costs after that (unlike WoW for example), constantly changing “Living Story” content… I could go on, and probably will in a post one of these days. 😉 The only problem is that it can be a time-sink; you can play as little or as much as you like, but I always wish I had more time for it.

      Glad you like the idea – like I said above, if you don’t overdo it, it can add fun to the story and it can be an interesting experience to write that character as well.

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