I am writing a story with a character who was a prince born albino in a very superstitious country. His Uncle intensely feared killing him, as he believed it would release a demon inside of him. This myth becomes the only thing that saves his life when his kingdom is overthrown as a child. He learned that having people falsely fear him keeps him safer than trying to dispel the rumors.

I need a term for someone who encourages his own awful reputation, so that he can win through fear without having to actually be fearsome. Think of Captain Shakespeare from Stardust as being a good example.

The word in a sentence may be used much like the words illusion or facade. I am not necessarily looking for a noun or an adjective in particular; just a word, or perhaps a short collection of words to explain or describe the concept. Several example sentences include:

"He was known to ____"

"His ____ was falling to pieces".

  • 3
    Why do you think such a word exists, and how would you use this word in a sentence?
    – tchrist
    Sep 19, 2016 at 2:03
  • I've done a number of hours of research on the idea and concept and still can't seem to come up with a word to convey the concept. I suppose such a word may not exist. Honestly this was my last ditch effort. Sep 19, 2016 at 2:27

3 Answers 3


I'd say such a person cultivates notoriety.


Try to acquire or develop (a quality or skill)
‘he cultivated an air of indifference’



The state of being famous or well known for some bad quality or deed.
‘the song has gained some notoriety in the press’
‘she has a certain notoriety’


  • I think 'cultivate' is an excellent suggestion which would allow the writer to explore other phrases, such as 'cultivated the myth of his own inner demon', or cultivated belief that he was a walking time bomb'.
    – Spagirl
    Sep 19, 2016 at 10:17

"He was known to play the bad guy"

"His bad guy persona was falling to pieces".

I bad guy is too informal for you, there's always villain.


This is a case of propaganda (though usually propaganda involves spreading terrible rumors about others or nice rumors about oneself).

"He was known to propagandize".

"His propaganda was falling to pieces".


propaganda noun

: ideas or statements that are often false or exaggerated and that are spread in order to help a cause, a political leader, a government, etc.

He was accused of spreading propaganda.

propagandize verb

: to spread propaganda

He uses his movies to propagandize for the state.

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