Hello dudes and dudettes.
You ever had that problem before?
You make this character. You spend hours coming up with awesome snark for them to quip everyone with, plenty of cheeky remarks for the adults, sass for the dudes, and total burns for the girls. They are full of sass and snark. They’re awesome. They’re cool. You love them. And so will everyone else.
Then you write the story.
No one likes that character. And sadly sometimes, neither do you. In fact, you kind of hate them. Their constant sass to guys is annoying. Their burns are cruel. Their snark to adults is disrespectful and downright disgraceful.
They seem so cool. They always have the perfect comeback and sass. They’re drop dead gorgeous. All the guys drool over her and all the girls gasp and her perfect remarks.
WHAT IN THE NAME OF THE GALAXY HAPPENED??????
Why is this character so hated?
I’m sorry, but your character has Sassy Jerk Syndrome.
It’s a growing problem in YA literature. A character that is so cool, sassy, and amazing, they’re actually pretty awful.
For fun, let’s actually make a character who fits the cardboard cut out of this character.
You all know her. She has an absolutely stupid and supposedly meaningful name. We’ll call her Lyric Pandora Aurora.
She’s not just cute, or even pretty. She has a beauty that is unprecedented and all the guys are attracted to her. But she doesn’t dare curl her hair or wear pink. Basically, this is what she looks like:
Her sass is incredible. She puts every adult in their place. She spits out jabs and snark to all the guys who try to flirt with her. To the girly girls who are mean girl princesses, she delivers glorious burns and insults that send them crying to their rich daddies.
Despite being amazingly kick-butt and sassy, why I do dislike this character? Did you get the feeling of resentment I got too? But why?
Because basically, she is not cool. She’s a sassy jerk.
Are your characters starting to sound like Lyric up there? Do you want to have a character that is sassy but can’t stop them from being a bully?
Don’t go to burn your laptop and take a job at Walmart yet. And you don’t have to turn your character into a shy timid person either. We can cure your character of Sassy Jerk Syndrome, if we take a look at what makes this kind of character hated, and twisting it.
We’ll take a couple examples from TV and movies of good sassy characters, and see what makes them lovable, and how they’re different than Lyric.
Good Sassy Character Trait # 1: Even Though They’re Sassy, They’re Not Perfect
Character Example: Trish from Austin And Ally
(Lol, don’t watch the show but know enough about it to see Trish knows what’s up)
Trish has some great sass and some good burns. She’s funny and adds awesome comic relief.
Isn’t she hilarious? But Trish isn’t completely perfect. She totally misses the point sometimes.
And she has a tendency to not do her responsibilities and for some reason she can’t keep a job.
And we can all relate to that, right? And when we get to know Trish, every time we hear about her and how she is horrible with responsibility, we laugh because we can relate to her.
So when she breaks out some sass, we laugh at that too. Because we love Trish because she’s so relateable, and we root for her to be a little snarky.
Good Sassy Character Trait #2: Sassy Characters Are Kind
Character Example: Han Solo from Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Real talk: Han Solo is awesome. He has the best sass in the galaxy. This guy comes up with epic comebacks on the fly.
But here’s the thing. Behind his crusty old man snark, he’s got a heart. He kind of takes Rey under his wing as an adopted daughter (and yes I said ADOPTED because Han is NOT her dad, contrary to all theories). His relationship with her is so sweet.
I love how right after this he gives her a tender look and says, “You know, I’ve been looking to take on some more crew. A first mate. Someone who loves the Falcon as much as me and Chewie.”
Then Rey looks at him and says, “Are you offering me a job?”
Then Han (in his sassy style): “I wouldn’t be nice to you. Doesn’t pay much.”
Rey (with a sweet smile): “You’re offering me a job.”
Then Han protests being nice with a, “I said I’m thinking about it!”
AY! Too much for ma heart. This is why we love Han. He’s sassy, but he’s kind.
Good Sassy Character Trait #3: Sass Doesn’t Always Have To Be Mean – It Can Be Downright weird!
In all honesty, comebacks are really just cruel insults. And if you stuff too many into the character’s mouth, they’ll come across as a bully.
But what if they’re insults and snarky remarks were a little more quirky? That would get us to laughing along with them.
Because lots of times, our attempts at snark on the fly is usually pretty awkward and usually a fail. We get it, and we love those characters for it.
And don’t forget that good sassy characters also aren’t physically perfect either. Han is an old man way past his prime. Trish is not a super model. (While she is pretty, she still does not fit the traditional perfect Disney Channel actor.)
This article has probably been absolutely horrifying or completely a blessing.
(Hoping for more votes of the latter, however.) But I had to rant about one of my pet peeves in characters and give my advice on how to change it. So thank you for your reading of this startling post. You are a true treasure.
So what do you think? Do you find these characters annoying? Did you ever have a character that you did really well with pulling off sass? Or perhaps a fail?
All images sourced through Pinterest and Scattered Quotes