Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Sarcasmbot and Miserable Bitchs

I have been reading WAY to much lately! I am full of ideas and have been reading as a form of research (along with research-research) and what I have discovered are two things I'm getting tired of. All in the same book no less! Which will remain nameless for the purposes of not shooting myself in the foot. But these character traits show up a lot in various forms across all genres (though lately urban fantasy is particularly guilty).

The two things I hate right now in characters are:

1- The Sarcasmbot. This is when a character is snarky for the sake of snark, and or, to show off how clever and witty the author is by using sarcastic acrobatics mid-sentence, every sentence. Since when is sarcasm a substitute for an actual personality? These characters often have only one other character trait and that is being Miserable Bitches. They have no sense of humor (aside from constant snark) and it doesn't make them well rounded or interesting.

2- The Miserable Bitch. This often goes hand in hand with the Sarcasmbot and acts as the Sarcasmbot's secondary personality trait. These characters are joyless and quite frankly boring. Just because your character is a miserable pathos ridden bitch who the universe has decided to shit upon repeatedly, doesn't mean I have to care. Too often the sad sack only engenders feelings of annoyance because that much misery becomes only so much irritating white noise.

Now the theory is that the author has set up some kind of back story for the character where in the Miserable Bitch was happy for about 5 minutes before something ubertragic happens and it's all swept away in a wave of tears and sadness. The problem is that often only one or two chapters deals with the character being happy before it's all taken away so the reader never gets to live in the characters happiness. Handing me a character in chapter one that has a happy family and then killing the family in chapter two hasn't given the reader time to like any of the characters involved and therefore when 'oh-so-sad!' the characters die, no ones cares!

OK, I'm going to add a third character I don't like to this list.

3- Ubertragic Melancholy Pityme. When a character goes on and on about how terrible there life is and how nothing ever works out for them, and how put upon they are. Just staple the back of your hand to your forehead and find a fainting couch to drape yourself across because I don't care you joyless sack of crap. Telling me how miserable you are all the time does not foster sympathy

Basically my message is this; you the author can't just TELL me how tragic your character is and magically make me the reader, care. That's not how it works. There has to be more to it. Throwing already emotionally fucked up characters with miserable lives into miserable circumstances loses all contrast! If the character is already miserable in the beginning and nothing improves how do we tell the character has learned anything or grown at all?

And snark does NOT equal personality! It does not equal spunk, it does not equal wit, and it does NOT equal anything close to a multi-dimensional character.


  1. You are so right. I don't mind miserably characters but at least let me feel miserable for them, if they stay miserable for the whole thing, I'm going to be miserable cause the book probably not that enjoyable for me. And while I do have a thing for the snarky, it does seem to be an overused trait at the moment.