The Pen is Mightier than the Sword: Tips on Writing Witty Insults
Throughout history the written word has been more powerful and cutting than a skilled swordsman could hope to be. The best insult is one which is clever or humorous as well as hurtful.
Writing a good insult takes practice and skill. When writing fiction, the best insults come from the characters themselves. A well-developed character will almost give you the insults to write and often they’ll manage to do it in the heat of the moment, unlike most of us in reality.
How to write a good insult
- Keep it witting and almost polite. This shows an intelligence and gives the insulter the moral high ground, especially if the person isn’t sure they are being insulted.
- Avoid swearing. Although some brilliant fictional insults include swearing, most do not.
- Keep it in character. This involves developing your character fully. Use character sheets, write down their history and interview them to really get into their mind.
- Get the dialogue right. Dialogue is one of the most important storytelling tools. A good fight must bounce back and forth, almost like a song or dance and the insults need to be a part of that. There should be a rhythm to it, but like all good fiction it should be realistic, so remember to write dialogue as people actually speak.
To inspire your writing, here are various examples of humorous and cutting insults from the written world.
Insults from the real world
- ‘Reader, suppose you were an idiot. Now suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.’ Mark Twain
- ‘Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words?’ Ernest Hemingway about William Faulkner
- ‘Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.’ Oscar Wilde
Insults from fictional worlds
- ‘Are you in great physical pain, or is that your thinking expression?’ What a Dragon Should Know by G A Aiken
- ‘It would seem that you have no useful skill or talent whatsoever,’ he said. ‘Have you thought of going into teaching?’ Mort by Terry Pratchett
- ‘I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.’ The Fellowship of the Ring by J R R Tolkien
- ‘You,’ Madeline said, her voice hollow and wheezing, ‘are like a bad case of herpes, wizard. You’re inconvenient, embarrassing, no real threat, and you simply will not go away.’ Turncoat by Jim Butcher
Keep these tips in mind to enhance your writing wit. If you are interested in buying pens for writing insults or other forms of writing, visit local experts such as Melbourne Pen Depot.