Jan 22 2009

Death to Scrappy!

We’ve already done a general article on the dangers of using children as side-characters, but this article will discuss only the most dangerous kind of child character: The Scrappy.

Generally, a Scrappy is a character that is hated by readers, usually because he’s exaggeratedly inept in a way that is meant to be funny.  For example, instead of having a slight speech impediment, he’ll be Jar-Jar Binks.  Instead of being a bit younger than the other characters, he’ll be Scrappy Doo.  This character usually distracts from the more competent characters, often so much that he becomes a hate figure.

Here are some common misconceptions that lead authors to use Scrappies…

Misconception 1:  Having a young, cute character will give audiences a warm and fuzzy feeling.
First, over-cute characters are more likely to annoy or enrage readers than endear them.  Second, does a warm and fuzzy character actually fit into your work?  If your audience is above the age of 8 (particularly males), probably not. Finally, have you ever heard anyone complain that a work was insufficiently cute?

Misconception 2:  An exaggerated dialect will probably be funny and/or cute.
No.  It’s far more likely to create a Jar-Jar Binks.  Similarly, giving your character a style of speech designed to make him sound deliberately cute is often infuriating.  “Uncoo Fwed, I wuv you!”  Ick.  You don’t need to resort to mispellings to make a character sound really young.

Misconception 3:  “Adding a tagalong kid will help me broaden my audience base”.
That is actually true, particularly in cartoon shows, but don’t let him get so obnoxious that he infuriates older members of the audience.  Please see Jade from Jackie Chan Adventures for a fairly effective example of a kid tagalong.

36 responses so far

36 Responses to “Death to Scrappy!”

  1. Miusherion 23 Jan 2009 at 6:11 am

    My all-time favorite kid tag-along is Short Round (Indiana Jones). He was great!

    However, the main point stands: most kid tag-alongs are super annoying (see also: Wesley Crusher).

  2. C.R.on 23 Jan 2009 at 6:56 am

    Geez, that TV Tropes page is extensive. Heh. I suspect roughly 90% of those storytelling devices and conventions are not present in roughly 90% of the audience members’ minds and expectations.

  3. B. Macon 23 Jan 2009 at 6:58 am

    TV Tropes has a page devoted to The Wesley.

  4. Davidon 23 Jan 2009 at 9:35 am

    I think Sakura from Naruto is a scrappy character. She really annoyed me the first few episodes. Heck, for the first few seasons.

  5. Holliequon 23 Jan 2009 at 9:55 am

    Short Round was a great tagalong! He was much better than Willie Scott. And she was an adult.

  6. B. Macon 23 Jan 2009 at 5:34 pm

    Yeah, CR. I think that some authors get unduly freaked out by TV Tropes because a lot of their story is based on concepts that have been Troped. (“Oh no! All of my hero’s superpowers are listed.”) That’s not necessarily a problem; it’s all about how you execute the concept.

  7. Ragged Boyon 24 Jan 2009 at 5:23 pm

    Wow, today was awfully quiet here at SN.

    That TV Tropes site is hilarious, especially the Idiot Plot examples.

  8. B. Macon 24 Jan 2009 at 5:28 pm

    Yeah. I can’t remember the last time I woke up and didn’t have 5-20 comments waiting. In the last week, we had something like 350 comments but only ~2 today.

  9. B. Macon 24 Jan 2009 at 5:39 pm

    Quoting David:

    Sakura… really annoyed me the first few episodes. Heck, for the first few seasons.

    So, do you think she’s gotten better since the first few seasons? What do you think caused that?

  10. Ragged Boyon 24 Jan 2009 at 5:58 pm

    She’s gotten much better now that she isn’t a tagalong character with no skills. Now that she got super strong and learned medical ninjutsu she is much more interesting and can stand alone and possibly win her own fights. Plus, she will supposedly be one of the strongest medical ninjas in the world at the rate at which she learns. I’ve grown to not hate her anymore.

  11. Davidon 24 Jan 2009 at 6:00 pm

    What annoyed me originally was the way she treated Naruto and I’ll say mooned over Saska (that’s now spelled right, sorry), but that’s improved slightly. Another thing that annoys is me that she sits around moping and doesn’t do anything about it. I just want to tell her to get off her butt and learn a decent jutu and do something about what’s bugging her. Later on, she does become stronger. I haven’t seen those episodes yet, but I think that might really help her.

    She was getting on well, then one thing that spoiled it was the first fight between Saska and Naruto. She ran out trying to stop them, but the most annoying thing was the way she was crying. She had both hands in the eyes like a five-year-old girl. I’m sorry, but that’s just a bad panel by the creative team.

  12. Ragged Boyon 24 Jan 2009 at 6:07 pm

    I think she’s gotten alot better though. She was able to hold her own against Sasori-an akatsuki member. Although, she is still greatly lacking in combat jutsu, her medical ninjutsu is pretty impressive.

  13. Davidon 24 Jan 2009 at 6:12 pm

    Another character that could use some improvement is Rock Lee. In the episodes I’ve seen so far, he’s only won one fight and that was against Saskia in that little spount they had. And from what I’ve read, he doesn’t win any more. Btw, Garra’s constant sandy breathing was really annoying, don’t you think?

  14. Ragged Boyon 24 Jan 2009 at 6:22 pm

    Rock Lee improves vastly once he recovers from Gaara’s injuries. He beats the crap out this one guy in the movie, he beats a copy of himself, he becomes a chunin. From my guess you haven’t read that far into the series, I’ve read all of them. And I can tell you now Rock Lee and pretty much everyone else become total ass kickers later on. The series really gets good, I find it pretty interesting..

  15. Ragged Boyon 24 Jan 2009 at 6:24 pm

    Gaara becomes a good guy eventually, he and Naruto become best friends, unfortunately, he gets his tailed beast taken out of his body and loses his sad power.

  16. Davidon 24 Jan 2009 at 6:24 pm

    lol ok plese no spoilers

  17. Ragged Boyon 24 Jan 2009 at 6:27 pm

    Sorry, I got carried away with my omniscient knowledge of Naruto.

    I suspect you haven’t made it too Shippudden yet?

  18. B. Macon 24 Jan 2009 at 6:28 pm

    Hmm. Quick question. What’s the appeal of Naruto?

  19. Davidon 24 Jan 2009 at 6:28 pm

    im as far as series 5 part 1 there chaseing the sound ninga to get Saski back hes in a round coffen thve lost choje and neggi im that far

  20. Davidon 24 Jan 2009 at 6:30 pm

    Naruto is an absalutly fantastic show great action great moves and Chraters watching it and see

  21. B. Macon 24 Jan 2009 at 6:31 pm

    Great characters. Hmm, I guess that would distinguish it from competitors like Dragonball Z. Also, I suspect that Naruto’s fanbase is considerably less male-tilted than DBZ’s is.

  22. Davidon 24 Jan 2009 at 6:36 pm

    well look its a gd show i dunno how else to descripb it

  23. Ragged Boyon 24 Jan 2009 at 7:04 pm

    I HATED Dragonball Z, it was the same story over and over. Villian comes, everyone gets whooped, one person rises above the rest, and defeats the villian. Eww.

    I think the appeal is deeper characters that DBZ, which is probably why more girls like it, instead of ridiculously buff idiots (even the children had six-packs), they have broody Sasuke and emo Gaara. I find the vast amount and creativity of jutsus very interesting. It’s less conventional battle, no one really just hits their opponent, there is alot of strategy that goes into the fights. The story is good, but chocked full of flashbacks, I like that the story is generally open ended, anything can happen and spring a chain of events.

    “I’m as far as series 5 part 1 they’re chasing the sound ninja to get Sasuke back he’s in a round coffin they’ve lost choji and neji, I’m that far”

    Wow, you haven’t made it anywhere yet lol. At least your at a really good part, you’ve got some kickass fights coming up, but I won’t spoil them for you.

    Are you reading it of watching it? I read it, it takes a long time, but you’ll get to the juicy stuff faster if you do.

  24. Ragged Boyon 24 Jan 2009 at 7:06 pm

    I wouldn’t have read Naruto if not for the jutsus, they are hands down the most interesting part, in my opinion.

  25. Davidon 24 Jan 2009 at 7:19 pm

    i cant reas the naruto books or any anime books they go from right to left and books i am used to reading go from left to right

  26. Ragged Boyon 24 Jan 2009 at 7:24 pm

    It’s not that hard, its like reading a comic book, just go the other way. You can read them online ya’ know at this site.


    You’re somewhere in the lower 100’s.

    I’m pretty sure everyone in America is used to reading left to right, but that doesn’t stop most people from being crazy about mangas.

  27. Ragged Boyon 24 Jan 2009 at 7:40 pm


    You’re at about 198. Where Neji beats spider guy.

  28. Davidon 24 Jan 2009 at 7:40 pm

    lol ok i’ll give it ago

  29. B. Macon 24 Jan 2009 at 7:41 pm

    Yeah, I think that most Indo-European languages are read left to right. I wonder why a manga publisher wouldn’t just reverse the Japanese comics as part of the translation process? That might result in some oddities (everyone would be left-handed), but I think that’s a lot less intrusive than moving from right to left.

  30. Ragged Boyon 24 Jan 2009 at 7:50 pm

    I’m watching Naruto on TV right now. Haha

  31. Davidon 24 Jan 2009 at 8:10 pm

    Well, I’ve read a bit. I’m gonna wait until the dvd comes out.

    I’m hoping my comic becomes a success and gets its own tv show, hehe. Fingers crossed.

  32. Ragged Boyon 24 Jan 2009 at 8:29 pm

    I suspect my drawing style as of now is best suited for action cartoons. If my series ever became a tv show I’d definitely want to be a cartoonist for it. People always tell me I could be a cartoonist, but I don’t find that acceptable, I want to be a comic artist.

  33. B. Macon 25 Jan 2009 at 12:35 am

    I don’t know anything about cartoons, sorry. My main observation in that field is that the animation in season 2 of Jake Long must have been a deliberate attempt to get the show canceled.

  34. Ragged Boyon 25 Jan 2009 at 6:51 am

    I didn’t get that either they went from a good animation style to an ugly one. The Dragon went from buff to thin and sickly looking.

  35. Davidon 25 Jan 2009 at 7:36 am

    Apparently it was a different artist. Also, his little sister went from dark purple (in season 1) to bright pink.

  36. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 07 Feb 2009 at 5:13 am

    My friend is obsessed with Naruto, in the same way I’m obsessed with Kingdom Hearts. I haven’t seen it, and she hasn’t played KH, but we talk for hours about the characters. I know most of the Naruto ones.

    Before, when you were discussing Sakura, she’s the girl with pink hair, right?

    By “Saska”, do you mean Sasuke? I don’t know much Japanese, but “suke” is pronounced “skay”. I also know that “ko” means “child”, so any name ending in “ko” is “(something) child”.

    I should really expand my Japanese vocabulary. Both my friend and I are dying to learn it, so maybe I could learn some words and teach them to her.

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