I might be failing school, but I will be ready when the titans attack
|Okay so I'm trying to write a character who's really cold with words that hurt like hella bad and she's very manipulative but I can't get the personality right. She always seems a little too sarcastic for my tastes but she isn't suppose to be, you know what I mean? Do you think you could help?|
If you want to ground your character as more cutting than outwardly sarcastic, you can try and simplify their dialogue. In my experience, there’s a huge difference between the raw power of someone who says “You’re a waste of space and a monumental idiot” and someone who says “You’re worthless.” I understand your trepidation on the sarcasm; if you fall too deeply into a speech pattern like that your character can become a Snark Knight, and they too often fill the space of the comedic relief, where you obviously are looking for something more dramatic. Go too hard on the sarcasm, you breach the comedic genre, go too hard on the formality, you’re nearing self-parody (think Loki from the Avengers thrown into a regular setting, talking the way he does.) What you need to find is a happy middle ground of intent sparceness.
Plan what your character needs to get across, and if they’re so clever and cutting as they’re meant to be, cut out every bit of that dialogue that doesn’t serve your purpose. Keep only what you need to 1) say what she needs to say on a basic level and 2) say what she needs to say to hurt, disarm, or manipulate, in the simplest way possible.
Being able to manipulate a person has a lot to do with perception, and understanding the person you’re controlling or hurting. So we should talk really quickly about how to manipulate a person in general.
The easiest way to manipulate a person is by playing on their emotions. If you let someone think long enough they’re more likely to make a logical choice, which is against your goal. If you can guide them to feel a certain way you’ll have a much easier time getting what you want.
So, essentially, your character needs to have enough skill in acting to manipulate someone easily; nobody reacts to the manipulation of someone they’re distant from (or believe themselves to be distant from.) You character has to be charming or cunning enough that went she pretends to respond to things with intense emotion, it will cause reactions in her targets.
Essentially, the greatest manipulative and cold personalities combine a mix of control over their own emotions, charm, a lack of social morality, and controlled and limited speech.
Character Trope pages that may also help inspire you or help you solidify narrative style: