Oh, this one's a classic. You have a character with an ego so large, it's on the verge of collapsing into an intellectual black hole. You want to make it into a comic relief but instead, end up with an irritating pain in the a*** that ruins the mood.

Such character would be Mephistopheles, a shady creature, serving as the quest-giver and a complete rip-off of Christian Weston Chandler. So far, I avoided the main irritating elements of your average narcissist, by replacing them with the weird goals and delusions, like believing that God spoke to him in his dreams and ordered Mephisto to abolish all religions and replace them with atheism in God's name.

Of course, I can't keep that up forever, that would be just too unrealistic, less hilarious traits will crop up and I have zero ideas on how should I handle them.

  • 1
    How frequently does your character appear? Sounds like an intense spice: Valuable but to be used with restraint.
    – SFWriter
    Commented May 15, 2018 at 19:47
  • @DPT Being the quest-giver, he pretty much spies on everyone and is usually there in the background. Commented May 15, 2018 at 20:03
  • 1
    How is this substantially different from this question that you previously asked?
    – sphennings
    Commented May 16, 2018 at 16:00
  • @sphennings That one was more about making a character relatable, this one is about making them a good comic relief. Commented May 16, 2018 at 16:47

6 Answers 6


Watch Thor: Ragnarok and pay attention to Jeff Goldbum's Grandmaster. I think he's the kind of archetype you're looking for. You want someone who is not actively malicious, but so self-involved as to be capable of hurting others purely because he doesn't recognize that it's painful. If it amuses him, it's good. If it thwarts him, it's bad (but in a "you naughty boy!" kind of way, not in a "you are my sworn enemy now" way). If what thwarts him is stopped, all is sunshine again.

The Grandmaster is powerful, egotistical, and I think even immortal (or at least very long-lived). He has set up the planet of Sakaar to amuse himself. His amusements are violent, possibly fatal, for the participants (Thor), but he's a complete merry goofball about it. The audience enjoys his cartoonish glee even when it's at the expense of the main characters, because he's not malicious or desiring that people suffer. If you can get on his good side, he's capable of lavishing rewards on you (as the Hulk and Loki found out).


I love a-hole characters. I love reading them and I love writing them. (I even just finished reworking my own main character to make him even worse than he was.) And I think that's half of the battle. You have to have enjoy them yourself. If they annoy you, they'll definitely annoy the reader. So you need to have a certain amount of empathy with them. Like any good character, they need to be more than just a description of their traits.

But the other half of the equation is the opposite. You can't be too much in the tank for them, or you'll end up with a character that's only appealing to you. That means you need to limit your sympathy (rather than empathy). Don't give them a magic get-out-of-jail-free card for their sins, or make it so everyone immediately finds them charming. The other characters should react to them with appropriate levels of distaste. If people end up liking them despite their flaws, there needs to be some legitimate reason.

A couple of good examples that I find done well are Sheldon Cooper from Big Bang Theory and Nick Twisp from Youth In Revolt. Although very different in personality, both are narcissists you might never want to meet in real life, but who are compelling onscreen or on the page.


Have a look at Archer in the eponymous animated series: He's a narcissist, sometimes cruel, often thoughtless, and regularly an outright a**hole.

But: he also has weak points that leave him in emotional shambles once in a while, which he treats (and thereby treats himself) with the same kind of jokular breeziness (in retrospect, at least) that he inflicts on others. This weakness and self-awareness/self-denial is what makes him a likeable character.

Try giving your character (external view:major, internal view: minor)doubts, maybe even share those doubts (char would never share big doubts, but he misapprehends them as minor), and have other chars react to that naturally - the inflated ego will then have the hallmarks of a disability, and score empathy-points.


How to make a funny and egotistical character that doesn't annoy the audience?

I love that question - and here's my jolly answer: you need to make your character part of the audience! :)

In other words, you need to write the character in such a way that the audience (the reader?) is led, unavoidably, to the conclusion that they are reading about themselves.

A certain amount of subtlety is required here - after all, you are not accusing your reader of being egotistical - heaven forbid. But you do need them to realise that we all share certain traits and that one of them is that we care about ourselves more than we do the average Jo(sephine) in the street (despite our best efforts).

Plus - give your character some good lines.

And by the way - never trust an electrician with no eyebrows.

Yeah, not like that one. :O


One classic strategy is to contrast then with a deuteragonist (who might also be a narrator), who sees through them and/or is the real talent. Look at Don Quixote and Sancho Panza (it's an old technique!), Captain Pugwash and Tom the cabin boy, or Wallace and Gromit.


A great example of an egotistical character who the audience warms to is Dr Rodney McKay, who played a short role in Stargate: SG1 and then as one of the lead characters in Stargate: Atlantis. He is the epitome of a genius who is wholly and unsufferably aware of his looming intellect.

Had the character not had a certain charm when he first appeared as a foil to the lead genius-but-not-arrogant-with-it, Major Samantha Carter, I am sure that we would never have seen him again.

I believe the reason we tolerated and even loved McKay's arrogant nature was because there was also a vulnerability behind it. He was a smart person surrounded by smart and capable people. He realized that intellect alone could not solve all of the issues, which gave the character a humility that everyone pretended not to notice as to not damage his towering ego, which in many ways was what made him so effective.

His ego was in many ways also his greatest strength; he knew he could solve each issue. In a few episodes we saw him stumped by a difficult problem; he started doubting himself and then he faltered. We as an audience would will him to use that towering ego of his to believe in himself and save the day.

It was a combination of good acting and good writing and for me a great example of the type of character you are trying to portray.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.