I have a soft spot for sarcasm. This is probably no surprise to anyone who has been following the Write Practice since the early days, but I often say that the primary love language of my family is sarcasm. It’s nothing too cutting; we understand where the line between sarcastic and downright hurtful is. This is probably why I love the word “snark” as much as I do.

snark

Photo by Makelessnoise

Definition of Snark

Fun fact: snark is a portmanteau of “snide remark”, which is one hundred percent the best definition of snark.

Snark is also a writing tool that you should keep in your toolbox, since you never know when a cynical and cutting remark will need to be inserted into your prose. It’s often used to maintain a distance between the character who is snarking and their surroundings, whether that distance be physical, mental, or emotional. Its use is often truth in fiction, since we’ve all been through high school and probably remember using some form of snark to get through the day.

As a literary device, snark is a sarcastic speech marked by wit and cynicism. The speech is often cutting and critical, meant to bring its target down a few pegs. Whether the intent of the snark is to put up a front or to serve as a defense mechanism is for the author to decide.

Snark is very common in modern creations set in high school (see 10 Things I Hate About You or the Daria series for excellent examples), but the device has been around for centuries, popping up in Frost’s poems, Shakespeare’s plays, and Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. Lewis Carroll also wrote a poem called The Hunting of the Snark which is a completely different kind of snark altogether.

Do you use snark in your writing?

PRACTICE

Write about a summer gathering where one or more of the characters employs snark heavily in their conversation. How do other characters react? Or is everyone snarking at each other? Is everyone ok with the snark, or is it hitting some people a bit close to home? Post in the comments when you’re done.