Many a winge has been had on the prevalence of edgy characters in amateur and published circles alike, and while I think we can all agree that these sorts of characters are distasteful, I'm not sure enough has been said about why they are distasteful, and how to avoid these tropes.
So here are my thoughts.
Edginess, at its core is a lack of emotional response to a situation, or an apathetic one at best. Someone threatens our protagonist Mr. Edge and he lets out a single "Tch," and keeps walking. His goals are his goals, and if anyone else is sacrificed on the way . . . well "Tch. They had it coming. Nothing personelle kid."
The reason why this doesn't work–at least for me–is that I get my emotional cues from the characters in the story. If the protagonist seems perfectly confident in his ability to handle these twenty guys who just popped out to ruin his day . . . well I guess there's no reason to worry. If Mr. Edge doesn't care about anyone in the world, or even his own personal problems, I guess I shouldn't either? The problem is that I want to be engaged in a story, and being engaged in the story, and caring about what happens are basically the same thing.
So how is this fixed? Allowed characters to react in an emotional way, and I don't just mean fear, sadness or anger, not all characters are like that, but impatience (real impatience, not theatric impatience meant to highlight how apathetic a character is), ennui, good humor, grumpiness. I'm sure all of us who enjoy fantasy have read the ambush set up, a group of people minding their own business and then whoosh! Danger!
Mr. Edge says "Another bunch of idiots? Well if you insist on dying today."
But lets examine this scene from other emotional states.
"Alright, fine! If that's your ticket then draw your weapon lets give it a go. Far be it from me to figure a way to talk you bastards down, so up you come, I'm getting antsy and if I do survive this I don't want to have wasted my bloody time!" Maybe this is still too edgy for you, but at least the guy cares about something: his time!
His hands shot up into the air, holding nothing. "Wait, wait! Don't point anything at me! I haven't got anything to fight you with! I'm just headed home, please?"
Now, I would definitely be oversimplifying to say that an edgy reaction is never good writing. As always the thing to remember when reading any sort of writing advice is "There are no rules." So if you are using the edgy character to some effect in your work, and you're conscious of the way it affects your readers experience, than please continue. But I don't think that every one who ends up with an edgelord protagonist has this as their goal. So just keep in mind that the protagonist's reaction to a tense moment is what gives the scene its tension. What invests a reader in a character is seeing them struggle, react poorly, make the same mistakes that we might make.
Then again, this is all just me and there are probably good reasons to take what I say with a grain of salt 😉
There are no rules. Happy writing!
Source: reddit post