The Art of Insulting – Why True Friends Hate Each Other

I’m writing a trilogy called St Victoria’s, it’s set in 19th century London and tells the story of Rosetta Heroski an upper class teenager who has just moved from Russia with her family and enrolls into an all female boarding school called St Victoria’s. There she befriends a group of rebellious, misfit girls and ends up getting into all kinds of drama and scandal. (Sloppy blurb but whatever)

One of the most important aspects of my story is the relationship between characters, in particular between Rosetta and her closest friends. This is partly because I love writing relationships and partly because there’s not much action per se in this story (no high speed horse and carriage chases I’m afraid, (talk about selling your story))

With this in mind it will come to no surprise to learn that I was bitterly disappointed to receive this feedback from a friend after they’d read some extracts;

“It’s strange, all the girls seem to hate each other, they’re not very nice friends are they?”




I was shocked. (Believe it or  not) This person clearly didn’t have any friends (bar me clearly) because anyone with a true friend will understand the art of the insult.

Test yourself, your best friend comes to you and says;

“Check out my new outfit! How do I look?”

Pick the correct answer

a) You look lovely, it really suits you!

b) You look amazing, that outfit is stunning!

c) You look great, I love it!

d) Ugly

The correct answer as any good friend will know is, without a shadow of doubt D. Friends aren’t supposed to be nice to each other! They’re supposed to insult you to your face with brutally honest facts and opinions! A true friend will be a bitch to your face, sourcoat everything (yes, I made that word up) and dash your dreams with a single word, but if anyone else talks you down they’ll be there to stick up for you whilst pointing out that your worst enemy may have had a point.

Rosetta’s friends hardly ever have a good word to say about her, and she never has a good word to say about them. Pippa is a drama queen, Polly needs to get over herself, Anne needs to get off of her high horse and Nancy needs to stop rubbing the fact that she has a boyfriend in everyone’s faces.

It’s great fun to write but also good to read ‘real’ friendships rather than the hollow ones that seem to dominate fiction. JK Rowling does it well in her Harry Potter books with Harry, Ron and Hermione capable of the occasional seething comment aimed at one another, granted the barbs aren’t as frequent as mine but those three are put in quite a few life-threatening situations thanks to Vol – I mean – He Who Must Not Be Named (I know he’s gone but I’m superstitious okay?) Finding a suitable date to the winter ball is by comparison a rather trivial issue.

In terms of television one may or may not be surprised to learn that Friends dish out very few insults, (I imagine all six of them would have failed that little quiz earlier, early seasons Chandler the only possible exception) but rival show Seinfeld can be cutting with their mean remarks, with all four of the characters being deliciously nasty at times. One of my favourite Elaine insults is when three of them are trying to decipher the New Yorker cartoon and she says to Jerry, “come on.. we’re two intelligent people here.”

I’m hoping others share in my opinions here, otherwise I’ve got a lot of apologising to do but surely the beauty of having friends is being able to mock, tease and insult them? Any close group of friends can take the absolute piss out of each other and not kill each other, that’s the true measure of friendship as far as I’m concerned.

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