Tips for Writing Don Karnage

By Scarlet

No, I don't mean writing letters to him.  He's a fictional character, okay?  Now that we have that cleared up...

The Fine Art of Karnagespeak -- A Pirate Without a Past
The Many Faces of Mrs. Karnage -- Psychology of a Pirate
Karnage in Relation to Other TaleSpin Characters
Closing Thoughts from the Wench




The Fine Art of Karnagespeak

One of the most distinctive and endearing qualities about Don Karnage is his speech.   His voice is instantly recognizable, and his weird way of saying things can be hilarious.  It can also be difficult to reproduce on paper (or computer screen,) and if done poorly it can make him (and you) sound very stupid.  Here are some tips for making him sound like himself.

Don't write everything he says phonetically.  A word here or there is fine.  Everyone reading a TS fic will know what he sounds like, so you don't need to go nuts with it.

For example, read the following piece of random Karnagespeak: 
"I think you are a little bit more stupider than he is, but you are both estupid."
You can hear him saying that, right?  Now try this on for size:
"I theenk ju are a leetle beet more stoopider than he ees, but ju are both estupeed." 
Doesn't that look like someone's cat fell asleep on the keyboard?  It's hard to read, and completely unnecessary. 

One thing that helps in writing authentic Karnagespeak is to mess around with verb conjugations.  ("Can you conjugate?"  "That is none of your darn business!")  Now don't fall asleep on me, here.  This isn't some boring grammar class.  If you doze off, I'll have to break your kneecaps.

Now.  Which sounds more Karnage-like? 

1.  "I think you need some help."

2.  "I am thinking you need some help, yes-no?"

3.  I think you are needing some help, yes-no?"

If you answered either #2 or #3, you win a Pop-Tart:  [::]  If you answered #1, I'm sure your English teacher liked you, but Karnagespeak isn't your forte.

Regular verb forms don't always sound Karnagey.  Verbs ending in -ing are often a good bet.  It won't sound natural from any other character, so it's a clear indication the speaker is Karnage.  Ju do not eeven haf to write everytheeng out like dis!  But again, don't overdo it.  If you make everything he says with weird verb conjugations, it'll be nearly as unreadable as that phonetic garbage. 

Speaking of things you should avoid using too much, use "yes-no" sparingly.   Why?  Listen to his speak in a TS episode.  Keep a running tally of the number of sentences where he says "yes-no" compared to the sentences where he doesn't.  Most of the time you'll find that he doesn't end his sentences that way.  It's a very distinctive phrase, so it sticks out in your memory, but if you write every one of his lines of dialogue ending that way, it will end up sounding very estupid, yes-no?  ;-)

Know a foreign language?  Foreign, as in, not English?  Great!  But remember that most people won't understand if you throw a word or phrase into the story in a language other than English.  If you do this, provide a translation.   If it's a very well-known phrase such as "Arrevederci," "Hola," "Senor," "Adios" or "Gracias" then you won't need to bother, but anything else should be translated for the benefit of your readers.




A Pirate Without a Past

Don Karnage is a man of mystery.  We know so little about his past that it's very tempting to weave elaborate background information for him.  There's nothing wrong with doing that, but here are a few tips.

He is *not* Jamaican or French.  He may have a small French influence somewhere in there, but his accent is either Spanish or Italian (or some combination thereof.)   Or, perhaps, he comes from a country that only exists in the TaleSpin universe.   But please, don't make him from someplace he's obviously not.

We don't know how he became a pirate, but with his love of old-fashioned clothes and swords, it's a fairly good bet that he has always had an interest in piracy.  Whether or not his parents were pirates is something each writer must decide for himself or herself.  Just don't say that his parents abused him.  Why not?  Because I say so, and I have a very large knife, okay?  Moving on...

What sort of critter is he?  This question plagued Spinners for years until character designer Len Smith contacted this humble wench to let us know that he was designed to be a wolf.   However, if you have your heart set on writing him as a fox, people won't lynch you.  ;-)  For my own unique slant on the topic, you'll have to read my fanfics.




The Many Faces of Mrs. Karnage

Fan femmes are among the most prolific Karnage writers.  And this is where the Mary Sue problem emerges.  Yes, ladies, many of us would like nothing better than to cuddle up with the Captain, but that doesn't mean that everyone else wants to read about it.  Make your potential Mrs. Karnage into a real, well-developed character, and people won't feel like they're reading something they found underneath your mattress with drool stains on it.

Don Karnage will not take one look at a woman and fall instantly, goofily, stupidly in love with her.  He's a complex person, and that sort of reaction just isn't like him.

Be original.  Don't just go the easy route and have him fall for a fox/wolf/whatever because she... 1.) has a sword.  2.) is a pirate.  3.) happens to be kidnapped by pirates. 4.) has always wanted to be an Air Pirate. 5.) et cetera.  
Yes, he and his love interest should have some things in common, but it has to be more than superficial things like swords and planes.  Give them a spiritual connection, too.

Karnage could never love a stupid woman, or a woman who doesn't respect him.   After the lucky lady has him wrapped around her finger, she can probably get away with teasing him or even insulting him occasionally.  But she's also going to need to feed his ego.  He needs affection, ladies.

Karnage is not a lust-crazed fiend who'll jump anything in a skirt.  I'm not saying he's never had a one-night stand, but with his sense of theatrics and chivalry, he'd be much happier with a significant relationship.  Someone to play Dulcinea to his Don Quixote.  Even if she is just a serving wench, in his eyes she'd be special.   It's a sort of status thing, too, to have a lovely lady at his side.  Not entirely a trophy wife, but someone to help make him look good.  Unfortunately, I do think he's shallow enough that looks would matter to him.  A fat, dumpy, ugly woman probably wouldn't fit the bill for him, no matter how great a personality she has.   It may not be fair, but as Karnage would say, "I am a pirate!  I do not DO fair!"

Nor does Karnage go around kidnapping damsels, keeping them as concubines for awhile, then dumping them somewhere when he gets bored.  I mean, how out of character is that?  Karnage is the sort to open doors for women and pull out chairs for them, if only to make himself look good.  He's not going to just pick up a strange woman to be his love slave.  Puh-leeze.

Don't go overboard with having him kiss women's hands.  Yes, it's a cool thing, and having him do it like once per fic is okay, but if he's stooping to kiss hands all the time it's going to sound really stupid and artificial.  Not to mention the poor guy will get a catch in his back and chapped lips.




Psychology of a Pirate

Karnage likes being a pirate.  He's not remorseful, repentant, and looking to get out of piracy to become a stock broker or something.  He doesn't lie awake at night agonizing over what nasty deeds he did that day. 
More importantly, nor is he a psychopathic killer.  Let me say that again.   Karnage is not a sadistic, cruel, heartless, evil killing machine with a thirst for blood and pain.
In "Captains Outrageous," he tried to torture information out of his prisoners.   And how did he do this?   Meathooks?  Electric shock?  Fire ants?  Chinese water torture?  Scalding water?  No.  He ran a tiger-glove's claws over a chalkboard to make squeaky noises.  Granted, that's not a pleasant thing, but it didn't hurt anybody.  When he wants to discipline his crew, he slaps them.  Not beat the living crap out of them, keelhaul them, hang them, flog them, burn them alive.  He bitchslaps them.  In "Stuck on You," he had the chance to kill Baloo.  Did he?  No.  He looked into the camera with an expression that said, "Aww, I just can't!" and pulled the bear to safety instead.  This is not a man who thirsts for killing.

Is Karnage crazy?  No.  At least, not all the time.  He hates that word, of course, and vehemently denies being insane.  He does, however, have moments where he gets carried away with the situation at hand and loses common sense.  If he gets sufficiently worked up over something, he may act crazy for a period of time.  But sooner or later he calms down again and acts with great precision and coherence.  He is not completely insane, nor is he stupid.  Many of his plans are very intelligent, and required a large amount of planning, organization and forethought.  So although he has episodes where his mental state is questionable, he's usually rational.

Karnage is also not the sort of person who never bathes, brushes his teeth or changes his clothes.  Remember how disgusted he was in "I Only Have Ice For You" when Baloo let strawberry jam gloop all over DK's nice, shiny boots?  And how, in "Ransom of Red Chimp," the pirate at the helm of the Iron Vulture was horrified to see the others having a food fight, because he feared Karnage's reaction?  Despite the deplorable hygiene of his crew, Karnage himself likes things clean and tidy.




Karnage in Relation to Other TaleSpin Characters

Kit Cloudkicker is a significant person in Don Karnage's life.  He allowed the boy to stay in his crew for a year, and was training him as his protégé.  Kit then personally threw a  wrench into Karnage's Master Plan and ruined his chances to loot Cape Suzette down to the doorknobs.  Whether you believe Karnage was a father figure for Kit who cared about the boy and was betrayed; or if you believe he was just using Kit to make himself look good and never really cared two cents about him...Kit spent a year with Karnage, so he is *not* indifferent to him.  Do *not* write a scene where K&K meet and act like they don't know each other.  Even if Karnage chooses to ignore Kit, there is still a tension there that needs to be addressed.

Karnage dislikes Baloo greatly, of course.  For K&Kers, Baloo stole Kit away from the Captain who was grooming him to be his protégé.  Anti-K&Kers say Karnage never cared in the first place, but that's for you to decide.  Baloo also is a better pilot than Karnage, and DK hates to be upstaged in anything.  Baloo has also thwarted Karnage's plans time and time again, and makes fun of his name.  He definitely does *not* like Baloo.  That doesn't mean, however, that he's plotting Baloo's violent death.  As I said earlier, he had a perfect chance to kill him "Stuck on You" and took mercy on him.

There wasn't much interaction between Rebecca Cunningham and Don Karnage on the show.   In "A Baloo Switcheroo," of course, the two switch bodies, but even then they don't speak more than a few words to each other.  Karnage kidnapped Rebecca and Molly in "Plunder & Lightning" to get at The Stone, but he had nothing personal against Rebecca herself.  Or Molly, for that matter.  Rebecca isn't particularly frightened by him, apparently, since she stood up to him in "I Only Have Ice For You."  She yelled at him for hijacking the Sea Duck and jabbed a finger angrily into his chest, asking to see his credentials.  Interestingly enough, Karnage did not slap her or shove her away, but just sort of looked at her like she's a few marbles short.  Thus showing once again that he is a gentleman.   (Also remember how tactful he was with Aunt Louise in "Ransom of Red Chimp"?  He could have hit her or hurt her, but he just tried to push her away and lock her up, instead.  He will not lay a hand on a lady in anger (well, except in a few extreme circumstances, but that's a matter for advanced writers to decide for themselves. ;-)  In general our Captain is a gentleman.  And I'll flog those who say otherwise! ;-)

Karnage doesn't like Shere Khan.  He routinely steals and destroys Khan's property.  However, in "On a Wing and a Bear," he forged an alliance with Khan, stealing gasoline to raise prices at the tiger's service stations.  So, if there is a profit to be had, he will work with Khan, but never out of friendship.




Closing Thoughts From the Wench

Although Karnage is my favorite TS character, I've tried to be neutral here and give advice that's general enough to be of use to all TS fic writers.  I also tried not to make too many assumptions about him based on my own fanfic universe, or my own biases as a fan femme.  My stories have a very complex background for Karnage, and go into his character in depth.  I tried very hard to separate my own opinions and theories and base my advice entirely on the information present in the show itself. 
And by the way, please don't rip off things from my fics.  I've spent quite literately years developing this little universe.

If you want to read an in-depth analysis of Karnage's character, I cannot recommend Beth/Starflash's essay highly enough.  Click here to read it.   You'll be glad you did.

For more fanart, fanfic, screengrabs and merchandise info than you can shake a big stick at, try my own site, Pirate Island.   For more about Karnage's relationship with Kit, visit Ted's K&K Forever site.




March 2001

Back to Spin a Tale