Five things to bear in mind when writing Jade Harley
For fanfic and rp, as I’ve done both.
I’ve seen a lot of badly written Jade. She’s hands down my favourite character in Homestuck, so I often search out fic for her. Of the four kids, she definitely has the least amount of fic, and when she is in a fic, it’s often as an offhand mention. And then even if the fic actually focuses on her, she’s mostly not written very well. So here is a list of things that I think people forget about when they write Jade, and which might help people to write her better.
This is not an argument for any ship, but I will be mentioning pairings. And yes, I have my favourites, but I won’t be any kinder to them than the others.
1. Jade Harley is extremely self-reliant.
Hey, remember that scene with Jade and her Grandpa?
I’ve seen a number of people react to this moment with confusion. Why does Jade fight with her dead Grandpa? Was he so horrible to her that even now she hates him?
The answer is no. On the very next page Jade says that he was much easier to deal with when he was alive. What she’s doing here is displacement. Jade’s been alone since she was very young, and while Bec was there to protect her, he wasn’t able to raise her. She had to do that herself. So she started projecting onto her Grandpa. It was probably quite innocent at the beginning. She had to do something she didn’t want to do, and she told herself “If I don’t do this, Grandpa will be disappointed in me.” It became a way of motivating herself, and then turned into an elaborate roleplay, because Jade is fun and creative and enjoys doing that. But at her heart, she’s the one judging herself. She’s the one worrying about the size of her gun.
And notice, Jade is much harsher on herself than her Grandpa ever was. She holds herself to an incredibly high standard.
Jade does some amazingly brave things over the course of Homestuck. She sacrifices herself for John without a second thought. She’s not afraid of dying at all, she just wants to protect the people she loves. She’s also very kind to her friends. Look at her conversation with Rose, just before Rose goes Grimdark. She really tries to reassure Rose that Rose made the best possible choices and that she doesn’t need to feel guilty. Jade is very kind. But she never shows that kindness to herself.
When Jadesprite refuses to fight Jack, Jade explodes. Because her standards for herself are so high, she can’t bear that any version of herself is failing them.
Another thing to think about: Bec shoots people twice with her bullets. He shoots her Grandpa when she’s little, and Bec Noir shoots Dave. In both cases, Jade blames herself. And it would be really easy for her not to do that! She could blame Bec, or Tavros for the first one, or the Jack Noir part of Bec Noir for the second one. But she takes the responsibility on herself, both times. She has really, really high standards for herself.
What does this mean for writing Jade?
Well she doesn’t mind accepting help, but she hates to depend on other people. She expects herself to be competent in every situation. If you’re writing, say, hurt/comfort with Jade, and she’s sick, she’s not going to be curled up in bed, wanting to be waited upon. She’s going to be up working, ignoring the fact that she’s sick. If it’s a shippy fic (and it’s hurt/comfort, so of course it is), her partner will have to drag her to bed and probably tie her down to make her stay there, and she’ll keep insisting that she’s fine.
2. Jade bottles up her negative emotions and takes them out on herself.
Here’s a secret. Jade doesn’t really have a headache in Act 5 Act 2. What’s happening is that she’s really upset (she just died, remember?), she’s being harassed by the Trolls and getting some nasty revelations as a result, she has to deal with the Horrorterrors in her dreams, and she feels like she’s really far behind the other kids.
The last one is particularly tricky for Jade, because it means she can’t be as helpful as she wants to be, but all put together this is enough to make her really miserable. And yet she remains pretty friendly and chipper. She snaps at Feferi, but then apologizes, she’s pretty rude to Eridan but she’s not mean to him, she gives Tavros the benefit of the doubt even though he was involved in her Grandpa’s death. The only person she takes that anger out on is Karkat, and she feels worse afterwards.
And then Jadesprite turns up, and she explodes. Jade quite violently slaps herself, she shouts at herself, she is furious with herself. All of the anger and rage that she’s been keeping locked up come out - but turned on Jade.
This is one of those things that I think people really don’t get about Jade. Her cheerful attitude isn’t fake - she really is a positive person who likes other people - but it is sometimes a front. It’s part of those really high standards she has. Jade always, always tries to put the best spin on things. Her optimism is something she works on. Why? Well, it was probably necessary. Growing up, she was pretty much on her own. If something went wrong, she just had to deal with it. She couldn’t ask anyone else for help. I would guess that optimism was a learned reaction for her.
By the way, this is something that turns up on the battleship journey, as well. Over the course of A5A2, Jade learns to express herself a bit more. Her fight with her spriteself and her subsequent conversations with Karkat allow her to open up and acknowledge her feelings more than she usually does. But in A6I3, when she and John have the conversation about her breakup with Davesprite, she’s back to squashing those emotions down. She’s incredibly generous to Davesprite in that conversation. She’s aware of what he’s going through, and even though she probably didn’t want to break up, she never blames him or accuses him of doing anything wrong. Meanwhile John is being a douche (sorry John, but really you were) about the whole thing and making it all about him, but Jade never gives out to him for that, or tells him to stop. She just tries to explain what really happened.
This, plus point one, might tie in to her current state as a pawn of the Condesce. When we see the Condesce control Jade, Tavros and Vriska’s symbols appear on her forehead. What that suggests is that she used Vriska’s power to put the human part of Jade to sleep, and then used Tavros’s power to control the dog part of Jade. Except that later Jade speaks to the meteor group, and obviously knows who they are. So what’s going on?
Well Jade might have accepted the Condesce’s control if she thought it would help her friends. If the Condesce could somehow convince her that she could do more like this, she might be willing. And she wouldn’t worry about losing herself, because to Jade her emotions and her wellbeing come second to helping everyone else.. This is all speculation, but I would suggest that Jade’s arc in A6A6 will be about really accepting who she is, even if that means putting herself ahead of other people.
This is also something to bear in mind in terms of shipping. Jade’s partner, whoever that is, needs to be someone Jade is comfortable expressing anger around. It’s alright to hide your emotions with your friends, sometimes, but you can’t do that with a romantic partner. You have to be able to tell them how you really feel. In this respect, Karkat has an advantage over Dave because it’s already been shown that she feels comfortable getting angry with him. This doesn’t make JadeDave impossible, it just means that they have an issue they need to work through.
3. Jade is incredibly insightful about the people around her.
This is probably one of the things that people most often forget about Jade, and was actually what prompted me to write this list. Jade is really, really good at people. It’s interesting to compare her to Rose in this respect, actually. Rose understands people because she sees them as complex. Jade understands people in a very simple way. She cuts straight to the heart.
In her conversations with Tavros and Eridan she immediately identifies their issues - Eridan’s obsession with relationships and Tavros’s insecurity - and points them out. In her later conversations with Kanaya and Karkat she also shows that she understands them very well.
I don’t really have a lot to say about this one, expect that nobody seems to remember that it’s true. Jade is really good at people.
4. Jade doesn’t want a cute relationship, she wants an equal one.
There’s a weirdly high amount of Jade/Feferi in Homestuck fic, considering that they only meet twice. It tends to turn up in Davekat and Johnkat fic, where Jade needs to be paired with someone and she kind of gets dumped on Feferi.
And while I can see Jadefef working, it’s not an easy pairing to write. You have to convince me that they would work together, because Jade is not by nature attracted to people like herself. She has a crush on Dave, and there are shipping hints between her and Karkat, and both Dave and Karkat have very different personalities to Jade.
(And I am sorry for picking on Jadefef, I just get grumpy about it because it’s often written as a handwave pairing without taking Jade’s feelings into consideration. But I do think they would clash on the fact that Jade is very self-reliant and Feferi likes taking care of things. If you’re going to write them that needs to be taken into account. How do they get to a point where Jade is ok with being taken care of? Or how does Feferi learn to let her go?)
If you really must ship Dave and Karkat with other people (or each other), it might be worth considering JadeVris as an option. In the same way that Johnkat hits many of the same fun notes as Jadekat, JadeVris has the potential to be a really interesting relationship. Remember that Jade is very incisive - she would recognize very quickly that Vriska’s sneering attitude is often a way to reassure herself that she’s right, and Jade would very quickly call her out on that. Then let the pairing develop from there.
(Someday everyone will love JadeVris as much as I do. I swear someday I will write fic for them.)
5. Jade goes from passively seeing the future to actively making it happen.
Jade and Rose have parallel stories in Homestuck. They start out at opposite ends of the spectrum, and they both have to work towards a middle ground. At the beginning of Homestuck Rose is extremely confident. She trusts herself to get things done, to the point of being cagey and not letting anyone else in on her plans. This backfires on her when she learns of her Mom’s death. She’s been shutting everyone else out for so long that they can’t reach her, and she falls back on the only thing she knows - her own power. Her journey is about learning to rely on other people and trusting them to work with her. That’s why she’s the Seer - her growth is about giving up control and sharing her wisdom with her friends.
Jade starts out very passive. She can see the future, and she works to make it happen. She supports her friends but rarely thinks about herself. And then her dreamself dies and suddenly she’s alone, with no visions to guide her, and all her friends are stronger than she is. Her journey is about learning to trust her own power without any visions to guide her - it’s about taking the future and shaping it with her own hands.
Also look at the A6A6 issues they’re facing. Rose has hampered her ability to see because she’s afraid. Jade has lost her agency and is being controlled by someone else. Rose still hasn’t completely learned to trust and Jade still doesn’t fully want to act on her own.
(This last point isn’t so much something people get wrong. It’s just another way to think about Jade that might help people, since Rose is a character people seem very comfortable writing, while Jade is not.)
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