For the good of everyone I finally cracked the code on this one.
I had to copy the header (essentailly I took a .plist from a working emoticon set then copy pasted the first 8 lines of code. the last line being the first instance of in the file.)
copy the proper end of file which is 3 and 1 thus terminating all the nested dict tags and closing the plist file.
copy pasted a block of code for each emoticon:
and edited it for each emoticon i wanted. This includes the ones that are already in existence. In each block i changed the file name (so wizard.png becomes pizza.png for the pizza emoticon) the string is the text that the user would type to trigger the emoticon, adding multiple lines as needed for multiple text inputs. Finally changing the Wizard to whatever the name of the file was (so Pizza).
Made a zip file and then put that file in the install directory \xtra\emoticon folder.
In spark go to preferences then appearance. Click on the “Add” button and navigate to where you just put the .zip file and double click it.
after that all was well. I only really did this by going line by line in the working code and a lot of trial and error. I hope it helps anyone else out there who is having emoticon troubles. I find that spark is pretty flexible with emoticons once you crack the code and get a system in place to modularly add in new emoticons.