Never write nice characters

Some writers, especially Christian ones, sit down to write and think it is their duty to create ‘nice’ characters for us. Because it’s nice to be nice and if you are nice, people will like you, right? But ‘nice’ isn’t good enough, in fiction or in real life.

In the real world, think of Saint Maximilian Kolbe. He was a Catholic priest who had offended the Nazis somehow and was sent to Auschwitz. One day some of the other prisoners had escaped. The Nazis decided to pick out some men to kill as a punishment to the group. One of the men picked was a family man who cried out he would be leaving his family behind. So Kolbe stepped forward and volunteered to be killed in that man’s place. What would you say, if YOU were the man whose life was saved by Maximilian Kolbe? “How nice of you to die for me?” It was a lot more than just ‘nice.’

People go to fiction for stories that are more intense than our everyday lives. In our life we can divide the people we know into ‘nice’ and ‘not-so-nice’ categories, because we usually don’t know people who literally volunteer to die for someone. Or, at the other extreme, we don’t usually know serial killers or Hitlers.

In life, ‘nice’ and ‘not-so-nice’ people are okay. But in fiction, they are bland. That’s why we don’t just plunk down real people into novels. They have to be better or worse than everyday real people. Katness Everdeen (Hunger Games) didn’t just help her little sister with homework, she volunteered to take her sister’s place in a fight to the death. Lord Voldemort didn’t just leave his waitress a 5 cent tip, he went around KILLING people.

What can you do to make your fictional hero better than ‘nice,’ or your villain worse than ‘not-so-nice?’

Am currently reading:

Closer to the Heart – Mercedes Lackey (Fantasy, magic horses, spies)
MAGA 2020 & Beyond (Short story anthology) – edited by Jason Rennie, Dawn Witzke & Marina Fontaine
Heidi – Johanna Spyri (in German)
Mornings like This – Annie Dillard (found poetry)
Empire of Ivory – Naomi Novik (about dragons in Napoleonic Wars)

Gave up on as Just Too Dull and SJWish and compared Pres Trump to a cannibal when he doesn’t even eat dog meat like fmr Pres Obama:

Sleeping Beauties – Stephen King & Owen King


3 thoughts on “Never write nice characters

  1. I remember one of Flannery O’Connor’s friends complained, “Why don’t you ever write about NICE people?” Some of her characters wore smiley face masks and were more disgusting than the bad guys.

    Have you ever read Mere Christianity–where Lewis talks about “Nice People or New Men?”

  2. The eternally confounding author (and, by many accounts, nice guy) Philip K. Dick wrote about nice guys who struggled with their social and professional roles. Two great examples are the novels “Galactic Pot-Healer” and “Now Wait for Last Year.”

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