Monday, October 18, 2010


I’ve been thinking about nice and it’s various connotations today. In my own experience, people tend to be a bit leery of nice. It isn’t that they don’t want other’s to be nice to them. We all do! We want to be treated with kindness and we want to be seen as nice ourselves. And yet there seems to be this hesitation when faced with actual kindness. Is it truly intended? Does this make me beholden? What’s this person’s angle?

We’ve gotten a bit cynical with nice. People just aren’t. Right? I mean we want nice, we expect nice, we believe in selfishness. Yeah, I’m making a grand generalization but I see it every day. At least where I live. Hell, even in the South, where manners and consideration are an everyday occurrence people hide behind nice. They can use it as a weapon, bless their little hearts –she says, tongue planted in cheek.

Which leads me to thinking about nice and heroes. Can a hero be nice? I’ve read lot of review concerning nice heroes and they usually aren’t…well, nice. (g) Kind heroes –at least ones without a dark side, are often considered wimps, Mary Stu’s, or shifty. Heroines are allowed, okay expected to have a degree of kindness. We don’t as readily scoff if they want to run a soup kitchen on the side (okay, I do but…) but a guy? What’s up with that?

Think of Silence of the Lambs. Does anyone really care about Clarisse? No. We read it, watch it because we’re drawn to this super creep named Lector. Gah. Why? But it’s true. And the darker the better. In Batman, The Dark Night, Heath Ledger (why, Heath? Why?) ahem, well, Heath stole the show because he is so much more darker, meaner, kickass than one of the ultimate dark heroes –Batman. We lap it up.

Do we as a society crave the dark hero, turn our back on the good guy? Is this why Superman now fails while Wolverine thrives? What is it about nice that turns us off?

And can there be an interesting nice hero? And if so, how to go about it? Is nice boring whereas dark is interesting. A bit scary if you think about it. :)

So what do you all think? I didn't ask these questions for nothing, you know! (now how's that for nice!)


  1. Very interesting Kristen - now you've got me wondering my male protagonists are *too* nice. Doesn't matter as much if the girl's nice, right? And what does that say?
    But, hmmm... There are arguments, there are misunderstandings. Not all my characters are polite to each other all the time! But are they truly mean/hurtful to each other? And if I don't have an actual villain in the story, what then?
    I seem to be asking more questions than providing answers!

  2. Bwhaha.

    Sent an email to someone the other day -- Good Morning, .

    To which I received this response: What's your angle here?


    Yeah, nice is outdated.

    But I agree -- nice is BORING. It's much more enjoyable to like the bad boy/girl. One of the greatest compliments I got from dream agent was that Maddy was a total grump -- but that he totally got her. :) So flawed as she is, she's real... and that's fun. When someone is TOO nice, it immediately seems like a put on. If he/she doesn't turn around and attack people with a hatchet, I'm left wondering WTF?? They were really THAT nice? :)

    My two cents.


  3. Well, we all know I have this problem. Bill is so nice that he's become a total wimp, and just like that, whomp- in has come his nasty brother Len and stolen the spotlight.

    It's a most interesting dilemma. But to be honest, I'm not sure it's about "niceness" in and of itself. I think it's more about character motivation. We don't like character who sit around waiting for good things to come to them. We like people who fight for their interests and desires- that's how we connect with those characters, because we identify with their struggles. And while you can be nice enough, when it comes to really going after what you want, you have to be willing to put yourself first sometimes, and maybe even to do things that conflict with your values. An unconflicted character is a boring character.

    Case in point: I absolutely hate The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons (a book so many other people love) because the main character spends the whole first half of the novel martyring herself for others. She's so nice that she'll literally starve herself to death to make sure others are okay. She'll let the guy she loves go to another girl. She'll do whatever, as long as it makes others happy. Other readers have loved her for this. Me? I want to slap her. It makes me think of what they tell you when you have a baby, or, perhaps ironically, in those plane safety sheets- take care of yourself first, or you won't be able to take care of others.

    Anyway! Now that I've shifted my story, I've discovered a new side to Bill. I didn't have to make him nasty to make him more interesting. I just had to have him fight for his interests, and show a bit of passion. Passion is infectious- nice or nasty, you can't help but want what the character wants if they desire it more than anything on earth, and if the writer has drawn you effectively enough into their point of view.

    In summary: I don't think niceness itself is the problem. I think it's motivation, action, reaction, self-determination. If a character has all of those, they're not likely to be cookie cutter "nice", but they don't have to be mean to be interesting, either.