1. StoryForest

    StoryForest Active Member

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    Interesting Nice Characters

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by StoryForest, Aug 30, 2019.

    I'm working on a story idea and everything is coming together nicely except...I'm not excited about the female lead. The story is very clear in my mind. There are tons of characters and all of them are fun and interesting to me except for the protagonist. Thematically, she's supposed to be a princes-type nice girl who tries to help everyone because she is a contrast to another character who is sort of her opposite. I dont think there is anything wrong with a nicey nice character as long as it works for the story, it's just that she is kinda boring to write. Everytime there is a scene that is just about her, I get lost because I can't seem to find her "voice" or "spark." Because she is so nice, she lacks a bit of personality. And I dont want to give her the cliche dark past or hidden secret/agenda. Can't a character just be nice and yet interesting?

    Has anyone ever struggled with this? Is there anything that you've tried that was helpful?
     
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  2. Tralala

    Tralala Member

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    Most protagonists are nice, I suppose.
    Perhaps she isn't in ENOUGH peril at the moment. You could randomly do something awful to her, and see how she reacts.
     
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  3. Lilith Fairen

    Lilith Fairen Member

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    There's far more to people than "naughty" or "nice".

    What are her mannerisms? Her quirks? She aims to be nice in all she does, but does she accidentally offend or give the wrong kind of help? What lengths is she willing to go to do the right thing? And why is she so devoted to doing the right thing?

    Figure that out, and you'll have what makes your character interesting to readers.
     
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  4. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    people are not one thing - i'd generally consider myself a nice guy, but i'm capable of being very un-nice when provoked or deserved, and ive done a fair bit of not nice shit in my life, not all of it to people who deserved it.

    if all your protagonist is 'a nice person' she'll come across as a trip to the stereotype mine (see also nasty people)
     
  5. Cave Troll

    Cave Troll Hi floor, make me a sammich. :P Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, I have a couple/few in my sequel that will probably never see the light of day...but...
    One is a 20cm tall quantum algorithm software engineer that calls everyone : Sugar.
    Though she reacts to situations in appropriate fashion to what is happening, Like being
    terrified at the sound of a warframe mounted grenade launcher going off. Or getting to the
    point by being a tad bit blunt. Though her default is more fun and flirty, cause that is just
    who she is.

    So take some time to define and round them out, figure out how they will react to a given
    situation. Cause even the nicest person in the world will still freak out when facing death
    or personal discomfort by some twisted psychopath.

    Example:

    Nice: "Hey you are really good at tying knots."
    Baddy: looks at them confused.
    Nice: "Also I am glad you take time to make sure you keep your
    tools clean."
    Baddy: "Oh boy, this one is so sweet I just got diabetes."
    Nice: "Do you need a minute to take your insulin."
    Baddy: Facepalms.
    Nice: "That sounded painful are you alright?"
    Baddy: Slits throat with sharp implement to escape them.
    Nice: "Oh bugger, perhaps they should have seen a specialist
    for their mental health."

    And...scene. :p

    See you can have nice characters, but they have to react to the
    world around them in a way that makes plausable sense, other
    wise they come off as cartoonish.

    Good luck. :superidea:
     
  6. Tralala

    Tralala Member

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    Cave Troll :supergrin:
     
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  7. EstherMayRose

    EstherMayRose Gay Souffle Contributor

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    I suggest thinking about her past a bit more. Why is she so nice to people? What was she taught about being nice? How does being nice make her feel? And of course, think about her other traits, as people have said. What does she like doing? What is her occupation/ambition? What drew her to this? What else is she apart from nice? There seems to be a conception that complex characters can't be nice, and that certainly isn't true. Her niceness is just one thread in an incredibly rich and beautiful tapestry.

    And on the flip side, no-one is nice all the time. What are the situations in which she is not nice? This means thinking about her morals. What does she value in other people, which would then prompt her to be nice to them? What can't she stand in other people, meaning, what kind of people would she not be nice to?

    And of course, how is she nice?
     
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  8. Shenanigator

    Shenanigator Has the Vocabulary of a Well-Educated Sailor. Supporter Contributor

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    There are also different kinds of nice. Is she nice + genuine? Or is she the kind of nice that's outwardly nice but inwardly is resentful of having to be polite all the time, or a kind martyr who's inwardly exhausted by people?

    There's also the kind of nice person who's outwardly genuinely kind but is human enough to have unedited thoughts. This is the kind of nice guy my MC is, and the contrast between his manners and his unedited inner self is a lot of fun to write. He's not mean or malicious, he's just human, and not always a perfect angel. I write that part of him with a lot of humor, as opposed to portraying him as an asshole, so the reader roots for him.
     
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  9. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    It helps if your character wants something. That can be more telling than a dark past depending on how you write it. I would think about what she wants in this story.
     
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  10. Tralala

    Tralala Member

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    I'm a big fan of Dickens. He gets away with having nice MCs by surrounding them with absolutely awful peeps.
     
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  11. Tralala

    Tralala Member

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    Deadrats, you sound like a Dickens character :write:
     
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  12. StoryForest

    StoryForest Active Member

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    Wow, thank you so much for all the replies! These are all really great tips!

    I guess one of my struggles with her is not that she is just nice, it's that "nice" is the only thing I've ever associated her to be. She is genuinely a nice heroic type character in a dark world. Throughout the story, she's trying to help those around her, she is the contrast to all the other complex characters in the story. So, in a way, I kinda want her to stay the way she is but then I keep feeling she needs something more, and everytime I try to add to her personality, she starts becoming too much like these other characters she's supposed to be a contrast to. One thing I know I dont want her to be is too naive or dumb. I want her to be someone who is respectable, graceful, and elegant. Maybe I'm just not good at writing classy types? I think I need to look for other similar characters for inspiration, haha!
     
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  13. EstherMayRose

    EstherMayRose Gay Souffle Contributor

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    Maybe you could try writing some short stories about her, from her POV? I find that my characters flesh themselves out when I start writing about them.
     
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  14. Mckk

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    My protag is also super nice and I struggled to have him drive the plot for years. But even nice people have flaws - what are her flaws? She's not human if she's perfect.

    Another consideration, what about relegating your nice character to a secondary character? A support for the real main character? Perhaps you got the wrong lead. It happened to Disney, believe it or not. The film Zootopia - they had started with Nick the Fox as the lead character and Judy Hops the bunny was the support. In the end they realised that based on the theme of the story and that it's all about "Anyone can be anything they want", that Judy was the ideal character to convey that message. They redid the drawing boards and we have the Zootopia we know today.

    So, sometimes, maybe we just have the wrong character taking the spotlight.
     
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  15. StoryForest

    StoryForest Active Member

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    Oh yes, she is one of two main protagonists, the other one is very clear in my mind and I have no problems writing the other lead. It's the complete opposite with her though. In a way, they're paired as a team but while they complement each other really well from a story and theme perspective, she is very boring when she is by herself, so I need to figure out a special angle to portray her which I haven't quite figured out yet.
     
  16. StoryForest

    StoryForest Active Member

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    Sigh, I did and the things I write just comes out super boring and go in circles. I mean, my ramblings might not be too bad to read but I tend to get very lost in my writing process when I dont know where something is going. I know a lot of writers are just able to pick up a pen or open a laptop and just write but I'm one of those that aren't good with brainstorming via writing. I'd love if I could though because a lot of times those short stories may be useful later on in the story or, at the very least, it'll help me practice writing in general.
     
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2019
  17. StoryForest

    StoryForest Active Member

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    Thanks! I agree, there are different kinds of nice and she is genuinely nice. And, again, I dont think nice has to equal boring and I've written nice characters before but she's one that I dont seem to have a good grasp on. The other nice characters I've written always have a certain "voice" in my head but this one always comes up blank and I'm not sure why. Writing is definately an intersting art, haha!
     
  18. Mish

    Mish Active Member

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    Of course they can be!

    Most of my protagonists (at least in my long stories) are nice. They are a voice of reason in a dystopian world that has gone insane. Although, I don't think we need to look as far as a dystopian future, the world in which we live is full of selfish people and it's crazy enough, I think it's interesting to have a nice character to act a role model. Though, not cheesy nice, just someone who stands for justice and for what is right.
     
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  19. Mckk

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    What I mean is, why does this character need to be one of the protagonists at all? She can exist and serve a key role, but not be the protag.

    Also, she's your character. So make her more interesting lol. What would she do if her worst nightmare came true? If her loved one was murdered in front of her eyes? What would she choose if her father and mother were both drowning and she could only save one of them? Who does she choose and why? How does she deal with the aftermath? If stealing someone's kidney could save someone precious to her, but it means the person whom she steals that kidney from's gonna die, what would she do?

    It's not that any of these happen in your book, or that any of this has to become a back story for her. It's so you can see what she's like.

    What's her role in your story? Does she exist solely as a contrast to your other protag or does she actually have a unique, meaningful, active role in the story?
     
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  20. Alan Aspie

    Alan Aspie Contributor Contributor

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    No she does not. She does not lack of personality because of being nice but being nice and nothing else.

    Being only nice is one dimensional. That does not even reach to the level of being boring.

    If you add another character trait, you get two dimensional character. That is exactly the same as cardboard character.

    So... Three dimensions is minimum.

    Try...

    - Nice and clumsy and extremely shy.
    - Nice and adhd and nerd.
    - Nice and super intelligent and bossy.
    - Nice and stupid and bossy.
    - Nice and [.........] and [..........]

    Try to invent traits that are counterintuitive and try them to your hero.
     
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  21. StoryForest

    StoryForest Active Member

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    Intersting, I'm actually cool with one dimensional characters as long as they are well written and serve a purpose in the story. But this is just my personal opinion. I'm not saying I want this particular character to be one dimensional, it's just that I haven't had motivational issues writing one dimensional characters but I do with her and I haven't figured out exactly what it is yet.
     
  22. StoryForest

    StoryForest Active Member

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    She's sort of like the Watson to Sherlock, not exactly the same, but similar in that I need her to be there to provide a normal person's view on things as well as allow the Sherlock character to shine. Of course Watson is an interesting character as well, I'm not saying that character is boring, I'm just using an example on what her role is in the story. I also dont necessarily think readers would mind reading about my nice character, it's just that, as a writer, I feel a little bored when writing about her so I need to find something about her nicety or whatever else to make her more interesting to write about.
     
  23. StoryForest

    StoryForest Active Member

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    Yup, I agree. I dont want to give her some random misc trait just for the purpose of making her "interesting". I really dont think it is needed but I do think there is something about her character that I haven't discovered yet that is holding me back from getting to the level that you're at.
     
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  24. Mckk

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    If you find her boring to write, trust me when I say, she will be boring to read.

    You, the author, are this character's biggest advocate who should also know everything about her that makes her interesting. You, the author, more than anyone, need to find her interesting and love her. If you, the author, who loves your own book does not find this character interesting to think about, spend time with, and write about - what on earth makes you think anyone else will think of her any differently?

    We don't know your book. We don't care about her purpose in your story. We don't know or love this character. If you, the author, who holds this character dear finds her BORING to write, what makes you think somebody else who most certainly cares about her far less than you will find her interesting?

    ETA: in my experience, the way you feel about a character or scene always shows through. When I write a scene I'm not sure I like, that's always the scene a reader will flag as weak or problematic.
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2019
  25. big soft moose

    big soft moose The Moderating Moose Staff Supporter Contributor Community Volunteer

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    It may also be that your subconcious is telling you that you don't really need her as a character at all, which is why you find her boring
     
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