Determinately Fey or Human and Nice Characters

After I got Malcolm done, I have two left in the main cast. I have a starting inspiration for both of them, but the problem that they have in common is a sort of split between a supernatural and human background. Only one of them need have one, as far as the story is concerned, and I could easily decide against it in both cases. So while I had my notebook and didn’t really want to bother with the iPad’s stupid touch keyboard, I outlined what made each background different for each character.

Lane, should he be a fey creature rather than human, would probably have to be a latecomer to the cast. His background would be known to the others, and he would have to have been won over to their side, possibly after a brief run as an antagonist. If he’s human, than he’s Malcolm’s vaguely mentioned friend. Lane’s personality, however, is no different from fey to human. He’s a little mean-spirited, but ultimately harmless. And although he’s probably a pretty crappy friend, he genuinely likes Malcolm. Even if his reasons aren’t the nicest.

Elphee was originally slated to be a somewhat nervous witch, but that sounded too much like too many existing characters. So I made a change to sorceress, banking on a connotation of witchcraft seeming more to do with nature, while sorcery implies a connection with academia of some sort. I also decided to refrain from allocating timidity to her character. And that’s the point where I got stuck.

How to make her stand out among the other characters? As it stands, they are: an unorthodoxically naive Action Girl, a useless braggart, and a snide insincere git. Balance is preferable to theming, but The Nice One almost inevitably sucks in some way or another. Often in the realm of likeability (or lack thereof). Julia Roberts’s character in America’s Sweethearts, Willow in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Diane Keaton’s character in The First Wives’ Club… All of them heels. Dull and unsatisfying even in their final patient victory.

(Nothing at all to do with The Nice, of course.)

It’s also a pretty tired dynamic. The nice girl playing off of the snappy girl and the two rowdy stupid boys. She’d commit meta-suicide from the overtired schtickness of it all. Or I would. Ugh.

Foregone conclusion, you might say. Elphee needs to be subversive, or at least not nice. Not that nice is a bad thing in books, but it’s always done so poorly… You know, I think I just randomly fell on why nice characters often stink.

They are not just nice people in a story. They are nicer than someone. It’s not a trait so much as a comparison. And that’s as yucky in fiction as it is in reality. They come off as sanctimonious, especially if they are bullied because they are nicer. The worst part of that is that the sanctimony isn’t even intended or otherwise meant to be perceived as a flaw. You’re supposed to like them more because of it.

This is pretty much where I had to put my notebook away and go to bed, but I kept thinking since it’s hard to sleep. I’m still on the fence, but I think Elphee will be a sort of fille fatale who lies. That’s still too rough. Hmm.

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4 thoughts on “Determinately Fey or Human and Nice Characters

  1. Perhaps she could be self-motivated and have one of those lives that only tangentially relates to the story, and isn’t nice to people ’cause she’s nice, but rather because it’s more efficient than being rude. :)

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