An author came to me the other day, asking for a critique on her rom-com. Sometimes the faults quickly jump out from a manuscript. The problem with this one was obvious: ‘Your lovers are too nice.’
I told her to muddy them up a bit, have them doing the odd mean thing. Sleeping with their best friend’s boyfriend, that kind of stuff. ‘But surely no-one will like them if I do that?’
Nice is boring, I’m afraid. When people talk about a ‘sympathetic character’, what they should say is ‘empathetic character’. Look at the chap in ‘One Day’ – what an idiot (but we’re gripped until he finds redemption). And Scarlett O’Hara is one selfish bitch – but we love her courage. In Trainspotting some characters are perfectly vile, but we enjoy the way they make us laugh. Give us something ‘nice’ and we’ll go to sleep.
Your character needs to make a journey, and a ‘nice’ protagonist won’t be able to move satisfyingly towards that position of …