Why Nice Characters Are Boring

We’ve all done it – fallen in love with the characters we’ve created. Then comes the temptation to make them ‘nice’, to make sure that the audience will love them as much as we do. After all, what’s the point in creating a character that no one wants to watch?

It’s one of the worst things we can do to our characters. They need some redeeming qualities, sure, but if you sand down the rough edges too far they become unbelievable and uninteresting.

The best characters have just the right balance of qualities we admire and those we don’t. They need strengths, yes, lots of them, redeeming qualities, things about them that make us want to see them overcome their struggles. But they also need flaws. No one is perfect and if your character has no flaws I don’t believe in them.  It also means you can’t create any conflict or drama from them.

Make your characters intersting. Don’t let them always do the ‘right’ thing. I shouted at the telly when I watched Don Draper flatly deny Betty’s accusation that he was having an affair (Mad Men). I desperately wanted him to confess, to do the right thing, but Don is fascinating because he’s a car crash, not in spite of it.

We need to glimpse inside your character’s head, to feel we’re starting to understand them. Nice is fine, just as long as there’s a hint that underneath they might not be quite as nice as we first thought.

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6 responses to “Why Nice Characters Are Boring

  1. Couldn’t agree more! It brings up my pet peeve – “Make the character more LIKEABLE.” It’s a general note that generates cookie-cutter characters. Characters need to be complex. They need to have flaws. You’re right. Without flaw there is no conflict. Without conflict there is no drama. Without drama there is no story. Most importantly without flaw there is no where for the character to grow. Meaning no theme and no transformational arc. And without theme or arc we are often left feeling unmoved and unsatisfied at the end of a movie. As for TV – the best TV shows have incredibly complicated and flawed characters. Love Don Draper, too.

  2. You need to read about my pal Dr. Henry “Indie” Jenkins in my book, “The Mandolin Case.” Indie smoked, drank, played cards, rode a motorcycle, and once got tangled up with a French foreign exchange student. That almost got him in trouble.

    In spite of all that Indie was the wisest doctor I ever knew.

    Dr. B

  3. Princess Scribe

    Good call. There’s little drama in nice.

  4. Indeed. My characters are what you call fairly nice, but they’ve made dodgy choices, have hurt eachother, and do tend to argue. The rest of the time they’re friendly but incredibly sarky, fiery, and banter a lot. Real life friendships are a big inspiration.

    I think I love my characters BECAUSE they’re not totally nice.

  5. Pingback: Creating Characters by Alan Flanagan | Scriptangel's Blog

  6. Pingback: Creating An Original TV Drama Series | Scriptangel's Blog

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