boys / character / memory / neurotic thinking / writing

The Nicest Guy!

Because of facebook, I now know that a certain individual from my hometown is having serious health problems. He and I are not facebook friends, but we’ve known each other since we were five. Well, he was five and I was four.

Anyway. On facebook a mutual friend posted about his illness and asked people to pray for him, and she added, “He’s the nicest guy you could ever meet.”

And I, perhaps a bit ungraciously, thought, “No, he isn’t.”

Not that you shouldn’t pray for him if you believe in that sort of thing, but there is a reason why I’m not facebook friends with him even though thanks to the alphabet we sat next to each other for years in school. I’ve long though him a jerk.

Not that he doesn’t have family that loves him. He isn’t evil or anything. If prayer works then by all means he should be prayed for. I mean, if you believe in prayer, do you have to have a “nice” measurement to decide who to pray for? Obviously he has been nice to some people.

Of course, facebook is a natural habitat for hyperbole. Exclamation marks are the rabbits of the social networking!

But I was thinking about character and who we like and who we don’t the other day as I edited novel number one. In the story is a guy who is kind of a jerk. He isn’t a truly bad guy (like the antagonist). He tries to do some good things..while still being kind of a jerk. And I love him. And my protagonist grows to like him too.

Part of me thought…some readers will be annoyed that she likes this guy. He’s a jerk! She should slap him! Yeah…probably…but still…deep down he’s a nice guy.

The nicest guy you’d ever want to meet!

Characters that are too nice are boring, aren’t they?

But I wonder if this novel is ever read by anyone else, how they’ll see this guy. Will they find him oddly charming or a smarmy jerk?

You could pray for him, of course. But as the creator of my little world, I’m not going to intervene.

6 thoughts on “The Nicest Guy!

  1. Hahahahaha — oh, I know it’s not really funny. But it reminds me of something I read once in (I believe) an online forum for hearing-impaired people. (This would have been back at a time when I worried about this condition, before I decided to just relax and live with it as best as I could.) Somebody (call them A) was expressing surprise that someone (B) whom s/he had met in real life had turned out to be a miserable sonofab!tch. Why surprised? “Because B is deaf.” Someone else immediately jumped on that comment and said to A, “Just because somebody’s handicapped doesn’t mean he can’t be an assh0le.” I probably remember that line 3 or 4 times a year, and it always makes me want to burst out laughing. :)

    We expect — we’re culturally conditioned to expect — that people who suffer, do so nobly and selflessly. And many of them do, naturally. Also, many honest-to-gods assh0les experience personal crises that cause them to be transformed. (The old Saul-on-the-road-to-Damascus story: sinners can become saints.)

    But it works the other way around too. Some assh0les are irredeemable assh0les. And some beautiful people turn into bitter, evil, self-centered creeps when calamity strikes.

    I don’t think storytellers and novelists should have to run their characters through some kind of likability filter. Your guy does sound honestly likable, though. That he’s apparently a sort of bull in an emotional china shop, despite his charm, makes him — cliche but true — three-dimensional. Believable.

    P.S. Not sure, 100%, what “exclamation marks are the rabbits of social networking” means. But I do know that was a pretty funny line!

    • I’ve said something along the lines of the “just because someone is…doesn’t mean..” It was in regard to old people. My step-mother’s father was a total blankety-blank, and being 99 years old didn’t make him any nicer–it just made him less able to hit people. But, you know, some people acted like because he was 99 he was suddenly sainted.

      As for the exclamation marks line…well, I just meant that the little buggers do seem to multiply. You do one or two exclamation marks, and the next thing you know, you’re doing this!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And of course, they could be bunny ears.

  2. You are right about the world of fiction. The nicest guy you would ever meet would either be ambushed and gunned down by the author, poisoned by his nicest wife you could ever meet, or really be a secret sociopath. One-dimensional characters in fiction are as useless as one-dimensional people in life.

    • The Missus and I watched the premier episode of a new TV series this week, a horror show called (surprise, surprise) American Horror Story. It’s hard to imagine we’ll watch another. The production values were very, very high — it was beautifully made — and we were very impressed how far the show pushed the borders of what was “doable” on TV (even cable TV). But every single character is broken, godawfully flawed, evil, and/or twisted. We might accept one-dimensional characters, if there were OTHER characters operating in different dimensions. But without a single force for good? No way!

      • JES, I need at least one person to root for too. They don’t have to be saints–should be saints–but I’ve not interest in stories without someone I can connect to in at least a tiny way. And I’ve heard American Horror Story isn’t good.

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