I like nice guys. There. I admit it. Out loud. And, I’ve decided not to duck my head in shame over it, either.
While the rest of the world embraces the Spikes and Damon Salvatores of the fictional world, I prefer the Angels and Stefans. You know, the “nice(r)” option. A lot of people immediately respond to that with “oh, you mean the boring option, right?”.
“Nooooo,” she wails to the universe and pats her nice, misunderstood favourites on their (oddly often) perfectly-styled heads.
While it is true that a lot of characters that start off as “nice guys” become insufferable, boring black holes whose only purpose is to suck the rest of the characters down with them, the nice guys I’m referring to are, at their heart, redeemable. Yes, bad boys aren’t the only characters that need redemption… or can get away with moments of wickedness. I always feel the characters that are introduced as bad boys have it easy. They can get away with murder because they’ll flash a sexy smile or make a darkly delicious statement that promises to reveal their soft underbelly or a twisted past that “made them who they are”.
Nice guys seem to get immediately dismissed as boring because they aren’t trying to make someone else miserable.
That’s why whenever I write a “nice guy” character, I’ll inevitably ask myself the question “What would John Crichton do?” or more accurately "What would I do to John Crichton?"
John Crichton was the ultimate nice guy when his character first appeared on the little-known oft-missed, science-fiction epic, Farscape. He was an all-American hero: astronaut, scientist, former football star and a great believer that “talking” and “reasoning” could solve any problem.
Sounds boring, right?
But what if I told you that by the end of season 4, John Crichton was making choices that, from an outsider’s point of view, only the worst of humanity would ever make?
And that he was still a nice guy?
A great number of his plans would end in tears… or screaming. Entire races would accuse him of being a monster. But, heck, you still hoped his crazy plans would succeed. You still wanted him to get the girl; you revelled in his bromance with a giant, angry alien; and you winced each time he monumentally frelled up.
Despite everything he did, he never gave up that part of himself that made him someone we could relate to. Even when he was full of bluster and bravado (and a stark raving looney), he could be proven wrong, fail and fall. At his worst, the fierce loyalty his friends and lover had for him reminded us that he was someone worth saving. A good man in impossible situations. He still believed in friendship, love, heroes and saving the world. He just had a more “flexible” idea of how to go about it.
A “nice guy” character takes does not have to be boring. His sole purpose is not to get the girl or prevent the bad boy from getting the girl. A nice guy has an arc and journey all of his own. He strives to be a better man, and occasionally he can stumble. He’ll tick you off and make you roll your eyes, but if you let him, he can also make you smile, enjoy the quiet and remind you that if there weren’t any nice guys, the bad boys probably wouldn’t want to become better men… and what would be the point of that?