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Should Lead Characters Be Nice People?

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Here’s a question for you…should lead characters be nice people?

My vote is for yes.

I’ve been thinking about this all day because last night I watched a new series on Netflix with a main character who I thought was, well, hopefully someone I won’t ever meet in real life. It’s not the first series with a main character I’ve felt this way about…and yes, remember last week, I got on my soapbox to complain about the awful main character in the mystery I was reading.

Is it a trend? Is this what people really want to watch and read?

I know a few of my fellow writing teachers disagree with me when I say your lead character has to be someone the reader likes.

Here’s why I feel that way.

You can have the best plot in the world but without someone who holds the reader’s interest while they’re living this plot, you’re shortchanging the reader.

As readers, we want to live vicariously through the main character. I don’t think any of us want to do that with someone with traits and qualities we don’t like.

We need to cheer these people on to see if they get away from the bad guys, get Mr. Right, get the promotion, yes, all the good things. If it’s someone you can’t stand, you really don’t care if they do or they don’t. In fact, you’re more bitter if something good happens to not so nice people.

We’re more likely to read on (or watch on), if the character has similar qualities to us. I’m hoping that the trend I’m seeing doesn’t mean that everyone thinks being horrible and disrespectful to everyone you meet is the new nice. (Nope, I’m not going to be that cynical).

It doesn’t mean you can’t create not so nice characters, you can. In fact, you must because someone has to stop the nice main character from reaching their goal.

And I should add that when I say nice character, I’m not talking about someone who’s 100 percent a perfect angelic like creature. Flaws are needed because none of us are perfect and characters shouldn’t be either.

Maybe these writers have carried the not so perfect a bit too far. Having characters swearing or drinking too much is one thing, having them treat everyone they come in contact with like dirt is another.

What do you think? Do you like the new trend of horrible people being lead characters in books, movies, and series?  Or, are you like me, and prefer to see the slightly flawed but good at heart character win the day?

I’d love to hear your comments.

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