Thursday, 19 January 2012

Why does he have to be a heartbreaker?

Aidan v Big: no contest

Isn't it a pain the way life is different from books?

Let me explain. In Lucky Jim, the hero's philosophy boils down to the fact that, as he puts it, 'Nice things are nicer than nasty things.' I couldn't agree more. I also think that, when it comes to real life and relationships, nice guys are nicer than nasty guys. Nasty guys are very dull and nice ones rock.

The problem is, in stories, it's not that simple. Look at Sex and the City: Aidan is nice but really boring (what does he do except walk his dog and do carpentry?) and Big gets all the best lines. In my current work in progress book, Mr Wrong is a bit of an asshole, and Mr Right is really, really nice. But ... as a result, Mr RIght is looking a bit lacklustre beside his Wrong counterpart.

Also: I can't just have my heroine meet Mr Right and think 'Oh, this one's so much nicer. I'll just dump that other guy.' Because if she did, the book would be over on p 42.

Lots of writers (Jane Austen, Jilly Cooper) manage to get around this by making Mr Right appear nasty - and often act really nasty early on - but actually having a heart of gold. I don't seem to be able to do this. One of my editor's comments on my last book was that my Mr Right was 'too nice' and there wasn't enough conflict between him and the heroine. Which I fixed by making him initially meaner and clashing with the heroine much more over something in the plot.

But I don't think that's going to work in this instance for various reasons. Instead, I have to make the heroine think 'This man seems nice enough, in a background way. But he's not as interesting as my fascinating, difficult, Mr Wrong' and not consider him as a romantic prospect ... until the scales finally fall from her eyes. Is that strong enough a conflict to keep the reader turning the pages? I don't know. I think I'll just have to stick this problem in the tumble-drier of the unconscious mind and hope it comes out with some nice clean socks, I mean solutions.

Anyone else have any views on nice v nasty guys?


  1. It IS a dilemma. I'm definitely a fan of Big not Aidan - but in real life I'd go for Aidan.