Nice = Boring

27 Jun

My students often ask me why literary characters are so weird. They all have personality quirks, tragic flaws, weird habits, crazy situations, no one can just be. I’ve always told them simply, “nice people are boring”


Nice people are boring to be with, sure their nice, but you’re not walking away with anything. Not saying that a person can’t be nice, but if someone asks you to describe someone and the first description is “nice”, she boring; same goes for “sweet” and “heart of gold”.


I am a very nice person, I’ll do a favor for anyone, seriously, but nice is nowhere near the first word you would use to describe me. Hence, if there are no other dominating traits than nice, hire them as lackey.


In education, they tell you that bringing examples and non-examples really help clarify concepts. Like this is a shade of blue, so is this and this, but this is not. My point originally was not to discuss, niceness, but to bring literary proof and back myself up that nice people make boring stories. It took me a while to find my non-example (because writer are very into quirkisizing their characters), and here it is…Persuasion, by Jane Austen.


It feels almost sacrilege trashing Jane Austen like this, but that story was bad. Maybe not the premise, but the characterization severely detracted from it. Anne was the nicest bore to ever almost not get married. In any case, if Jane Austen can’t make nice interesting, no one can. Case Closed.


Posted by on June 27, 2008 in Teaching, Uncategorized


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3 responses to “Nice = Boring

  1. The Jewish Side

    November 30, 2008 at 7:04 am

    Why is this dated for June?

    And yea, I remember my teacher saying that we shouldn’t use nice as an adjective when describing something, so ever since then I tried to think of other adjectives.

    But nice isn’t always boring, I have some exceptionally nice stories, that make you say “wow, that’s amazing”. But then again the story always has some cruel characters in it too, like the good guy and bad guy situation.

    But yea, everybody likes to hear about the latest scandal, fraud, gossip, and weird stuff, that’s what makes the news.

  2. denise

    March 21, 2011 at 5:29 pm

    Nice people are in literary terms not very appealing characters. It is very hard to create storylines about a person if they are just one dimensional and predictable.
    To encourage someone to read your work you have to have intrigue, mystery, complex characters with many dimensions to their personality. It is what makes a story interesting and you want to explore as many sides to your character. To fully understand a person you have to explore what made them the way they are and why they are the way they are. This is achieved to some degree by reading a literary work and it is engrossing.
    The nice, dependable unexciting person does not make for interesting reading usually!

  3. denise

    March 21, 2011 at 5:37 pm

    Fictional characters – the skies the limit in terms of what your character can do, will do and so on. Nice people are important in ordinary real life. You have scope in fiction to explore many sides to a very fascinating character who does things in the world that you are exploring within the pages of your book.


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