The character of Luke Foster was created almost as an act of defiance. I have occasionally been criticized for writing people who are “too nice.” The rationale being that the characters are unrealistic or that there isn’t enough conflict when everyone gets along. I’ve typically found these opinions easy to dismiss. And not because I’m just that stubborn.
My characters feel realistic because they remind me of people I know. I’m lucky enough to have friends and family who really would give me the shirts off their backs. I write nice because I know nice.
The criticism was on my mind though when I sat down to begin work on Jealousy & Yams. It made me consider trying something different. My original idea was to give the main characters flaws that made them initially unlikable. I thought they could be people who sort of deserved each other… that it might be a fun challenge to see if I could make them grow on the reader by the end of the book. I gave up that idea pretty quickly.
I’m simply not interested in reading a book if I don’t like the main characters and I spend a lot more time with the characters I write. I don’t want to write about people who pick fights and cause unnecessary drama. While I do believe people are entitled to second chances, I’d rather spend my time with those who don’t need a second chance. A hint of my original plan still shows up in Summer. I don’t think she starts out particularly unlikeable, but the reader is supposed to wonder what she’s up to.
For Luke, on the other hand, I completely abandoned any thoughts of making him anything other than a perfectly nice guy. I considered giving him a bad habit or a wild past. That’s when the defiance kicked in. I thought, “You know what, I happen to like nice guys and I don’t care what anyone else says. I’m going to make this guy the nicest one yet. He’s going to be so nice that even the other characters notice and comment on how nice he is.”
In Anne of Green Gables, someone asks her if she’d really want to marry a wicked man. She says, “I think I’d like it if he could be wicked and wouldn’t.” I think that’s what most of us want. Luke isn’t nice because he has no backbone or because he isn’t capable of terrible, horrible things. He’s nice simply because he chooses to be nice. And I chose to make him that way.