Decide or GTFO: I Hate Your Wishy-Washy Character


It’s no secret that I love a good bad guy. A great villain can make a piece of fiction, just like a shitty one can make me wish I spent my time doing something else, like regrouting my bathroom or organizing photos* or conquering a neighbouring country.

The conflicted bad guy, the grey area bad guy, the downright evil bad guy…I love them all. And my love for them is matched only by my hate of another character.

No, not the good guy. It always surprises people, but I love good guys, too. From the slightly-shady Black Widows to the perfectly stand-up Captain Americas, they are their own kind of fun and I love them for it.  It doesn’t matter if they use guile or brute force to achieve their aims. Because what I like is conviction.

And what I hate is wishy-washiness.

That is the character I hate: the one who won’t commit. The one who lingers on the sidelines, wringing their hands, never getting a damn thing done.

The heroes who refuse to take a stand.

The villains who won’t take the steps needed to win.

The secondary character who could have solved all this if you had just bothered to do anything.

You all suck.

Worse: you’re all boring.

I’m not saying they can’t be conflicted. Look up the page: I love conflict. Have a hard time with a decision. But then decide.

Writers, beware: life is full of enough hesitation and half-measures. I don’t need that in my fiction. Go big or go home.

And make sure your characters get the memo.

*I still have not printed a single wedding photo AND I DON’T CARE.

3 thoughts on “Decide or GTFO: I Hate Your Wishy-Washy Character

  1. If its done well you have Hamlet. The indecision itself becomes the character’s defining characteristic.

    But that almost never happens.

    The problem is that many writers aren’t aware of what they are doing with the character. They don’t think it through, they lack empathy, they discard the character’s logic…and usually do all these things with cliched, sloppy prose.

    Just because it’s written does not make it writing. And just because it’s writing doesn’t mean it’s a story. It’s probably not a story, at least not a good story. Odds are that it sucks.

    Once in a while, somebody comes along who has the right combination of talent, background and dedication to crank something out that almost doesn’t suck. If they are also honest about their shortcomings and are determined to do better, then you may have something worth reading.

    But most of these self-proclaimed writers are sloppy, lazy and deluded. Anyone can publish anything they want at any time. But they sure as fuck shouldn’t.

    And if they do, I am goddamned if I will read it. With me, you have fifteen seconds before I’m done with you.

    If you make it that far, the clock is still ticking. Get too many demerits and I am going back to my Andre Dubus collection. Don’t waste my time with your shitty egotistical bullshit “prose.” Go home.

    Unless you really are good. Then welcome. I’m all over it.,

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