I am Canadian. The defining characteristic of being a Canadian is that we are 'nice'. Yikes! For more on this read Will Ferguson's scathing and hilarious polemic 'Why I Hate Canadians'. Niceness isn't a bad thing. Especially when you're young - say eight or so.
'Dear Aunt Penny, I liked the green tuque you knit for me. It is nice. We had a nice Christmas. I'm going to my friend Sheila's house. She is nice and she likes me because I am nice. Bye now. And I nearly forgot - did you have a nice Christmas? Yours, Jannie'
It starts to wear a bit as one gets older. My friend Julia lived with her first husband in India for awhile. When they first arrived they lived in a hotel. One morning Julia became impatient with the maitre d' who greeted her every morning with "Sorry!" said loudly and cheerfully. Julia asked him why he did this and he answered very perplexed "I thought you were Canadians..." When falling against a lamp post in a drunken moment, 99.8% of Canadians apologize to the lamp post. We are nothing if we aren't nice. And we don't want to be nothing right?
Why I am going on about this you might wonder? And because I am nice I will relieve your stress. I am going on about this because being nice is a dilemma when writing a novel. In particular a mystery. I have spoken of my problem with trying to therapize my characters so that everyone is happy - well this is I suppose, a subdivision of that.
Yesterday I realized that my murderer is way too nice. I'm not going to spoil future readers with too much detail but I had tried to make a murderer who had every reason to murder - for whom, indeed, it was not only inevitable to murder but really any well meaning person would have done the same. That held up for the first murder but it fell apart during the second. My choice was to make someone else the murderer or change the character of my character if you follow. I'm doing the latter. I won't make this person completely evil or anything but I will give them some flaws that one might expect to find in a killer.
Now I am wondering are there any national characteristics that influence your writing? If you are Dutch do you worry about cleaning things up? If you are from the United States does a hero come in and save the day? Please excuse my vast generalizations but that is what we're talking about, no? (And just so I justify my choices because I am nice that way - I was married to a Dutch man and lived in the states for awhile in my youth.) Or perhaps it is an influence from a smaller community. I live in a 'have-not' province and wonder if that makes me always equate poverty with being good and having a tonne of dough with being evil?
Let me know...