also called Goody Two-Shoes, are the people who make everyone else look
bad. They turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, raise the bar, and
set the standard high.
But why? What motivates them?
What’s the payoff?
Aside from the general,
run-of-the-mill do-gooders who are generous because it’s in their
nature, there are three sub-stereotypes do-gooders. Let’s examine each
type by delving further into what motivates each and how writers can
crossbreed them to spice things up.
to please people
the already overworked congregation member who just can’t say no when
the Educational Minister is short a Sunday school teacher.
Doormats are the most common form of do-gooders in Christian fiction.
They generally have low self-esteem and believe that by doing what
everyone asks of them, they will up their estimation in the eyes of
others. Perhaps they grew up with the idea that if they could just be
who people wanted them to be—instead of who they really are—they would
find love and acceptance.
How to Crossbreed:
Changing the doormat’s payoff will be the best way to alter this
stereotype, because you can’t change the people-pleasing motivation and
keep the person a doormat. For example, a doormat do-gooder could
simply be covering as a doormat for a self-serving reason, like wanting
to ingratiate themselves into a small town for political aspirations or
real estate reasons.
to obtain sympathy/admiration.
the businessman who gives away all of his wealth and allows his own
family to live in poverty.
Martyrs might be the extreme form of do-gooders, in that they do so
much good that it’s sometime to the detriment of their own health or
family or general well-being. They are a strange dichotomy of altruism
could argue that they have an almost masochistic urge to put others
before themselves, and feeding into this unhealthy compulsion can
easily overwhelm a person. The idea just doesn’t hold that the greater
the amount of suffering, the greater the size of the reward.
One way to change this subtype of do-gooder is to give the character
such an awful backstory that they feel the only way to atone for their
past sins and overindulgences is to martyr themselves by living in
constant suffering and sacrifice.
to be in the know.
the retiree from next door who brings you a dozen cookies only to pry
and get the latest gossip about whether you are getting a divorce or
Sometimes do-gooders are generous simply to disguise their true
ulterior motive to gather information for gossip mongering. Recipients
of this type of charity usually perceive that the busybody’s goodwill
toward them is only to plump their arsenal full of juicy tidbits to
share at the next Bunko meeting. It’s enough to make someone highly
Genuine do-gooders probably had
an experience with a needy person that transformed them and their way
of thinking. A busybody, however, likely realized that sharing an
intercessory prayer request was code for dishing dirt in a socially
acceptable manner, simultaneously making themselves look like the
caring sort is only a perk by-product.
How to Crossbreed:
What if you gave your busybody a selfless reason why he needs to be in
the know? It would be counterintuitive, of course, but would help
redeem this character in the eyes of the reader. For example, a girl
tries to get the life story of her best friend’s romantic interest, all
in the name of trying to protect her friend from making a huge mistake.