This is the fourth post I’ve started on Nick. Which tells me all I need to know: I don’t know Nick.

Actually, I knew that already, I just didn’t realize the vastness of the problem. So Nick’s all over the place. I think most of the “why would he do that?” comments in the critiques (all justified) are from my different stabs at setting up the character. I was looking at a picture of Matt Ryan as Constantine this morning and thought, “Huh. Maybe that’s the direction to go in for Nick,” and realized that every pass I do at that second scene has a wildly different character named Nick. By the time I got to the fourth or fifth pass, there were so many different Nicks in there, he was practically Orphan Black.

So I have to figure out many things here, including what powers he has (because that brings up the Kryptonite problem) and how being dead affects him, and what’s going to happen to him as he assimilates. But basically, I have to figure out who the hell he is, in and out of Hell.

Which is why I have three posts on this and none of them are worth spit. Argh.

77 thoughts on “Nick

  1. Will the real Nick please stand up? Sometimes men can be so difficult. Would love to hear your thoughts about all the different sides of him as you work it all out. Good luck. 🙂

  2. What do you do to finally get a character like Nick down? Just keep writing scenes with Nick in them until he clicks for you?

    1. At this point, I have to think. It’s like holding a character up in my mind and looking at it from all sides. Wondering what he’d do in different situations. Drawing on the stuff I already know is right, like the scene in the bar office later in the book. Looking at him in relationship to others.

      This should probably be a blog post. ARGH.

      1. Do you ever find yourself, consciously, or unconsciously forming characters from people you know? (Not asking specifically, no details, but in general?
        Once upon a time, when I had a fantastic idea for a book, (killed by no skill), the only way my characters had any dimension was to form them from people I knew. I know, I know…. Not ideal.


        1. Nope. It’s too limiting. Besides there are so many people in my head that going outside it for characters would just be adding to the overcrowding.

    1. He’s a fixer. Cleaning up screw-ups. Visiting those in the corporation who are skating close to the edge. Going to Earth to straighten out whatever demon screw-ups are happening there. The island hellgate is his last fixer assignment; at midnight HT he becomes the Devil and takes over the government, although not without pushback from the Demon Firsters and Green Nationalists. Later for them, first he has to close the hellgate.

          1. I’d break that down a bit further. There are different sorts of fixers.

            – I love things to be in order.
            – I like to help people.
            – I’m good at fixing things.
            – I’ll fix this to distract myself from the real problem.
            – Someone else wants me to do this.
            – I have another problem, which requires me to fix this first.
            – It’s my job.

  3. Really? I see him as the quintessential bureaucrat, efficient and unemotional, but hot.

    Now that I think about it, that’s paradoxical. No wonder you’re having problems.

    Interested to see how you resolve this!

    1. Efficient and unemotional can be hot! I’m currently re-watching Leverage and I think Elliott manages to be unemotional/efficient/hot. Of course, he’s a hitter and not a bureaucrat. But Nick’s past included some fixing via fists, didn’t it?

      I think the appeal there is that if you can get the unemotional control freak to crack, that’s when it gets interesting.

      Or at least, that’s what I’m hoping… since I’ve got a romance novel plot going with a control-freak hero (who keeps being drawn into chaos by the heroine).

        1. He definitely becomes vulnerable. I just have to make the arc plausible. And figure out the whole dead thing. Because I think he’s going to stay dead, but I don’t see how that works.

          1. At first I was going to say, “well, if they don’t want kids, just someone to spend the rest of their (her?) life with, what’s the problem?” Cause he can clearly go between dimensions (?), that is, Hell and Earth. So, he stays with her, gets up, “bye honey, I”m off to work!” and then comes back. Or, she can go visit him, maybe, cause she has part demon, and maybe that means she can jump between dimensions (planes of existence?) too. I mean, it’s a bit of a pain, what with the different speeds of time, but it’s possible. Of course, alive human heroine, dead human hero, kinda odd, but why not?

            But of course that gets the question of “why is Hellgate such big deal?” I mean, here Nick is trying to shut it down cause they don’t want demons (and dead humans?) going back and forth. So him bending the rules for himself doesn’t make sense. Of course, if he doesn’t care about being The Devil and gives it up for One True Love, and just stays with her, cool, that problem is solved. But then you basically have a zombie romance, and this is totally personal, but I am less bothered by the dead human in Hell and live human on Earth (“in” v. “on”–maybe it is planes of existence?) scenario than the live human on Earth, zombie human on Earth HEA. Also, would that even be allowed? If he were to stay on Earth, without his Heir powers, would he become dust and ashes, cause dead human?

            Then of course I couldn’t help think about Nick and the job promotion. Cause why is he becoming the devil? How did a human get to play instead of the demons? And I know that this is part of your story. Would any human who came through the Hellgate get to have powers like Nick? Or is that not even possible? Cause if it was, why haven’t we had a zombie apocalypse yet? Also, why shouldn’t demons be coming onto Earth? I know you mentioned that your Hell isn’t the same as the Christian Hell, i.e. a place for punishment/the Evil One who is trying to take over the world, cause if he was, and Hellgates were a thing, why haven’t we had demons pouring out?

            Ok, when I started writing this, I really meant for it to be helpful, except I think it just ended up (probably) being a list of some of the things you’re having problems with. I guess I’ll go back to my original point, though, that if Nick is allowed to be on Earth, then alive woman/demon + dead human isn’t an insurmountable problem. Assuming they don’t want kids.

          2. The problem is that he doesn’t have a body. That’s gonna keep him friend-zoned, which is fine for the first half of the story. He’s already dust and bones (don’t go there although I probably will, or more likely Rab).
            He’s in line for Devil because each Devil chooses his successor and Satan’s had it up to here with the demons who want the job. If you’re a demon who wants to be the Devil, you should not be the Devil. However that also has its problems.
            Basically everything’s falling apart in Hell. Kind of like America right now.

          3. No body is a problem. I mean, not to say that sex is everything in a relationship but it does need to be there…

            Out of curiosity, do demons have bodies? Not to suggest you scrap everything, but this whole idea came from Lucifer, and that show is making sex work cause he has a body and maybe Nick goes back to actually being The Devil? Of course, if you make him not human (and presumably give him a body), that kills the Hell politics storyline…

          4. Does he actually have to BE dead? Can’t God/Lucifer/unknown have snatched him from Earth while alive to be the administrator/fixer/whatever they despearately needed? And after 500 or so years of being around demons and dead people, he’s forgotten how to be alive?

          5. Assuming he hasn’t a body in Hell, you could always kill Nita. The storyline of “lovers actively together in afterlife” is not my favorite (vehemently so, actually, it’s why I refuse to finish the Mistborn Trilogy), but it’s done.

      1. I never thought Eliot was unemotional. He’s calm and he’s big on control, but he gets angry, gets flustered, gets romantic, laughs, makes jokes, all of that. At the end of the lonely hearts ep, he has flowers delivered to Sophie and Parker from Nate and Hardison because he knows they’ll like and he knows the guys are hopeless. And he loves that sword Nate gives him for Christmas that one year.

        1. This is true, but you don’t really get that until you’ve been with him for awhile (at least I didn’t?). At first, annoyance is all you really get from him. So maybe it’s better to say that he presents as unemotional?

  4. I’m fascinated by Nick, and my interest has deepened since it became clear that he has dealt with issues on Earth since becoming the Devil (at first I thought this was his first trip back to the living). So, yes, I agree with Jeanne that he is the quintessential bureaucrat. And, from his human background I would expect him to have a dim view of human potential and behavior (unless some other trip back to Earth since he died has broadened his experience of living people). Did he hide (or not acknowledge) his emotions when he was alive (he wasn’t living in a great time for being sensitive)? Does he think people have changed since he died (you mentioned that he processes the newly dead, so he knows what people nowadays are wearing and thinking). How does he see humans in comparison to the way he sees demons, God, angels, and other dead people? What expectations does he have that will conflict with what he finds in this situation (and make his job of removing all the demons from Demon Island more difficult)? For instance, why does he go around saying he’s the Devil when he knows that people won’t believe him? Why does he destroy everything in Vinnie’s bar and then quibble over free will in Vinnie’s signature? I keep having the feeling that Nick lacks experience being in the front line with the living on Earth (especially in the 21st century), so that his initial problem is that he confuses his exchanges with living people with his exchanges with subordinates like demons. The living people, instead of reacting like annoyed demons, refuse to believe that Nick is the Devil. They want to find a solution for Joey’s murder that leaves Nick out. I don’t mean any of this to be directing you as you figure out Nick’s character. I’m just having fun rolling around in the possibilities.

  5. I started to write a post suggesting you just scrap Nick as romantic lead and focus on Nita and Button as the one true pairing, but I’ll spare you my (deeply persuasive, cogent) arguments. But if you did, Nick’s personality resolves itself. He can be the cold, annoyed bureaucrat, and the awesome Button can humanize Nita and bring her love, while they battle demons, solve mysteries, and generally have fun.

    Or, you know, write the book you want to write rather than my weird little slash fanfic that I made up about five minutes ago based on one draft of one chapter of your novel. Whichever.

    1. I just don’t see them working as equals, which I think you need for lovers. I’ve always thought the heroine of Sizzle should have been with her secretary who was also her best friend and worked as a partner more than an employee. They had an intense relationship of equals and understood each other completely. Agnes and Lisa Livia had that kind of friendship, too. Nita and Button are more mentor and mentee (is that a word?) and I don’t like relationships where the power dynamic is that unequal, like professor-student, or boss-secretary (I know, I wrote one of those, but Nell never really thought she was an employee).

      But absolutely feel free to do slash/fan fiction on Nita and Button. You’ll probably finish your story before I finish mine.

      1. Personally, the best, (and hottest!) relationship of my 50 year life was unbalanced….. I absolutely worshipped the ground he walked on. He, being a man, typical!), had no problems with that. Oh, he loved me enormously, don’t get me wrong, but it worked. For 10 years.
        I just think it is nearly impossible for a man and a woman to be on complete equal footing…. we just are so different.
        But then again, you’re not dealing with anything like typical relationships, there.
        And truly, your writing is so delicious that anything you write will be full and believable…. Maybe you’re over- thinking it?
        (So, OK, I have no idea how to write, hee hee).
        You’re fabulous, so whatever you decide will be, too. 🙂


  6. How do you solve a problem like the Devil? How do you write a Nick and pen him down? How do you solve a problem like the Devil? An unemotional fixer of renown!

  7. Hey – could you let Nick know that one of his minions is pretending to be a radio show host? He can contact him at Thanks for anything you can do.

  8. I find it interesting that in both (three?) of the versions of the scene you’ve posted, Nick continually says he’s the Devil, but he actually isn’t yet. I know the “taking over at midnight Hell time” might be confusing to Vinnie, but it just seems strange that Nick keeps telling what is essentially a lie. Of course, he *is* going to be the Prince of Lies…

    1. Maybe he’s like the Lord High Executioner – “When Your Majesty says let a thing be done, it’s told off to be done. In fact, it practically is done. And if a thing _is_ done, well, why not say so?”

      1. I don’t know the tropes, but I would use the Kryptonite problem. Nick can’t be shot by bullets, but that sure doesn’t make people want to work with him. He is up against a short time frame, demons who want him out of the way in the Devil hierarchy, and a lot of pride on the line if he doesn’t wipe up this issue as quickly and efficiently as everything else he’s done. Demons will soon come into play as The Other, but Nick can set the stage for their struggle.

        1. Right.
          The problem is that I don’t have any Kryptonite.
          I have some potential Kryptonite. But it’s cliched Kryptonite which is the worst kind. So I’m cogitating.

  9. Oh, I misunderstood. I thought the Kryptonite was his impermeability to bullets/death. I guess I was jumping the gun — he is impervious to bullets, therefore you need some one thing that can hurt him? I don’t think you need it — you have his personality which can be both his weakness and strength in this extra-living situation. (Warning — I also think the love potion was unimportant in Tristan & Isolde — they would have fallen in love without it.)

  10. Have you watched the film Hail, Caesar! yet? It’s got a great take on a fixer (the main protagonist) who can appear to be ruthless, sacrificing his emotions to the job, until you realize that his actions are rooted in and demonstrating a great passion to what he wants to enable. (That is, the character is a fixer for a film studio, and so his job is to make sure the show goes on and they keep making stories)

    This might be a relevant trope(s):

    Why is Nick good at his job as a Hell administrator? That’s a separate question from whether or not he actually likes his job, but the intersection of the two also are key to not what motivates him, but what kind of things motivate him, which is more important to figuring out how he’ll react to any given situation internally consistently, even as his actual motivations shift. Pick a team sport where you know how each position contributes to tactics. What position would Nick play? At what level in hierarchy does Nick stop being a good leader, if there is one?

    1. I loved Hail Caesar and I thought that fixer character was excellent.

      I think Satan thinks Nick will make a good Devil because he doesn’t want the job, but since the next Devil will let him fade into nothingness, it’s that or the Void. He’s calm, he’s ruthless, he’s efficient, and he has a strong moral code. He really is a good choice except that he’s human. That’s not good.

  11. Nick is the ultimate gothic hero: cold, emotionally dead and emotionally remote. The attraction of that if he loves the heroine, she “fixes” him at least in relationship to herself. Which is the problem a lot of people have when they marry someone who is going to be their make over project. One of the things I liked about Maybe This Time was how while North seemed to be emotionally remote, he really wasn’t, he just got it wrong and screwed his marriage up.

  12. On a really very unhelpful note, have you come across the Simple Sabotage Field Manual, issued by the CIA in WW2? It forms a really excellent picture of beaurocractic hell. It includes such gems as: “Insist on doing everything through ‘channels’,” and “Never permit shortcuts to be taken in order to expedite decisions.” “Refer all matters to committees, for further study and consideration” is another genius way to create hell on earth. You are also to attempt to make the committee as large as possible – never less than five. And if there’s truly critical work to be done? Hold a conference instead.

    So yeah, efficiency and competence and getting the job done is sexy. Beaurocracy, not so much.

    1. Hmm, I think my director at work was given this in his leadership training decades ago and is still using it to guide his decisions. ?

      1. I don’t think he was the only one attending that ‘leadership training’. It’s the ‘expedite decisions’ one that rings true for me. Please don’t make me jump through hoops, just let me get the freaking job done.

  13. He has a soul. And a skeleton. And a sword because he was buried with one. That’s it. Everything else is illusion.

    1. I was brought up Christian, and I don’t remember this: that there’s a distinction between soul and spirit when it comes to people. I understood that your soul was the spiritual aspect of your being, which is currently inhabiting a physical body. And is going to end up in Heaven or Hell, depending on your actions during your lifetime. (Or, according to some sects, on whether or not you’re one of the elect: but I was Church of England, so God was watching me, and good works plus baptism were the key to a happy afterlife.)

  14. I think sometime earlier you said he was a bastard Medici or Borgia prince? If so, for me, there are two historical types that come to mind (and therefore stick in the characterization of Nick in my mind):

    1) Sneaky, conniving type trying to elevate his position (or at least gain his goal)
    2) Efficient enabler who knows he won’t get any higher but makes the best of it

    In both cases, you have a skilled, likely intelligent individual (well at least most of them were), who was brought up in wealth.

    The first is more exciting but is likely a bad character, at least before being saved by love. The second is possibly less exciting but a better person and sounds more like some of the commentary above.

    In the first case, Nick could be actively scheming to become devil (either for the position itself or to be kept from the void)

    In the second case, it seems more likely Nick has done such a good job as an assistant that he is being offered the position.

    And quite probably you mean neither of these characterizations, but that’s what’s come to my mind.

    It isn’t really related to your Nick problem, but have you read Michelle West’s Sun Sword series? There is a character from Hell in that series, Islander, which is one of the more intriguing characters I’ve read. The problem with understanding Islander is that your knowledge of him is slight until you’ve read most of the Sun Sword series as well as most of the House Wars series. Just dribs and drabs. He wouldn’t be a good Nick, but he keeps coming to mind in all this discussion.

  15. Demon Island is everyone’s Krypton, but they don’t know it until Nick arrives and he is T-boned by it. (Sorry. A couple of glasses of wine. And two very different people have used “T-boned” at me this week.)

    I’m just saying what several others have said: You have what it takes to figure this one out. You know all the stuff about creating and writing better than I do, by miles. I’ll try to shut up now, but I’ll just add one more thing. Make it hard for your characters, especially Nick. Your brilliant idea about juxtaposing inherited demonness on some people (juxtaposed with nondemon folk who don’t accept their former neighbors) is great for showing how slight the differences are that we use to make some people “others.” Start with Nick.

    Okay. Back to the bottle.

  16. Jenny, I don’t know if this is helpful but didn’t you once tell us that a story is about someone’s worst day ever?

    Why is this Nick’s worst day? Does he want to be the Devil? Has he planned and schemed for this or has he been talked into it? How is coming to the island and finding the hellgate important for his goal and why does he have to be the one who comes here?

    Why is this the one task he can’t delegate?

    Is he doing it to protect someone else (like Satan) from some terrible consequence? Is there some deal between him and God that will make everything better/easier if the hellgate exists?

    Is this the end of the world for the 47th time?

    Why is he here instead of someone else?

  17. Ok, I know I’ve already commented a ton, but I can’t seem to let this go, and I am so sorry if this is de trop:

    I was listening to “Some Nights” by Fun and it really made me think of Nick so I wanted to share that.

    And I also started wondering, well, what if he isn’t dead? What if he made a deal with the Devil, or someone else did and handed him over as payment? And his part of the deal was becoming the Devil’s enforcer on Earth (and so it is just easier to identify himself as “the Devil” cause to people on Earth, he may as well be)? So the Devil stopped his aging. He’s not really dead, but he’s not alive/aging, and he definitely has a body. And he’s been doing a great job, so much so, that the Devil has decided to “reward” him by allowing him to die, but it’s ok, cause he gets to become the Devil (or maybe #2 in Hell?). And of course actual demons don’t like that, cause it’s one thing for this human to be useful on Earth, but for him to be brought to Hell and be useful there is just not acceptable.

    Ok, I read that over, and I feel like I know this story, which means I probably read it somewhere once, and so it’s not original at all (especially as the solution is so obvious–the reward is no longer ruling Hell, but getting to resume life with Nita). But I typed this all out, so I’m still gonna share it. 😀

        1. Nope, did not say that.
          I said if the dead person was still present, i.e. a ghost or in some other form (vampires and zombies anyone?), then the dead can be antagonists.
          What can’t be an antagonist is somebody who is truly departed.
          The case in question was a story where the antagonist was somebody’s dead mother who was dead, gone, buried, deep in a dirt nap, not present, not active, not on the page, in no way influencing the narrative by her actions. She was all in the character’s mind, guilt and old memories, so she couldn’t push back, couldn’t escalate the story, couldn’t do ANYTHING and, as we all know, an antagonist has to be as strong as and preferably stronger than the protagonist to be effective. So memories which are internal cannot be an external antagonist. Or any kind of antagonist.
          If the dead are still hanging around, they can be antagonists.
          If they’re gone, you just have a protagonist who needs to get over it.

  18. What I love about your heroes is that they start out very focused on something and their facets emerge over the story. Each believes his priorities are right and they don’t make a big deal of it. They just do their thing. It takes the heroine to redirect them and Then their facets emerge and their focus changes. May be it would help you to pick one facet for the scene and not worry about the others. They will emerge when the story needs them.

  19. I remember a scene you posted a while back where Nita was introducing Nick to various good foods (and I got so hungry). He’s dead, he’s bones, the rest is illusion…where’s the food going? It may not be a way into his character, but answering that question might add useful information about his physical and metaphysical makeup.

  20. I have just joined up but I was reading the posts about Nick. Have you ever read the Sandman Slim series by Richard Kadrey. It might help or at least inspire a bit.


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