I have this overall "good" and polite character. He helps everyone in need and is very much raised to be like a posh-like Victorian gentleman.

The thing is, he keeps his "negative" opinions to himself. Being raised not to cause a scene/conflict. If someone is yelling at him, he would calmly diffuse the situation. If someone was insulting him, he would reply back with words that does not aggravate or just leave.

But, because of this, he keeps all his complaints and insults in his head. Which his inner dialogue would be. And, he's pretty much the protagonist, which I'm worried about.

I had comments about him being a two-faced or a manipulative person. That's not what I intended for him to be.

My reasoning (which could be this character's too) is that nobody's perfect. Even the kindest person could snap or have an outlet. As long as he's not hurting anyone outright, it's fine by him.

Should I just let it be? Should I lessen his judgemental thoughts? What else could I do?

  • 1
    Where does all this negativity lead this character, does he have a "character arc"? You see, this kind of setup can be seen as "Chekhov's gun". You can't let those emotions just boil under with no resolution. Reader might expect your character to become Rodion Raskolnikov, Travis Bickle or Arthur Fleck. What are your plans?
    – Alexander
    Commented Jun 1, 2022 at 17:23

4 Answers 4


Show the complexity of his inner thoughts.

Instead of having the gentleman diffuse the situation outwardly while inwardly thinking negative thoughts, have his thoughts become involved--to reflect his maturity and consideration on the topic.

For example, let's say another man has spilled his drink on your character's clothing. Your character might say: "That's all right, don't worry about it. I never liked this shirt anyway," while inwardly thinking

(1) What an ass ... which would be unlikable and two-faced, or

(2) Now what? I hardly have time to change before the opera. I wish Bernard was not so clumsy ... which would be a natural response and less nasty, or

(3) I'll need to change. I don't have time. God in heaven above, but when will Bernard learn to handle his liquor? No, no. That's not fair, we all make mistakes. He will learn, sooner or later.

In the third case the character is beginning to debate the situation within himself. This shows movement, flexibility, and intelligence, which are things readers enjoy.

So, my suggestion is to not simply "let it be," and to not "lessen his judgmental thoughts" (unless they are outright rude), but instead temper them into something stronger by having your character actively work through the situation at hand. At the end of the internal debate, you can button the whole thing down with an action or a statement to signal that the character has reached a conclusion. "Here, let me take that glass."

Good luck with your writing.

  • I was going to answer something similar - more in a "dual personality" or "angel and devil in the shoulder" way, but I think this narrows down pretty well how this concept can be handled. Also, BTW but totally unrelated, for some reason I read your third example with british accent.
    – Josh Part
    Commented Jun 3, 2022 at 19:55

I suspect the problem is that you only emphasize the negatives that he hides behind his public mask. But there are probably also positives that he has to hide because they wouldn't be deemed appropriate.

For example, if he has a love interest, he cannot just act on that. Even when it's just the two of them, the conditioning by society and upbringing would be a strain. Worse yet if they're from different classes and their relationship would be deemed in appropiate.

Another option is to emphasize that this isn't a mask of his choosing. It's society that forces him to be "two-faced", even when his hidden face might be more human, more real and more beatiful (if you show the positives). Maybe he's a victim here as well, and would rather be the real him.

A third idea is to give him a dog. And love that dog. When no one is around, no prying eyes of society to force him into his straight-jacketed public persona, he plays with his dog like a little boy and talks to it about all the things it would be improper to talk about with a human.

In short, make his hidden face a complete, human face. Not just a face of negative opinions.


It is perfectly ok for a protagonist to be a two-faced bastard, as long as the reader likes to read about them.

There are ways to make your reader like to read about your character.

For instance, give them a positive character change arc. This means they will evolve from someone who is "bad" and believes in a Lie to someone who's "good" and believes in a Truth. Having your main character start out as a two-faced bastard and then evolve into someone that is honest with their feelings and thoughts would be one such change arc. "I'm not allowed to cause a scene/conflict" or "I'm not worthy enough to cause a scene/conflict" could be two such Lies. How could such lies get the character into a situation where he might hurt people he loves?

You say the character was brought up to be a gentleman. How was that upbringing? Did it leave emotional wounds? Maybe the character does what he does because of these wounds? Maybe they are the reason he believes in a Lie and needs to change?

Another way is to have a character that does not change (either a non-arcing character or a flat arc character), that believes in a Truth no one else believes in and, while being a bastard in some minor sense, their heart is in the right place when it comes to the big question of defeating Nazis, stopping World Hunger, finding the killer, etc.

I'd look into giving the character Grit, Wit, and "It" to help make the reader like them even though they're not through-and-through a wonderful person.

I suspect most people are prejudiced and "two-faced" but my moral code is that actions counts. Thoughts and emotions have a tendency to just pop up whether you want them to or not. In fact, the more you try to push them down, the more they behave the same way a beach ball behaves when your try to push it under the surface.

The trick (your character might employ) is to have the emotion/thought but only on the inside... it's complex (and not), but if you want to read more about it check out "Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life" by Steven C. Hayes and Spencer Smith.

Your character might very well have an inner life full of thoughts and feelings they prevent the world from knowing about. Holding back may even be a healthy thing... for instance in anger management "letting it all hang out" is considered more harmful than helpful...


I think the best way to keep this character feeling relatable and not like a two-faced jerk is to have them acknowledge that their thoughts are bad, but they're trying their best to fix them.

For example, a man accidentally stomps on their foot.

Their initial thought is something harsh like Ow, why isn't this idiot watching where he's going?

Then the character catches themselves and thinks No, it's not that big a deal. I wasn't paying attention either. Take a couple of nice deep breaths and handle the situation calmly.

If the person who stepped on his foot apologizes then he can say "It's okay. I'm sure it was an accident." And if the other person just keeps walking by he'll just decide not to make a scene.

I'm sure we all have times where we get annoyed by something but have to censor ourselves because we know what we're really thinking could hurt someone's feelings. Just emphasize the second part.

Basically, this is a character who has a short temper but is trying his best to be patient with people anyway. Honestly, I think that's pretty admirable. They don't want to hurt anyone's feelings no matter how bad a day they personally are having.

You could also make this character more rootable by giving them an absolutely horrible day and showing they still make an effort to be nice to people regardless. They lost their job, broke up with their significant other, and broke their leg all on the same day, but no matter how hopeless and angry they feel they still outwardly smile. That shows a lot of moral character on their part.

You could also surround them with horrible or just plain annoying people. Show this character has the patience of a saint by surrounding them with some of the most obnoxious people imaginable. Their parents, friends, and co-workers are all totally insufferable to be around, but they have to put up with it anyway. Every day is a fight to keep their sanity, yet they somehow manage to keep a positive attitude in spite of this.

If the audience believes this character has good reason to be mad, then they'll be even more impressed that they manage to keep their cool regardless.

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