On Mondays this month we are talking about developing our characters through never and unless statements.
In my novel, When Chicks Hatch, one of my favorite characters is Nicky Bell.
She is a pretty self-centered character with many "never" statements that were fun to explore.
Her biggest never statement was a key point in my plot, but there were several others that I knew, but never openly shared with the reader.
For example, Nicky would never leave her house without being flawlessly put together. She values appearance and takes time to perfect her look. We can see that from chapter one where we read:
Any normal student would have lost sleep--and hair--rushing down the hall, in pajamas if necessary, to get there on time. She had
arrived in red Adidas joggers with snaps up the legs and a form-fitting red top. Her hair was pulled into a ponytail at the nape of her neck, one long strand of hair wrapped around the band. She was even wearing make-up.
Thick, black eyeliner clumped in her lashes, creating a dramatic
contrast to her blonde hair. Her lipstick matched her shirt exactly.
I think this "never" statement adds an "unless" later on in chapter 20. Nicky and her best friend, Jennifer, are fighting and Nicky begins to feel trapped, controlled and overwhelmed.
Her full statement then becomes "I would never leave the house looking ragged or unkempt unless I feel threatened. When I feel weak, I respond emotionally, and sometimes out of character. When I feel powerless in my environment, the things that ordinarily matter a great deal to me suddenly don't mean a thing. I just need to get out of the situation so I can regain my power."
Of course she doesn't say these words in the book, but as the author, I feel she says them to me. She shows hints of this for the reader in Chapter 20 when her best friend's husband, Brad, sees her out jogging after having an argument with Jennifer. I picture Nicky being very disheveled at this point. Brad makes note that she is sweating a lot. Here's that exchange:
“What’s so funny?” she demanded, her hands on her hips.
His hands flew up in surrender. “Hey, I’m just a guy, okay?
Remember, we aren’t supposed to understand this stuff.” He laughed.
“What’s to understand?”
“Hmmm. Where should I start? You’re supposed to relax, and you’re out here working up a sweat.”
“I’m not sweating!”
“You’re sweating. Meanwhile, my perfectly healthy wife is at home crying so hard she nearly threw up. Call me crazy, but I don’t get it.”
“She’s so dramatic,” Nicky said.
Sweating is something that Nicky ordinarily wouldn't let people see her doing. The conversation with Brad is casual, but telling. She isn't thinking about her looks in that moment (or anything else). She's lost control and simply needed to escape in order to regain it.
In what ways are your characters acting out of character? How are they showing their never and unless statements in your story?
Why not blog about it? If you do, be sure to tweet your post and tag me in your response (@HeatherMRandall).
Hop back here every Monday in February to read a new post featuring one of my character's "never" and "unless" statements. If you're a fan of my writing, don't miss it.