We all have things that we would never ever dream of doing.
For example, I would never ever go ziplining. This is, for me, an absolute.
There are some assumptions you can make about me solely from that confession, right?
First, you may assume that I am not adventurous or impulsive.
You would be right.
Second, you might assume that I have a fear of heights. That's also correct.
Do you see how a simple "never" statement can show you things about my personality, even exposing my fears? This is a very useful trick when developing a character for your novel. These never statements will tell your readers important details in a subtle way. With a well placed "never" statement, you don't have to spell out all the details. Your readers will naturally draw their own conclusions.
However, with every "never" statement there is often an "unless" statement.
I would never go ziplining unless my mother and cousin dragged me along with them. No, I don't balk at all forms of peer pressure, but these two people can get me to try things that I'm naturally too fearful to try. I mean, think about it . . . if my mom is brave enough to try it, what's my problem? If my baby cousin is brave enough (and I want her to admire me) then it might be worth the risk.
Here's another real life example:
Remember, I'm afraid of heights. While at a water park with my husband, children and my cousin, I decided to go on a waterslide. There were actually 4 slides all using the same line. At the very top you could select which slide to go down.
One slide looked tame. The second slide looked twisty, but safe. The third slide looked daring. The fourth slide looked like a death trap.
My cousin entered the line with me.
At the top of the stairs I noticed that the first two slides were closed. Now I had to choose between daring or death drap. I also learned that the line determined which slide you would be put on. My cousin was ahead of me and she was placed on the daring slide. That left me stuck. I either had to go down the death trap and risk what I imagined would end in paralysis, or go back down the stairs against the crowd and look like a chicken to my cousin (and everyone there).
I would never have gone down that slide in a million years. It was almost a straight shot down and seemed to defy gravity. I would never have done it had I not been in that situation.
Sure enough, I let myself be directed onto that death trap slide. If I'm honest, it's still an out-of body memory that I cannot believe actually occurred. I arrived at the bottom unscathed. No one was even watching. My cousin had returned to the lazy river without me and the only one to witness my bravery was my inner self. Unfortunately, she still had her hands over her eyes.
You get the idea. Good characters need "never" and "unless" statements. They show readers the depth of personality, expose inner conflicts and add an element of realism your readers will appreciate.
Hop back here every Monday in February for much shorter posts featuring one of my character's "never" and "unless" statements. If you're a fan of my writing, don't miss it.