Never Have I Ever...

Never Have I Ever...

That's the theme of this month's writers' exercise over at The Lit Forum.

Today is also Insecure Writer's Support Group Day!

This month's question is: It's spring! Does this season inspire you to write more than others, or not?

I don't think so, mostly because I've been trying really hard to keep up a regular writing and editing schedule, no matter what the time or season.

This month's exercise is giving me all sorts of ideas though! It's also making me skip ahead on my ROW80 goals, as I focus on the character for the next novel, rather than editing the current one.

Here are the official rules:
“Bring a character or two, and let's play “Never Have I Ever!”
In case you aren’t familiar with this game, it is super simple. Someone poses a challenge, for example. . . . “Never Have I Ever Gotten a Speeding Ticket.”
If you have never gotten a speeding ticket, you do nothing.
If you have gotten a speeding ticket, you take a drink. And, because I’ve thought of everything, if you want to bring a teetotaling character, your character eats a hot pepper instead. And, if there is a story to tell, your character must tell it.
“I got a speeding ticket once when I worked as a pizza delivery driver. I tried to cry my way out of it, but the policeman wasn’t moved.”
Why, you ask. What’s the point? Because, by putting your character in a social situation, with other characters they don’t know, you force them to behave in ways you may not have foreseen. You may learn...
  • Interesting bits of backstory. (Which could be used in a WIP or could just help you understand your character better.)
  • How he or she behaves in a room full of strangers.
  • What kinds of things embarrass him or her.
  • What things he or she lies to cover up. Will they be honest? (No truth rule here. Let the characters respond however they would.) Would they admit to a lesser offense to cover up a greater one?
  • In what circumstances, and with what kinds of people, will he or she be more or less honest?
  • How does he/she behave when becoming slowly intoxicated? Or to avoid eating a hot pepper? Or maybe he or she doesn’t mind hot peppers!

Here is our first official question: Never Have I Ever injured myself trying to impress someone

And here's how my character Amelie has answered it, in three scenes.

Amelie is 23, from Switzerland, in the last year of her MA in linguistics at Oxford University. She just got engaged this morning, on the Friday before the Easter break. For the past few months she's been trying to decide whether to stay at school for a PhD or start a job somewhere. Now there's another option -- get married and move in to her new husband's family inn up in the Highlands. They've had a long-distance relationship for a few years now. She's about 5'5”, with brown hair and green eyes.
The Magician is the host of this event.

Scene 1:

The film was supposed to be a long one, so she figured she'd better visit les toilettes before it started. She left Angus to choose their seats, and headed for the women's washroom. The door was heavy, and took some effort to push.
“Oops.” She meant to back out as soon as she saw the fireplace and the elderly man -- and a yellow budgie -- but her back hit solid wall.
There was someone else there, a tall woman with the sort of hair Amelie hadn't seen since her last trip to Scotland. She was glaring at the budgie, who was preening in the centre of a large leather chair.
“Please do sit down,” the elderly man said. “We have been expecting you as well.”
“Expecting me where?” she asked, though she took the chair next to the bird, in order not to seem rude. Maybe there was some sort of live action event as part of the film screening? “Should I go get my-- “
She stopped. The engagement ring suddenly had an added weight on her finger. It didn't seem right to mention her new status to strangers when none of her friends or family knew about it yet. “The others will be along shortly,” the man said.
That was good. Whatever this was, it would be more fun with Angus. She stood up, to introduce herself to the other woman.

Scene 2:

“But Angus isn't coming?”
The Magician rifled through a stack of scrolls. “Desolée, Mademoiselle, his name does not appear on the lists.”
“And why am I here, wherever this is?” For some reason there was nothing to be seen outside the windows except fog.
“To play the game, bien sûr! What can I offer you to drink?”
She needed something that she could sip slowly. No way to tell how long this day would last. “Whisky, please.”
“Ah, Mademoiselle!” She ducked as Citron soared across and tried to perch on her shoulder. “Mais you have fine taste!” Undaunted, he swooped again and dug his talons into her other shoulder, ripping the seams of her jean jacket.
Somehow, though, she couldn't be angry. Rachel had hinted that Citron wasn't all he seemed. A man trapped in budgie form. It might be pitiable, except that Amelie couldn't imagine a creature less willing to accept pity.
“Which would you suggest?” she asked him.
Bon, if the Magician has been generous and not full of his usual avarice--”
“I have never--”
“-- and has supplied us with sufficient quantities of the best article, then perhaps a Lagavulin, or--”
This time, she was the one to interrupt. “Non, I'd like Laphroaig, please, if you have some.”
If Angus couldn't join her, then she'd have his drink for him.

Scene 3:

The Magician said, “Never Have I Ever injured myself trying to impress someone.”
Oh no. Already?
She took a tentative sip, and the fumes seared up her nose.
Beside her, Rachel wore an amused grin. “What've you done?”
“It was a few years ago. When my fia-- boyfriend first came to Geneva. He'd been there before, to visit his older brother. We knew each other for a year before we officially became a couple.
“So anyway, this was in the summer, four years ago now, and he'd come over for a week, after we'd just returned from a holiday in Turkey. It was the longest he'd ever been away from work in his life.”
“What does he do?”
“He owns an inn up in the Highlands. A rambling place, part in, part pub, sort of a bed and breakfast but also the local village hangout. His parents are there, too. Usually if he's gone for a few days they can manage, but this time he'd had to hire a temporary manager, and he was starting to worry about it. He called his parents every day, and everything sounded fine to me, but...” She shrugged.
Over the years she'd learned more from Angus about all the little details that had to be taken care of when you owned property and had strangers trampling through it day and night. At the time, all she'd felt was annoyance that he seemed to be dwelling on that far-off place rather than focused on her, especially as they'd had only three days left before they'd be forced apart for the rest of the summer. Until she went to stay at the inn for a week before she went up to Oxford for Michaelmas term.
“How did you distract him?” Rachel asked.
“How'd you know that's what I did? Well, that's what I tried to do anyway.” She was about to take an absentminded sip of her drink but stopped herself just in time and set the glass down. From across the table, Citron winked at her and took a sip of his own drink.
Je t'interdit de m'entendre,” she ordered, forbidding him to listen.
He laughed and ruffled his feathers. “Nothing can surprise me, you understand, Mademoiselle.”
“No, I suppose not. Aye, right, as Angus says. Late one night, I snuck him up to the roof of the apartment.”
“That doesn't sound too dangerous,” Rachel said slowly.
“Not when you first get out. But when I was younger I used to go up there with a couple of friends, and there's a sloping bit with a couple of skylights set in it. We used to crawl up as far as we could, and look through the glass. Spy on the people below.” She took a deep breath.
“Go on. You went up, and what?”
“No, I never got as far as the skylight. I was being all quick and sure, acting as if I leapt around buildings all the time. I threw one leg over the railing and--”
“I sort of fell backward. Collapsed in a heap at his feet. I'd pulled a muscle as I swung my leg.”
Rachel sniggered. “Reckon I can guess where.”
She glared at Citron, who was also snorting a laugh. “Yeah, you've both guessed right. And you know what the first thing Angus said was? He laughed, too. Then he goes, 'you'll be needing a massage, then.”
She laughed a bit herself. It was finally funny, after all these years.
“Only thing that'll help, Beauty,” Angus had added. And he'd helped her down to her bedroom.

Extra questions that characters have already asked each other are:

Never have I ever misjudged a man I thought I loved.
Never have I ever done something I’ve regretted in the morning.
Never have I ever been afraid to love again.
Never have I ever asked a question I didn't wish to answer myself.
Never have I ever taken something that didn’t belong to me.

In other news, the new Insecure Writer's Support Group anthology, Tick Tock: A Stitch in Crime, is out now!

So excited for all the authors!

Have you ever played Never Have I Ever?
How would you characters respond to the questions we've had so far?


Crystal Collier said…
What a fun idea for getting to know your characters! I love it. We played that game just the other day with the kids, and it was a riot.
Chrys Fey said…
Good for you for keeping up a regular writing/editing schedule. That's the way to do it. :)
Nick Wilford said…
You totally drew me in with that story. Great way to bring the characters to life!
Hi Deniz - you are always writing, proof reading, editing and bringing your characters to life ... keep on doing as much as you - you are an example to us all - cheers Hilary
dolorah said…
Every time I try to look cool, I fall flat on my butt. A couple of my characters do too. Its always fun to write it, and not suffer the bruises, lol.
Oh yes! I've hurt myself.
Thanks for mentioning the IWSG anthology.
E.M.A. Timar said…
I love games and quizzes that help you get to know your characters. I don't think I have ever tried Never Have I Ever, but I will give it a shot. Also, way to go keeping a regular schedule. I am still figuring out how to balance things so I don't collapse from exhaustion. It's starting to get there, but my schedule is definitely still a work in progress.
Diane Burton said…
A fun way to get to know your characters. I'll have to try it.
Beth Camp said…
Loved this exercise to explore my characters. You had me smiling all the way through your stories, the characters so unexpected, the conversation took twists and turns, somewhat unfinished, but still, overall, left me wanting to read more. Thank you also for that reminder re IWSG's latest book. I'll check it out. Write on!

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