Never Agains

One of the questions authors ask their characters is, “What is your never again?” What is the wrong turn, mistake, or compromise this character made in the past that has never stopped haunting them, even if they never consciously think of it? What is the line in the sand they’ve drawn that they hope will spare them from repeating some humiliation, hurt, or other injury? (Photo courtesy of Wiki Commons.)

We pose this question because a lot of genre fiction is built around how a character grows and changes (or tragically refuses to grow). A never again can be proof of maturation–I will never again stay out all night drinking during finals week–or proof of stuckness–I will never again trust a beautiful lady. The punch line for the author is to test the never again to see if the character can adhere to worthwhile boundaries while letting go of the ones that were limiting growth and happiness.

Lady Violet Says I Do by Grace BurrowesAnd if the never again has out-lived its useful life, then letting go of it should still be a little scary, a little risky. The never agains help us define ourselves, and help us tell The Story of Me.

Lady Violet’s never again–I will never again rely on my menfolk to think for me–morphed into, “I will choose some better menfolk, and if they are truly my menfolk, they won’t presume to think for me, but instead, think of me.” Percival Windham’s never again–Now that I’ve lost two brothers and my oldest son, I will never again take the succession for granted–also evolved (for the most part), such that what he never again took for granted the respect and love of his wife and children.

I have made some never again promises. I will never again ignore my instincts when I think a health care professional is on the wrong track. We are all going to die. I’d rather die of stubborn self-determination than pointless meekness, if those are my only choices (I hope they aren’t). I will never again team up with others authors do to an anthology unless we are all very clear on expectations before the writing begins. No more going along to get along. I will never again talk myself into a romantic relationship. (You hear me, Mr. Cumberbunny?)

Never agains are closely related to never evers, but never agains have backstory weight. They lurk in our awareness, waiting to test our resolve and our values, like the memory of that seventh grade teacher who believed we had “so much potential.”

Do you have never agains? Have you blown through any? Let them go? Let them evolve? Three commenters will go on my Miss Devoted ARC list.



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13 comments on “Never Agains

  1. Hmmm, I am working on self improvement right now, which involves figuring out just WHAT my unspoken Never Again’s might be, and then dismantling them (assuming they are based on fallacious thinking!). Recognizing them can be pretty tricky. Those iceberg beliefs are hard to see, and even harder to root out!!
    God bless mental health professionals

  2. Well…hmm…I can’t think of anything. I’m thinking there are many things I never want to do again but then add…unless this happens. Retired last year and have found myself reminiscing regrets but finding I am excusing them because I know I did the best I could. Don’t know if I’m being honest, forgiving, or what.

  3. Darn it! You’ve caught me being shallow and/or non-introspective again. I so want to always make an intelligent comment on your very intelligent posts, but I’m stumped again. I’m pretty sure I’m going to continue forging ahead and hoping that my “never agains” take care of themselves without my conscious participation.
    But thanks for the pic of the very nice BC.

  4. On your post, is that a picture of a piece of a cinderblock in the sand? Because it seems like that is an odd thing to find in a desert.

    I made some decisions in the far distant past that I came to realize were not a good fit for me, and won’t make those again.

    I may be able to get a knee replacement after I retire next December or January 2024. I was too chicken to do it in my early 40’s.

      • Pam, that is called a Sailing Stone. It’s a phenomenon that occurs in Death Valley, whereby rocks weighing hundreds of pounds appear to spontaneously move, leaving those trails. Geologists have recently figured out that it’s a combination of rainfall, freezing, and windy conditions that causes the rocks to wind-surf an almost-dry lake bed, and the result are those lines in the sand. I kinda liked it better when we hadn’t solved the mystery.

  5. I have always been quite tenacious (some might say like a dog with a bone!) when it comes to some consumer issues. But I think as I’ve gotten older, retired and have more time on my hands, some things that I would have let slide as too much of a hassle to deal with, I now approach with laser focus. As my husband often muses, he’s glad I’m on his side! I think it’s a good thing for everyone involved to point out problems, as how can consumer issues improve if businesses don’t know where they need improvement? Stay safe. Stay well everyone!

  6. Sort of like Karen H said, I always want to make a witty and profound comment (!) but alas … nope! But I do have never agains. One is no more pets. My last cat died and it was awful. When I see a kitten I immediately think of it declining into old age and kidney failure, so I can’t appreciate the beauty and joy of the present because I am thinking of the inevitable sadness in the future. The same with romantic relationships, which have NOT worked out, so I think it’s not worth it even if I am lonely, that the much longed for connection and comfort will inevitably fail and leave me lonelier. Argh!!! I think I’m rather like your wary returning soldiers. Love and thank you for Lady Violet. I am on book 5 and binging!

  7. Great newsletter, as usual.

    I was glad to read that you will never again ignore your instincts in regard to your own wellness. Healthcare professionals are educated about the human body, in general, but YOU are the expert on your specific body. I hope you are well and whatever health issues you were having have been resolved.

    I don’t have any “never agains”, but I do have a no regrets rule. Before any tough decision, I ask myself the question – “If I don’t do this, will I regret it?” If my answer is in the affirmative, then I force myself to pull up my big girl pants and plow through whatever fears or reservations might hold me back. If I answer in the negative, then I resolve to never second guess my decision and move on.

  8. “We are never, ever, ever, getting back together…” Taylor Swift

    I have some never evers that are related to societal norms and generally accepted standards of good behavior. Vandalism seems a particulary unnecessary occupation, for example.

    There are quite a few never agains. Skiing is one of them. Cartwheels. Midnight buffets. Those are due to age and ability.

    There are a few things I have chosen not to do, but one never knows about that category. It’s a veritible caldron of wishes, curses and serendipity.

  9. I agree with your health care “never again.” I will not do unnecessary tests when I know better and I will insist on the ones that are pertinent to my person. Also: I will never again take a job that’s in finance, no matter how interesting. This is a bad fit and I won’t succeed. And I’ll never again date mentally ill men, no matter how interesting. Also a bad fit and no chance of success. These “never agains” sound like I am a complete flake, but even common-sense goals are GOALS. And it’s good to remind myself of the basics.

    I REALLY hope to see more of Lady Violet. I just love her and I love these relationships. She reminds me a little bit of Phrynie Fisher and Miss Marple in that people receive justice but not necessarily incarceration.

  10. I have made “never ever again” promises to myself that I break 5 minutes after I make them. Results varied. ;p

    I’m just really not good at making resolutions!!!

    (PS – LOL at “Cumberbunny”!!!)

  11. I’ve been mulling over this all week. Your questions do sometimes make me dredge my brain/spirit/… At first I could only think of was New Year’s resolutions, which could be thought similar. And like NY’s resolutions are often abandoned (by me at least) quite shortly after making them.

    But this has been a somewhat different week and I’ve had some occasion to do some remembering and thinking. Yesterday my husband took my sisters and I out to lunch following family funeral and we had one of those typical post funeral gab-fests. I hadn’t been acquainted with the person who passed, I was there for her spouse, my cousin. I knew about one quarter of the people there. extended family who were great to talk to.

    Since my husband and I lived away from our home state for 40yrs, we missed out on a lot of what happened with extended family except through the opinions of my dear mother, which were often quite skewed. My sisters are quite a bit more reliable. Without telling my entire family history (yawn) stuff did come up in our gab fest that made me realize I had a list of ‘never agains.’

    One of them was never to try to establish a relationship with my siblings through my mother’s information. That took longer with my youngest sister after my mom died and the truth was out about how she spoke of us to the other. I’d learned very early on that I would not treat my children differently (as in favoring one over the other.) Some of this fall-out was still in evidence in our conversation yesterday. Eye roll. But we have a blast whenever we’re together and get along just fine.

    Another couple of never agains involve doctors, not unlike the reference you made above, Grace. Never going to stick with a doctor who won’t listen to me out of some sense of loyalty, or “don’t be a complainer,” i.e., the problem patient. This one has not had to be tested in recent year, thank You God.

    The last I can relate is this, but also not tested since I’m retired: I’ll never work for another bipolar supervisor again. I learned a lot though. I tamed my own argumentative nature. I learned how to let crap roll off my back and leave it at work and not ruin my evening/weekends at home. I learned how to deal with angry customers so they wouldn’t have to deal with the psycho in the manager’s office.

    I hope the next post won’t ask us how many of our New Year’s resolutions we’ve kept this year so far. Ouch.