These "character mottoes" tell something about the person-- in this case, that safety is of paramount concern, but what's under that-- a persistent pessimism that you can't trust fate, that you have to be careful?
How about let's come up with mottoes for our own characters? Here's an article (scroll down) by Susan Gable which lists some of her characters' mottoes:
- The glass is always half-full.
- Do unto others before they do unto you. (Imagine how different that person would be than the one who believed the "right way"-- Do onto others as you would have them do onto you.)
- Life’s short; eat dessert first.
- Trust no one.
- If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bull.
- Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me,
So what about your characters? If they were to give a life philosophy, or a motto by which they live (and they were honest, which of course we can't assume), what would the motto be? To make this fun, let's use a proverb or slogan in common usage that everyone will recognize.
Examples, and as you read them, imagine what actions, motivations, and conflicts this character would have:Grab all the gusto you can in life.
Love is all you need.
Women and children first.
It takes a village.
Where's the beef?
Curiosity killed the cat.
A secret shared is a secret revealed.
A man's home is his castle.
A penny saved is a penny earned.
A prophet is not recognized in his own land.
A rising tide lifts all boats.
A rolling stone gathers no moss.
Cleanliness is next to godliness.
Don't burn your bridges behind you.
Half a loaf is better than no bread at all.
If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.
Laugh and the world laughs with you, weep and you weep alone.
Let sleeping dogs lie.
Seeing is believing.
What are your characters' mottoes? And what do they mean? How does that internal motto manifest in action?
For example, I have a character who thinks, "You can never be too careful." That doesn't mean she's a stick-in-the-mud. She's actually had an exciting life. But at every stage, she is very cautious. She's always trying to control the situation by taking great care. She never acts spontaneously or thoughtlessly. So when someone from her past appears and is going to tell her secrets, she acts to shut him up. She first diverts her lover-to-be by making him a lover-in-fact. Then she bribes the man from the past to leave. Everything in her life is done with care and thought... because otherwise, the dire forces will overwhelm her.
Her lover, however, is a rational man who believes that everything can be figured out: "It's better to light a candle than curse the darkness." Whenever there's a mystery or a secret, he wants to find out the truth. For him, "knowledge is power." "The truth shall set you free." So of course he's drawn to the woman who keeps so much of herself secret. But he does this by "lighting a candle" rather than, say, trying to force her to be open with him. He doesn't want her to -tell- him. He wants to figure it out. So he's trying to gather clues (as well as solve the murder of the man from her past).
Your turn! What's your character's motto, and how does that manifest in his/her actions?