It’s such a simple word, but those two letters carry a lot of power.
- No, I won’t give you my phone number.
- No, I won’t follow in your footsteps.
- No, I won’t let you murder people.
It’s almost inherently rooted in conflict and contradiction, a refusal to go along with the flow, whatever that flow may be. It’s a line in the sand, and that line can be as shallow as ‘do you want a taco?’, or it can be integral to preserving your autonomy and sanity.
That same word can completely change its meaning depending on where it’s coming from. From a person with little power in a given relationship, it becomes self-possession and a hold on autonomy. (No, I won’t let you treat me this way.) From an entity with power, it can become a force of oppression (No, you can’t get an education.)
But let’s take a step past that analysis. How do your characters handle hearing that word? How do the people you know? How do you?
- Do they accept it?
- Do they try going around the obstacle? (How many kids hear ‘no’ from one adult and immediately ask another one?)
- Do they respond with an outburst of violence?
- Do they make their rejection of that ‘no’ the premise of a presidential campaign?
Most people’s reaction to a ‘no’ will depend on the situation it’s presented in, but which situations matter can speak volumes about what they value. What is it that makes the difference?
- If they perceive that they’re being denied injustly?
- If they think they’re owed something they can’t have?
- If they’re being denied by a person who is an authority over them? Or somebody who they perceive to have authority over?
- If there’s a particular set of rules they won’t break, like halaal, halakha, or the sanctity of a person’s bodily autonomy?
In Urban Dragon, Arkay is an authority unto herself, and any insistence that she can’t or shouldn’t do something is met as a challenge. Nothing is worth compromising her pride, not even at the risk of injury or death– unless she’s doing it for her best friend Rosario.
How do your characters deal with being denied? How do the people in your life? And what do you think that says about the things that matter most to them? Share it in the comments!