Saying “no” can be powerful.
As a people-pleasing, passive person, I rarely say no in real life. When I do say no to a friend or loved one, I feel super guilty about it for weeks. No, I can’t go to the movies this weekend because I have plans with my husband/mom/grandma/husband’s mom or grandma. Sorry I can’t make it to your party; I have to work all day that day. I wish I could come, but I have a lot of work to do on my book.
The sad thing is, all of these things are honest realities for where I’m at in life and I shouldn’t feel guilty for working 50+ hours a week or working on multiple writing projects to advance my career. Instead, I should be proud of what I accomplish on a weekly basis. Heck, I should be proud that I keep myself and two dogs alive! (Granted, I can’t take all the credit. My husband does a lot for me and our dogs – he’s awesome).
But I know what you’re thinking and you’re right. My meager guilt isn’t exciting. It’s not book-worthy. Guilt only goes so far in a story, unless it’s intense and in a psychological thriller or romance. There needs to be more in a story than this boring midwesterner has to offer. But I promise you, the conversations in my head get pretty exciting. They often fuel plot points in my writing.
I often say no in my head during made-up conversations that will never happen (you do that too, right?) to release frustration or anger. This typically happens when I’m exhausted or hangry. Then, after the little fictitious scenario ends in my head, I realize how nonsensical it was and how important it is to be an adult and stop whining about it already.
Just say “no” and walk away or solve whatever the problem is.
Say no to silly scenarios. Say no to fruitless arguments. Say no to things that don’t fuel you, help you grow, or improve your life in any way.
Now I know that’s great and practical adult advice for the real world (yawn!), but what about our projects? We can’t say no to those! I have characters begging to be set free on the page and I know you do, too, no matter what type of art you create.
When I think of main characters (MCs), I think of adventurous problem-solvers who save the world! But what if instead of saving the world, they say no? What if she says no to the cute guy she’s been crushing on for months when he asks her out on a date? What if he doesn’t agree to help a supporting character through a difficult time? How much would it change the overall plot? Your MC emotionally? Would saying no make them stronger or weaker?
Challenge: Make your MC say no this week. (The above photo showcases how I mapped out “no” options for all of my characters in my current project. I definitely didn’t originally consider having my MC Bee die in the story, but it’s now an option.) Maybe you’ll scrap the idea and go back to your original plot… Or maybe the MC saying no shocks the rest of the characters, the reader, and you because it’s awesome and the new plot options unfold beautifully. Let me know how it works in the comments.