Dave Muscato has an interesting post about the reactions he’s seen from straight men to the news of Ellen Page coming out. (I had to think for a second to remember who Ellen Page is.) It’s not a sign that she’s more available, it’s a sign that she’s less available. So he goes on to wonder what’s up with that. Why are “I’m not interested” and “I’m gay” taken as a challenge while “I have a boyfriend” is more of a discouragement?
Well obviously one reason is that the boyfriend might be a puncher. But a slightly more complicated reason, I think, is that there’s a massive amount of cultural training that “I’m not interested” is the first part of a good story.
It’s one of the core plots, isn’t it? Kitty doesn’t love Levin, she loves Vronsky. Lizzie doesn’t love Mr Darcy, she has a mild crush on Wickham and a liking for Colonel Fitzwilliam but she actively dislikes Mr Darcy. Edmund doesn’t love Fanny (except in a brotherly way), he loves Mary Crawford. Beatrice and Benedict find each other irritating – or pretend to. David doesn’t love Susan, in fact she gets on his nerves with everything she does and says.
So “I’m not interested” could mean exactly that and be permanent, or it could be just how things are at this particular moment but subject to change.
In other words it could be a challenge. It could have the plot-shape of all challenges: quests, rescue missions, escapes, educations, battles. There is something to do. Will the protagonist(s) do it? There’s your story.