Wednesday, September 12, 2007


DEFENSIVENESS--a quality of uncertainty and desire to please manifest in some writers who do not trust the level of enthusiasm they feel for a project; a quality often found in novels and to a lesser extent in short fiction emblematic of the author's need to explain or justify; an often unnecessary footnote-as-text, used to convince the reader of a moral or behavioral position taken by the character or one of the characters.

Defensiveness begins with the writer's response to criticism, and is often rendered as But it really happened that way! and extends to lengthy explanations. Defensiveness is the literary equivalent of a youngster, trapped in a fib or lie, extending the trope with even more justification; it is The Dog Ate My Homework writ large.

Frequently the product of a mountain goat leap of logic in the motivation or behavior ascribed to a character, defensiveness is a good argument for Occam's Razor. The best approach for explaining or inserting behavioral attributions is to let the characters do it. The reader is less likely to question the behavior of Character A if Character B questions that behavior first. Thus the fact of B not trusting A carries more weight than A rendered as trying to convince B of his trustworthiness.

In real life and in fiction, when someone says "Trust me," that person is on the defense for something previously said or about to be said.

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