Sunday, August 9, 2009

I did not!

disclaimer--a dramatic action, statement, or combination of the two intended to distance a character from real or imagined consequences; an agreement such as a pre-nuptual, in which rights, obligations, and promises to perform are enumerated.

The basic dramatic disclaimer is "I did not." Followed by a response of "You did so," we have the beginning of a story in two scant lines. Close on the heels of the former is the even shorter introduction to story, "I already did" or the equally provocative, "I already was." Not to forget "I thought you knew."

Disclaimers get characters into trouble they seek to avoid by disclaiming in the first place, opening the dramatic stage for guest appearances from the likes of denial, stubbornness, misrepresentation, and outright lies, moving the narrative into a downward spiral of considerable complexity.

One of the more common disclaimers, offered as a defense, is "I only meant it as humor," which is to say in real terms, "I did or said it in the first place as an attempt to embarrass, humiliate, or ridicule. A close ally: "It was only a joke" has the intended meaning I didn't really mean it.

Disclaimers appear as warnings of potential side-effects on many medications, presenting in their wake the question of whether the cure or relief, with its inherent possibilities of mischief, are worth the risk of the side-effects. This is a good warning for writers who use disclaimers such as, Any coincidence between persons living or dead is purely coincidental.

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