“Methinks the lady doth protest too much,” my mother misquoted Shakespeare when I went on and on about why she should let me do something forbidden. This childhood memory resurfaced last week during revision of a highly repetitious draft. Why had I made the main character restate her motives in different words every few pages? And why was I finding it so hard to be concise?
The lady did protest too much. Stepping away from the page, I saw the problem: Her motivation was weak. I didn’t trust readers to grasp it because I hadn’t grasped it either. Not until her motive came into better focus could I write it in one compelling paragraph and move forward.
Does the same hold in daily life? Counterintuitive but possible. I’m starting to suspect the harder I argue a point, the more uncertain I am about its logic. Clarity should make it possible to state the case once and be done with it.
I'm a historian who writes novels and literary nonfiction. My home base is Madison, Wisconsin.