Where do you fall on the passive/aggressive spectrum?

UnknownMy dear friend Camille Davenport recently reminded me that in between passive and aggressive is assertive. It is possible to be both gracious and unwavering. She claims I’ve mastered that, but she lives three-thousand miles away and sees me only on vacation, chardonnay in hand, when it’s easy to be graciousimages because there’s nothing to waver over. In real life, I suspect I fall somewhere between assertive and aggressive depending on how well rested and fed I am.

I’m certain I’ve never been associated with the word passive, and yet my first draft tends to make it too easy for the protagonist. I haven’t questioned why prior to now, but I think I need to see how the story concludes before understanding the experiences and conflict that will get my protagonist there. I don’t write with an ending in mind and that approach makes the conflict arc tricky.

My stories explore who a person is at their core and how they got there. I expose that truth by allowing the reader to see what a character does when they are squeezed… pushed…provoked…challenged… by life situations. People aren’t always what they seem. Take Mel Gibson. If there is a point of intoxication where you spout antisemetic rants, that’s who you are at your core. That kind of hate isn’t transient.

But then again, some people are what they seem. Which is equally fascinating.

Character in mind, I go in search of conflict to drive the exploration. It can’t be passive, not in a 90,000 word novel, but it shouldn’t be aggressive either; the conflict can’t win. Assertive conflict is the goal. Gracious, but unwavering.

I LIKED MY LIFE has three protagonists who are each others’ challenge and solution. The burden of guilt gets passed around like a bad cold, and as it does the reader sees each character more keenly. I don’t worry whether the protagonists can handle it—I manage that—I worry whether readers will find the conflict compelling enough to carry the story.


Author: Abby Fabiaschi

Abby Fabiaschi is the author of I LIKED MY LIFE (St. Martin's Press, February 2017). She and her family divide their time between Tampa, Florida and Park City, Utah. When not writing or watching the comedy show that is her children, she enjoys reading across genres, skiing, hiking, and yoga. Oh, and travel. Who doesn’t love vacation? Learn more at abbyfabiaschi.com.

5 Replies to “Where do you fall on the passive/aggressive spectrum?”

  1. I too fall on the assertive/aggressive side of the spectrum, although it’s entirely dependent on the situation. I don’t have to be in charge/have my way on everything (well, haha, not anymore…) so if I’m not invested in the outcome, or even if I trust the leader in a given situation, I’m open to falling on the passive side. That said, if the issue is something I’m truly passionate about, or deeply invested in, I tend to be of the unwavering variety. And on rare occasions (say, safety of kids or other humans) I’ll dig in, go full-on assertive, and stick it out as long as it takes. If you don’t stand for something, you stand for nothing and all that…

    1. Would be interesting to put a pin on the spectrum every year of your life to see which way you trend. I have friends who started mostly passive and are now amping up and people like me who started aggressive and are gaining perspective that moves us to that assertive slot. Random. Interesting.

  2. Assertiveness is such a powerful tool I wish I learned earlier in life. Another thought provoking blog. Looking forward to reading your book!

  3. I’ve been so curious about this post since I first saw the headline in the drafts box! I fall around the same place on the spectrum, with the same food/sleep disclaimers:)

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