Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Mundane: The Cure for Melodrama

Melodrama -noun : A dramatic form that does not observe the laws of cause and effect and that exaggerates emotion and emphasizes plot or action at the expense of characterization.

Time for a dose of reality:  It's easy to write melodrama. 

No matter what genre you're writing (with the possible exception of those books my grandmother used to devour), melodrama is a curse.  It's the mark of an amateur. 

The good news is, there are some very straightforward antidotes to melodrama.  A couple years ago, when I'd just finished my first draft of my first book and submitted it my writers group, a generous published author offered to read for me.  I told her I knew my prologue was melodramatic, but wasn't sure how to fix it. 

Read the rest at YAtopia.


  1. Hey, Aimee. I reviewed a novel a while back which effectively used melodrama (Crossing Oceans by Gina Holmes) by this definition from my dictionary:

    "One definition of melodrama states its meaning as follows: a dramatic presentation characterized by heavy use of suspense, sensational episodes, romantic sentiment, and a conventionally happy ending."

    Although it's generally perceived as a bad thing, I think it can be used effectively as you suggested. Gina Holmes used it very well in her novel.

  2. Interesting! I just wrote a very dramatic scene that took place...in the kitchen. With the refridgerator door open. Definitely not dramatic.

    But I've also heard advice that you should place your scene in unusual locations, to heighten the tension/drama. I guess it all depends on the effect you are going for.

  3. Aimee here:

    Nicole - by all accounts Gina's an impressive writer. I'm sure anything she put out didn't suffer from the melodrama I'm talking about here.

    Susan - I haven't heard that, but it probably depends on the genre. You can definite give realistic detail in an unusual setting. There's no reason you couldn't frame a scene in the mundane while you're on the Siberian Steppes *wink*

  4. Great advice. I now want to go through all of my work and watch for melodrama.

  5. Great post! I tend toward melodrama at times....

  6. I can tend towards melodrama in my writing if I'm not careful. Ceara, my female MC is a melodramatic person, so I expect that to come through in her narration, but I've tried very hard to keep melodrama out of Seb's (my male MC) narration so that people can see (subconsciously) it's not part of my writing style, it's part of Ceara's personality.

    I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on whether melodrama is still undesirable when it's expressed as a character trait. (Hope that makes sense!)

  7. Aimee responding (cursed Blogger!):

    This is only my opinion, Cally, but I'd say it probably depends on how it's being written.

    I'm going to sound like I'm contradicting myself here, but... if the melodrama is written realistically I'm sure it would work.

    The trick is to make the melodramatic character's reactions seem logical. By that I mean, readers would perceive that even if they wouldn't react that way themselves, they could feasibly expect someone else to do it.

    I think fiction readers ask the same questions as jurors... is it beyond reasonable doubt? If so, you're out.