1. jess046
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    jess046 Member

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    When does drama become melodrama?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by jess046, May 9, 2010.

    I was thinking about this the other day and I'm not necessarily looking for advice or anything...but some of the issues I handle in my writing could easily become melodramatic. So that got me thinking about the fine line between drama and melodrama and how some issues can be labelled melodramatic in one novel, and poignant in another. What do you think makes the difference?

    One example I could think of was Tim Winton's "Cloudstreet". The story chronicles a series of tragedies in the lives of two families and at no point does it ever border on melodramatic. Maybe it's Winton's down to earth tone, but somehow he manages to keep the material tragic, but not melodramatic.

    So what do you think are some mistakes writers make that renders their stories melodramas rather than dramas?
     
  2. Mila
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    Mila Member

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    Well I can think of one example I won't mention ! But personally, I think it's when the narrator bangs on about it beyond all reason when they should have got over it already. Making a mountain out of a molehill and all that. When the emotions are overstated or e too extreme for the situation, perhaps.When someone breaks a nail and goes on like the world's just ended...
     
  3. catstaffo
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    catstaffo New Member

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    I agree with mila. It's when the narrator imposes emotion into a piece, rather than making emotion an effect.
     
  4. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    Melodrama isn't really a term that works for novels. What makes something melodramatic is more to do with performances that exaggerate emotions and the use of music. Originally, it was all about the music. In the 1950's melodramas, there are scenes that should be rather mundane the way they are written, but the performances squeeze out every bit of emotion. The part of melodrama that can exist is novels is the stereotyped stock characters and conflicts, as well as a cetain amount of exaggeration. So basically, avoid stock characters and don't exaggerate beyond what is absolutely necessary.
     
  5. Manav
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    Manav Contributing Member

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    I think what Jess is asking is: when does a writer know he/she is 'exaggerating beyond what is absolutely necessary'?


    I think subtlety is more poignant. Example:

    She watched him crossed the gate, hoping he would glance back. He didn't. She still stood leaning on the door even when he was completely out of sight.

    This is more poignant then saying:

    She ran towards him as he crossed the gate. She cried and begged him to stay, but he had to go.


    This may also be a case of 'show not tell'..... I am new to writing and writing terminologies.... but this is how I understand as I write my stories. Please correct me if I am wrong.
     
  6. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    mel·o·dra·ma
    noun
    1.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.
    2.melodramatic behavior or events.
    3.(in the 17th, 18th, and early 19th centuries) a romantic dramatic composition with music interspersed.

    mel·o·dra·mat·ic
    adj.
    Having the excitement and emotional appeal of melodrama: "a melodramatic account of two perilous days spent among the planters" (Frank O. Gatell).

    Exaggeratedly emotional or sentimental; histrionic: "Accuse me, if you will, of melodramatic embroidery" (Erskine Childers).

    Characterized by false pathos and sentiment.

    [quoted from dictionary.com]
     
  7. jess046
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    jess046 Member

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    haha ^ I know what melodrama is...:rolleyes:

    Thanks for your reply Manav, I think you're right in your assessment of melodrama. It's not really the content of the story that renders it a melodrama or just a drama, it's how its told.

    Though sometimes it irks me when people refer to plays or stories or movies I find poignant as 'soap operatic', because I don't think handlling big issues ultimately means the story is 'soap operatic'. For example one of my favorite plays is Spring Awakening where everything goes wrong for the characters and everybody ends up miserable by the end. I have friends who have referred to it in this manner, but by no means do I consider it a melodrama. And a more recent example- the television show Lost. I find a lot of the backstories for the characters fascinating (where they're all miserable) and poignant, though I know people who call it a glorified soap opera. And Gone With The Wind- a sweeping epic with lots of drama, but I still wouldn't want to refer to in such a degrading manner, so as to call it a 'soap opera'.
     
  8. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    It cetrainly isn't. You're probably just worrying to much. The acting style of the time Gone with the Wind was made may have been a little exaggerated, but it wasn't that long before that time that they were still doing only silent films and theatre. Silent films needed a little more to the body language because they didn't have tone of voice to get the meaning across and theatre performance often needs a little exaggeration because they have to make sure everyone can see and hear no matter how far away they are from the stage.

    As for Lost, I've never noticed any exaggeration myself. The people who you're refering probably aren't worth worrying about. They aren't your audience.
     
  9. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    I always interpreted it to mean like the author just stops everything and goes on a tangent about how life sucks for the main character. I think Dickens is a master of this, especially with Oliver Twist. Something bad happens to the boy and he goes off by saying how miserable, how woeful, how helpless Oliver was, and how cruel life is being to him even though we (or at least I) already know this through the actions of Oliver and others.

    But melodrama can serve to emphasis a point, so it's not all black and white I guess.
     

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