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  1. caimomile
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    caimomile Member

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    Writing drama scenes without getting cheesy

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by caimomile, Aug 9, 2010.

    hi guys, I'm just wondering about how will you differentiate something that is dramatic and cheesy. I've had troubles with this for a while now because I tend to focus on what the character (main protagonist, usually) feels about the issue he/she is currently handling.

    So I just want to ask, when will the prose be effective/goosebumps-inducing dramatic or stupid/barf-inducing cheesefest?

    Thanks!
     
  2. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    I tend to write cheese then pare it back to what is needed, using a thesaurus for word help.
     
  3. Capt Bob
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    Capt Bob Senior Member

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    ****************
    If it is perceived you are self projecting, then make sure the seat is up on your porcelain throne.
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Understated is usually better. But in the end, it will largely rest on your experience as a writer, and your experience with life.

    Life can surprise the hell out of you. The biggest surprises will lie in how you react to situations you may have imagined, but never actually experienced.

    Do you really know how you would react if a friend ran through an unseen glass door in front of you and is spurting blood? I do, but only after it actually happened to me. Do you know how you'd react if your girlfriend announced she was pregnant? Or later, that she miscarried? Do you know what you'd do if your wife sat you down and told you she had had an affair?

    These are all things I have experienced, and in each case my actual reaction surprised me. If I were to write these experiences into scenes, I know I could do a much more believable job of it than I could before having lived these events. Amd the readers who had been through similar events would believe the complexity, even though their own reactions would undoubtedly differ greatly.

    Cheesiness usually results from one-sided, simplistic portrayals of highly emotional situations. It doesn't mean you must experience exactly what your characters experience, but your breadth of experience must allow you to imagine and relate to the complexity.
     
  5. Nervous1st
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    Nervous1st Senior Member

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    Hi caimomile,

    I agree with Cogito's post wholeheartedly. For me, cheesiness is predictability. As Cog said, you'd even surprise yourself when faced with certain situations.

    Good luck
     
  6. Sang Hee
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    Sang Hee Contributing Member

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    Yeah, Cogito pretty much wrote it all. It's almost cheesy how he always manages to strike a perfect and cognitive answer :D

    The only thing I'd add is that cheesiness is hard to avoid because you need to find new ways of delivering the purpose of your story without relying on the old standards. In other words, if I tried to avoid being cheesy I'd try to 'not' use what I'd think of as 'sure thing' and experiment with new characteristics, plot twists, etc.
     
  7. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Also sometimes cheesy just plain works.
     
  8. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    But probably only if you're looking for ultra-sentimental or funny.
     
  9. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    true but I have read some really engaging sillouette and mills and boon, and I wouldn't change the story for the world. Eleanor Hibbert (she wrote as Victoria Holt/Jean Plaidy/Phillipa Carr etc) comes to mind as the queen of managing scary. interesting, funny and cheesy in the same books:)

    Shakespeare had a certain amount of cheese in his works. I can't think off the top of my head but I know there have been books where it has overdone the emotion but I have balled my eyes out all the way through.
     
  10. caimomile
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    caimomile Member

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    I see. Thanks guys! Especially to Cogito! Your answers helped a lot. I guess I view some of my emotional scenes as cheesy because I have very little experience out of life. I mean, I'm already 18, but I'm still in the phase of video games/movies/studies/extremely poor social life. Wahahahahahaha!
     
  11. Alex_Hartman
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    Alex_Hartman Contributing Member

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    Definitely what Cog said.

    And I would add excessive vocab. as cheesy...too many stupid big words get annoying.
     
  12. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    A minimal approach is, I think, the best way to approach emotional scenes. The bare minimum of dialogue, no explicit exposition, just a really subtle and almost passive description of the action, the physical aspects of the exchange. As soon as you start actively talking about emotions, feelings, all that sentimental crap, you're diving headfirst into pure cheese, not to mention reducing the impact of the scene. People's emotions aren't clear-cut: things like love, hate, hurt, these are things that are inexpressible in words, so don't even try. Let the reader relate their own (real) emotions to the scene as you set it up, rather than forcing complex emotions and tensions and anxieties into useless words.

    This is the kind of approach you find most often in 'serious' dramatic literature and film. Where other genres happily descend into melodrama and try to direct emotion in predictable and cheesy ways (sappy music, overly emotional language, melodramatic actions), the more successful writers/directors know that (if they've set the scene up well) their audience will project all the necessary emotion to make the scene powerful.
     
  13. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    What others said.

    If a scene feels cheesy to you, put the whole thing on its head and see what happens. Unpredictability removes the sense from the reader that they've been "set up" to feel something specific. Readers don't like being told what to feel.

    So if you're writing a sad scene, try making it funny instead. See where it leads.

    The movie Donnie Darko is a prime example.
     
  14. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    One way to score emotional point is to not aim for them. I'm not sure this technique works for everyone but here it goes.

    Lets say Anna is confronting Benny about him reading her text messengers on the phone because he so jealous.

    If you aim to make the emotional touching etc it can easily turn cheesy. Instead trust you readers to know what sort of feelings this situation would make them feel. While writing it you could keep your focus on capturing the kind of accusations, excuses and lies used in a fight like this. And what body language their using. Skip explaining how they feel, or why they say or do something.

    Done right the readers will read a lot of emotion and motives behind their actions without you ever having to push for it.
     

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