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Mar 10, 2009

Avoiding Melodrama

I'm writing a scene with high tension. A character has just been forced to choose between the life of her grandchild or her child. In her anger, at the world, at herself, she lashes out at an ally. How do I write this scene without slipping into melodrama?

It's espeically difficult because the ally is a talking bear.

Any advice? Tips? Tricks?


Sara Raasch said...

I think as long as it isn't over-the-top dramatic (unless that's what the character would do...) it'll be good. When characters cry for unnecessarily long moments or give over-the-top speeches, then it's weird. But again, unless that fits the character's personality. It's a fine line, really.

Samantha Elliott said...

I think the most important thing is to give your character a good reason to lash out at her ally. As long as readers feels as though they woud have done the same thing, melodrama doesn't really factor in.

Michelle D. Argyle said...

You can essentially look at any dramatic plot and turn it into melodrama. It is all in how it is told. Samantha has a great point with showing the reasons behind your characters actions. If they are believable, and your readers relate, it won't seem melodramatic.

Melodrama stems from the unbelievable. It is disconnected with our reality. If you write it in a way that feels disconnected, it will feel melodramatic. Just keep it grounded is my advice. Hope that's not too vague. Feel free to yell at me if it is, hehe.

The Screaming Guppy said...

What they said! ;)

When I'm unsure about how something sounds I just force myself to keep going. Give a day or five to simmer, then come back and re-read it. I find that at least 75% of the time I think "meh this is just okay" while writing, when I read over it later I'm happier with it than I expected to be.

scott g.f.bailey said...

I don't know your characters, but if the woman is really trying hard not to lash out, she could become sort of compressed and the lashing could be in subtle but unintentionally cruel ways. Think of a fight you've had with a loved one when you didn't want to say hurtful things but did anyway. A razor blade instead of a hand grenade, maybe. I assume your character and the talking bear make up at some point? You might save her tears for that moment, if there will be tears. Again, it's hard to avoid cliche when I have no idea who your characters are. But for big emotions, sometimes quiet works better than loud.

Kate Karyus Quinn said...

I was wondering this myself with some of the recent scenes I've written, but it's a first draft and usually when I come back to look at it with fresh eyes I can't kind of sense where I need to pull it back a little.