The Whole Story

bboundless2I’m at Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writer’s Conference today, and having a blast.

I was talking with a friend of mine about her book. I noticed a few moments of melodrama—something I’ve done before myself. For me, and for many other writers, melodrama, especially in dialog, is an indication that we don’t know our characters well enough. They slip into a stereotype rather than existing as a real person. This isn’t a bad thing for a first draft. In fact, it’s something that shouldn’t be worried about until after you complete your first draft.

Once you complete the first draft, you’ll have a much better idea of where you’re going with the story, where the story wants to go, and who your characters are. It’s at this time that you go back and revise to tone down the melodrama.

Once you know the whole story, you can give us less of it.

Readers only need a little bit of information. They’re very adept at filling in the gaps and picking up on subtleties. When they do, they feel better; they feel rewarded for paying close attention. They’ll never have that opportunity if we resort to melodrama.

6 Comments on The Whole Story

  1. dina rodriguez | May 20, 2013 at 5:25 pm | Reply

    Its hard to not let melodrama slip into our writing. It can be very tempting because its easy to write melodrama, but its not easy to be a good writer. You should always know your character so they don’t just seem like a robot you created.
    P.S. Good luck on the conference Mr. Gansky! Have fun!

  2. janet anderson | May 21, 2013 at 10:17 am | Reply

    i guess i never noticed melodrama in my writting i guess i shou,d look out for that thanks. P.S HAVE AND AMAZE TIME AT YOUR CONFERENCE 🙂

  3. I had never taken notice to melodrama, before in my dialogue. Thanks to this fantastic blog post I will keep my out for melodrama, especially in the first draft of my story.

  4. Drew Williams | May 23, 2013 at 7:25 am | Reply

    Melodrama is something i would slip into my writing when I’m not paying attention, or feeling lazy. It is easy to start writing melodrama so i should watch out for that.

  5. Summer Connell | May 23, 2013 at 10:22 am | Reply

    It’s always a good idea to know your character before you write the story. Becasaue if you don’t know your character, the reader will most likely not know them well either.

  6. Melodrama can be handy to just get the momentum going in your first draft. It keeps the words coming and lets you get that inertia out of the way. However, a story with melodrama is like a partially cooked meal–it’s unappealing.
    Think of your story as a big pot of soup. You have your characters, settings, twists, and details all thrown into this broth of a basic concept. Melodrama is like salt. A little pinch of salt can enhance it and make the flavor more interesting, but if you’re not careful, the whole container of salt goes in and messes up the rest of the dish. My point is that while a tiny bit can work, if you lean too heavily on it the reader will miss out on all the subtle little nuances of the story.
    Sometimes, it’s impossible to know the characters until you start writing the story. You might have a basic idea of who they are and what they want out of life, but do you really know how they live and work in their world? Unless you’re writing a prequel or a sequel, odds are they’re still developing as you write. Heck, even if they’re already an established character, they will probably still change and grow. That’s the beauty of writing. But your readers may not be able to see that beauty as well if there’s this big, salty chunk of melodrama in the way.
    Write well, write often.

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