Tuesday, September 29, 2015


Melodrama is the stuff of old movies, old stage plays, and many old romance novels.
It's hard, sometimes to spot it in my own writing, but for some reason, it screams out to me in my clients' work. And not in a good way. Why does it matter? Don't we all know what the back of a hand on the forehead means? Is it not relatable. No, frankly it isn't.

Do you ever watch old movies? Can you picture Clark Gable, Cary Grant, Mae West, Joan Crawford, and Ronald Reagan (just checking to see if you are still reading) swooning or opening their mouths in perfect circles, eyes bulging?  Isn't it somewhat laughable today to think they were expected to overact like that?  But that was how they made things bigger than life to excite the viewers.

Now it is authenticity that draws viewers in. Think of Nicole Kidman or Meryl Streep at their best. We can see numerous emotions cross their faces in a matter of minutes as something dawns on them. It is often the music itself that sounds melodramatic or old school. To see an amazing example. Watch this clip from Birth, beginning at 1:50.  You'll see so many emotions cross Kidman's face. Can you even count them?  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lpJj9c2OV-0

Incredible right? It didn't take exaggerated emotions to get the ah-ha moment across. Her revelation appeared much more like it would in real life if a boy was claiming to be her reincarnated husband (especially her old beau Tom Cruise)... only to end up being true.

Next time your character wants to express undying love, fear, surprise or any number of other emotions, instead of making the dialogue big and unrealistic, use the words or feelings that your character would really have. Method act on the page.
Do the hand on forehead test and say the lines.  Do you feel like you are in a soap opera? If so, make the emotion come from the inside, from real dialogue, real narrative. Let it arise out of your Point of View. And give us the real thing.   Good Writing! - From the Inkpot



  1. Want a good laugh? Here's the most melodramatic death scene (perhaps) ever filmed:
    Karen (AKA Inkpot)

  2. Great post, Inky! Every time I read articles like this I think "less is more," and this definitely plays to that. And I love that Birth clip...Nicole Kidman was incredible in that scene. That kid was incredible! I'll have to watch that movie again. That death scene? Well, I think it dwelled on itself enough for any additional comments....

  3. Oh my gosh, melodramatic much for that death scene! Great example, great post and I agree with Frank, Nicole Kidman was so convincing, and so was the kid!