Monday, March 7, 2011
Romancing Melodrama and the Ridiculous
You may wonder why some writers produce work that could only be described as genius versus other writers, who may have the mechanics down, but their story is either silly, melodramatic or ridiculous. I receive a lot of submissions where the story is mostly melodramatic and ridiculous. The summary of your manuscript (unless you're deliberately trying to be dramatic -- only in a ridiculous way) should not read like the last episode of the Young and the Restless. Now one caveat: maybe you want to be a soap writer, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that if that's your goal, but if you truly want to be a dramatic fiction writer, watch out. You are teetering on a fine line between melodrama and art. If you read your book's summary and it does sound like the last episode of Days of Our Lives, don't submit it. Your drama needs to have drama, of course, in it, but something along the lines of: Sally met the love of her life when she was 12, but the stars would not align for them until her 50th birthday, because an alien got her pregnant, she thought she loved the alien, they started fighting, and she divorced the alien after five alien-human hybrids were born. Do you see how this stretches the limit of my ability to suspend my disbelief? And it fits two of my criteria for bad literature: melodramatic AND ridiculous. Of course, you can write that book and it could go on to win a Pulitzer Prize, but it had better be written like you're the next J.K. Rowling, and the synopsis has to build the case for why this book is so good and not just silly and ridiculous.