Friday, April 2, 2010
March Madness, Part 6--Keeping Emotions In Check
Yes, I know. It's a picture repeat, and technically, it's April. I'm still talking basketball, though, so please bear with me. One of the toughest jobs a coach has is keeping his players' emotions in check. They tend to overreact when a bad call is made or get a little out of control when things aren't going well. It is such a turn off when I see these things happen during a game. I want to shake them and scream, "Grow up!" But, there are times when I find a player's exhibition of emotion touching. It always boils down to one thing--whether or not it is warranted. In fiction there is a blurry line between melodrama and true emotion. As authors, we are obligated to keep our characters on the right side of that line. We have to make sure we give our characters appropriate reactions. Remember my first March Madness post about staying in control of our stories and not letting our characters take over? Well, this whole melodrama issue is the perfect example of why we should do so. Let's face it, characters roaming around without direction are spoiled little brats who become extremely melodramatic when they don't get what they want. Believe me, I've experienced this first hand. How do you tell where the line between melodrama and emotion is? And how do you keep from crossing it? Have a great weekend!
Posted by Susan R. Mills at 8:00 AM
Labels: Character Development
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It is going to be a great weekend with the Final Four action going on. We will probably see lots of melodrama and emotion during those games. Wishing you a wonderful weekend.
I struggle with that. For me, that line is set when my beta readers say the character went too far. I really need their help with that.
I know that once my characters start fainting in my story, I've crossed the melodramatic line and need to revise...quick! =)
Great post! I'm not sure how to tell. I mean in my own WIP, when I got my first Beta crit back she was like "your MC is soo dramatic." Woops. Well, I've completely changed her now, and I agree she was, so since she pointed it out, I'm able to tell much better.
Hopefully, that will help me in my future stories, it's not an easy thing to spot ;o)
I tend to err on the side of not enough emotion. I had a couple betas point out that there needed to be more drama- that a particular character really needed to flip out in at least one scene.
I'm pretty reserved in real life and I think that tends to bleed into my characters. Drama in real life is usually negative, but in fiction it can be a boon to the tension level.
Very nice! So far as real emotion vs melodrama goes, for me, less is more. It's a hard line to balance sometimes, but I think that too much emotion--especially if everything is in absolutes and superlatives--can feel like melodrama whether it really is or not.
I try to connect with the raw feeling and put it in context of the story--and always for a purpose. It can be to give clearer insight on the character or to keep things moving along. :)
I think I have a pretty good barometer of where the line is; I tend to veer away from dramatic emotions in my characters as much as possible so they don't lose power, and use more subtle reactions to show strong ones.
If that makes any sense.
I have a good idea right now where the melodramatic line is, although it's only the second chapter :P At least that was the one unanimous comment at crit group yesterday--that my MC's emotion was raw and real, not too over the top. Of course the challenge is maintaining that through the rest of the book and make sure she doesn't cross that line.
I got a chuckle thinking of my characters running around out of congtrol. What I great word picture you painted. I guess if my people don't throw things or stamp their feet, that might mean I'm on the right track. Good post.
I'm pretty dramatic at times. So much in fact, that I sometimes catch my husband rolling his eyes. I have a hard time with this one. Never know when it's too much.
Good point! I tend to add more emotion in when I'm revising.
Great question! I really enjoyed reading everyone's comments. I'm not very emotional myself, and I've been told I need to make my characters more emotional, so hopefully I haven't gone overboard into melodrama instead.
By nature I'm dramatic! It's a little too easy to bring that to my characters.
I think it all comes down to whether or not it's a full moon out. In the book, of course!
That's a good question. I tend to think that as a real human being, I'm never too melodramatic, but it seems that when "that time" comes or the moon is full, all caution goes to the wind and I am an emotional disaster. When the time passes, I look back and realize, "Oh, it was a full moon/"that" time. That explains it all!" In a book though, that'd be an entirely different story. I think as long as your reader is prepared to understand the reasoning, you could go with a bit of melodramatics, so long as the character's personality fits.
Good questions. I guess I just try to keep it plausible--plausible but with more __(fill in the blank with: conflict, tension, sadness, or whatever)___ than real life. I want my character's to have conflict-filled lives with lots at stake; I don't want that for myself. Still, I don't want to write a soap opera. So maybe the answer is balance. And excellent crit partners. ;)
"How do you tell where the line between melodrama and emotion is?"
You choose 25 of 32 games correct in the first round and choose Michigan State to win it all. Then snicker to yourself when youngest son watches your ESPN score go off the charts while he won't share what his might be. He laughed at my picks before the game began. Now?
Go Green! My alma mater, but also in 6 of the last 12 Final Fours. I'm thinking Izzo is a character with direction. Probably a good model for our fiction characters.
I guess I'm hoping I'll be able to tell if I've crossed that line when I read my story with fresh eyes during the revision process. Otherwise, this is where the idea of using beta readers or a critique group may come in handy, right?
BTW, I just sold an article and used some of the proceeds to buy "The Fire in Fiction," thanks to your inspiration! ;o)
Less is more... darn it! It's hard to always find that balance!
Actually, that's an interesting question! When I'm writing I KNOW I'm feeling emotion as I write it. Yet, when I read it back and edit it, I doubt myself because it sounds melodramatic. That's when I call in the crit partners. But usually, when I feel I'm being meoldramatic, they don't see it that way. LOL
Have a happy Easter, too!
Wishing you a happy Easter -- full of joy and madness!
I keep out pesky adjectives; I keep dialogue to a minimum; I don't use exclamation points in the narrative and very selectively in dialogue; I don't like melodrama IRL so I hope I transfer that dislike to my fiction.
We read aloud emotional scenes and make sure they sound authentic. If anything sounds awkward, we try to make it right!
Ah yes i actually had to do an outline for one of my characters because I seriously was creating one emo melodramatic nightmare of a lead character. I had to pull back & organize. I actually read your comments here for more feedback on this! Thanks for posting this discussion!!
I hope you had a wonderful Easter!!! March Madness is almost over! hehe. =)
You have some great advice in the comments. Thanks, Susan for bringing this up.
It is a fine line - I get the feeling I let my my MC cry too much, but she really has had some rough times and she's toughening up.
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