Melodrama is typically defined as something sensational, over-the-top and unrealistic in emotional depictions, and it unfortunately infects the works of many new writers. You’ve probably seen examples of this, even if they were low-key. Ever seen a character react to something and immediately thought, “Why are you acting so ridiculous?” So how do you avoid readers saying that to you?
Symptom: Invariable Tone
Melodrama can infect the whole of the work as well as the sentences themselves. When it’s working on the entirety of the piece, this is one of the most common symptoms. Invariable tone means that your work and characters hold the same emotion for the entirety, rarely to never changing. Not only is this plain boring to read, but it means that the emotion itself is continually exacerbated to a ludicrous extreme.
Add more emotional and tonal variety into the piece. Even if it’s a dark work, there can still be lighter emotions or even some grim comedy.
Symptom: Purple Prose
When sentences are supersaturated with metaphors and similes, along with modifiers like adjectives and adverbs, you get what is commonly referred to as “purple prose.” These descriptions are over the top and seem to have a loose hold on reality, trying to make the author look smart and sophisticated more than anything else. However, it fails in its goal, and often comes off as pretentious or melodramatic, ultimately trivializing the piece.
Cut adjectives and adverbs like the weeds they are. Stand on strong verb-usage. You don’t need to cut every single modifier, but you should cut most of them. Also, delete your metaphors and similes as well. The more you use, the less impactful they’ll be, so find the handful that is most important and slash the rest.
It can take your work from “meaningful” to “trashy” in a sentence, so don’t let your piece fall victim to melodrama.