Aug 12, 2009

Overly Melodramatic

I use 'abysses of pain' as shorthand for overly melodramatic description of a character's emotional state. "His eyes were deep, dark wells of agony," and so on. A lot of bad fantasy does this and I used to be prone to it.

The above is a comment about my previous blog post. I've been trying to embrace melodrama while working on The Search for Kalid, a science fiction novel that has elements of Space Opera.

I agree that there are times when making a story overly melodramatic will only earn the label: FAIL. However, part of the magic of art is that it is possible to take an idea so far beyond the point of failure that it emerges from the "dark side" and becomes something wonderful. The are some formulas that "work" so well that they can tell us something fundamental about human nature. Artistic forms can go out of style, but there seems to be a large momentum associated with successful formulas. Art critics might lament the plebeian tastes of an audience, but that will not stop people from spending hard-earned money on the forms of art and entertainment that they truly like. There always seems to be an audience for melodramatic forms, even if going down that path might earn you an automatic failing grade from a publisher.

In the case of The Search for Kalid there is a scene in which the young Sybil is worrying and worrying (and worrying some more) about her future. All the worrying is just too much and the reader might wish that Sybil would just shut up. Hopefully the reader does not give up in disgust because while Sybil's worrying is close to pathological, it is in the story for a reason. Spoiler warning: plot details follow. Sybil has telepathic powers and is able to receive information from the future. She's getting "bad vibes" from the future, but she does not know that.

I think there is a theorem: when writing, anything can be done right or wrong...write with adequate awareness of a goal and a purpose and you can get away with anything. The corollary is that writing anything reflexively and for no good reason will earn you scorn.

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