Wednesday 4 April 2012

Drama Is Not Optional

Drama is the key ingredient to all stories.

Drama is wanting something you don’t have (or have and don’t want).

The harder the journey, the obstructions, the opposition, the greater the drama.

If people tell you your story isn’t dramatic enough, it probably means things are either too easy for the character, or what they are in pursuit of doesn’t seem worth the effort.

An easy way to make things more dramatic is to raise the stakes. More to lose, more drama. Harder to get, more drama. Better opposition, better drama.


If you raise the stakes to extreme levels, or even levels that don’t seem appropriate, you will overshoot drama and land in melodrama. That is, where people make a big fuss over nothing.

But melodrama is still preferable to no drama.

You need three things for good drama: interesting problem, interesting solution (or attempted solution), interesting consequences.

An interesting problem is one that does not have an obvious fix.

An interesting solution is unexpected and specific to the character providing it. Not how anyone would deal with it. How this particular person would deal with it.

Interesting consequences should occur whether the character succeeds or fails.

Even after you fulfil all these criteria it is important to remember that the first thing you think of probably isn't the best you can come up with. 
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Still working my way through the AtoZ linky list, and returning all comments!


T. Powell Coltrin said...

Drama is around every corner or is it just in my family--oh and at work?

Love this very informative post.


Susan Oloier said...

Raise the stakes: I remember that from my screenwriting classes, which absolutely relevant to fiction writing, too.

mooderino said...

@teresa-putting it on the page is the part where drama can get a bit flattened.


KjM said...

"...the first thing you think of probably isn't the best you can come up with"

Too, too painfully true.

I like your take on "interesting consequences" - that's an interesting way to keep the reader engaged.

Moody said...

@KjM-a big problem with stories is that it doesn't really matter if the MC succeeds or not, they're just acting on a whim. It's important to them but no one else. That's often true of real life, but in fiction you have to bring the reader with you.

Paula Martin said...

The drama is in providing the main characters with a seemingly impossible situation without it appearing to be highly improbable!

mooderino said...

@Paula-especially if the book is part of a series and something equally improbably happened last time too.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Moody - good to meet you finally I've seen you around the Blogosphere .. excellent succinct post on Drama .. I have lots of that and create my own too at times for some laughs ..

Cheers Hilary

Unknown said...

Conflict is essential, even if the MC is only struggling against their own nature, conscience or their view of how things ought to be.

Donna Martin said...

Lovely, lovely blog today! Thanks for stopping by my blog and becoming a new follower. I have returned the favor! Be sure and tell all your writer/author friends to check out my letter F for a chance to get some FREE book promotion for their works...;0)

Good luck with the challenge!

Donna Martin

Anonymous said...

Drama is a natural part of life so it should be a natural part of writing too. If you are anything like me, or have family members like mine, we have more than our fair share of drama and most days there is some sort of drama or a crisis in the offing!!

Great post, I look forward to reading more of your work in the coming months.

Best wishes, Pam

Michael Offutt, Phantom Reader said...

You should have posted a picture of Snooki and the Jersey Shore crew for this post.

Anonymous said...

Keep making it painful for the protag. :)

June said...

I have dramatic lit, Shakespeare, and my family to thank for my melodramatic stories. ;) Not sure if that's totally accurate, but I do tend to forget about the whole "solution" part of the problem.... Great post, putting thoughts in my mind :)

Claire Hennessy said...

Already way too much drama in my life LOL no need to make any of it up!

Fairview said...

Another great post. No drama = boring. Got it.

Judy said...

Drama is good in writing. In real life, however, I think less is more :)

mooderino said...

@elaine-drama comes in all sizes.

@Donna-good luck to you too.

@pam-thanks and good luck to you too.

@michael-faked drama doesn't count.

@Tracy-cruel but true.


@Claire-good to have a well to dip your bucket into.


@June-ain't that the truth.

OKinUK said...

When I was in college, I burst into the cafe where we all hung out and declared emphatically to all who were there, "Eight words. Don't create more drama than is absolutely necessary." I then stalked out.

True story.

mooderino said...

@OK-I believe you.

teganwilson said...

Oh it's a fine line between drama and melodrama alright, one that I find very hard to walk.

Tegan Wilson

Buffy Armstrong said...

Great post! There is a fine line between drama and melodrama. Sometimes I cross that line and I have to drag myself back!

Jessica L. Celaya said...

Great post. You explained drama in a simple and easy to understand way. Thanks.

DL Hammons said...

Great post...and so relevant! :)

DL @ Cruising Altitude 2.0
Co-Host of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.

Kevin Martin said...

Great post! Contrary to popular belief, drama is sought after.

mooderino said...

@tegan-I think that's quite a common issue.

@buffy-dragged back kick and screaming hysterically?



@Kevin-I think so too.

mooderino said...

@Hilary Melton-Butcher (sorry took so long to reply to your comment, Blogger stuck it in Spam for no reason)- thanks, now following your blog so hope to see more of you.

Craig Edwards said...

Bang on post! It's a very fine line to walk - staying on the line of drama and not veering off to too little drama or especially jumping into melodrama. Well done, Mooderino!

pharmacy said...

Come on sometimes drama is a good option after all

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