How to Avoid Melodrama (& Have Fun Doing So)

I've been gone a long time, I know!  I have almost no creative juice for my blog at present, simply because life is so draining.  Ethandune is being difficult - or I'm being difficult with Ethandune, which is probably more accurate to say.  WELL.  But here I am; & I've got something fun for you.

Ye olde Pinterest is chockablock with images of medieval import, & given that I also fall thoughtlessly under that cadre of writers who delve into medieval-themed worlds, I see a lot of those images.  The majority of them aren't to my picky taste, but some of them are truly a barrel of laughs just because of the melodramatic captions that pinners have given them.  What makes them doubly hilarious is that the pinners are dead serious

Rather than pass them by this time, I rounded up a few to share so that you can laugh + avoid them +/or fix your prose if you accidentally fell into a melodrama.  (Bee tee dubs, I am extremely melodramatic.  Not, like, Sir Walter Scott melodramatic, but shoo-ee, surely I've pitched headlong into every melodramatic trap there is.)

All of these captions are completely anonymous.  I have no idea who wrote them, nor do I wish to pin the tail on the donkey.  Read, laugh, learn.  En avant!

the only kind of dancing or needlework they could get her to do was the kind involving bruises + steel.

I completely understand that being in a society that "confines" women to almost no profitable pursuits is a real drag.  Being allowed only to dance, sew, become fluent in all the romantic languages + German, it gets pretty tedious - especially if your natural inclination is to do something else.  HOWEVER.  I am very. very. tired. of the tomboy trope, the denigration of "gentle" activities, & the worship of anything painful/violent that I'm finding in most amateur fiction today.  Wanting to hurt people is not cool, you guys.  It doesn't make you an awesome role model.  

Props: I have to own that this line has decent cadence.

dame sylris valen riding her white steed, asfaloth, in the highlands.

 & I quote from my text to Abigail about this, "Dame Trying-too-hard riding her cliche horse Tolkien-knockoff, in a foggy place we know nothing about but we think is romantic because of 'Outlander.' "  I don't know why the pinner bothered to caption such an image, as he/she was not even putting in the effort to construct an original idea.

Props: none.

first thing i did, steal a horse & ride away as fast as i could.

Because stealing a horse is so easy + not punishable by serious seriousness / possibly even death. 

Fun fact #1: horses are really big animals & they have enormous nails on the ends of their legs called hooves where are hard + make lots of noise on the ground.

Fun fact #2: tack is constructed of squeaky leather + metal rings/buckles that make melodious noise to anyone who loves horses / isn't committing a crime.

Fun fact #3: horses are expensive, & are used by a:: wealthy folk who have people to look after them / keep tabs on them, & b:: people who use them for their livelihood.  Either way, the horses would be missed.  You can't just yoink a horse & gallop off into the wild blue yonder.

Props: you don't get any props. You're stupid + you're going to get caught.

medirval warrioress, armour princess

I just had to share this one because of the derp factor.  

as gawain spoke, annwyn caught a flash of something out of the corner of her eye. a young man, dark + brilliant green eyes met her gaze & raised an eyebrow at her. annwyn's heart skipped in her chest. she'd seen him before, she was sure of it.

Ah, swooon.  Sorry, Gawain, we have 100% zero memory of what you just said because Mr. Myserious just walked by.  My only question is, how are his eyes both dark + brilliant?? But other than that, this is totally reflective of the proper interactions between men + women of the post- archaic western world / sixth century Europe, yeah.

Wait, second question: what flashed?? Because human eyes don't have tapetum lucidium behind them so they're not going to glow at you.

his knuckles had that weird webbing of scars that can only be gotten from hitting them against other people over + over until they bled.

Double swoon!  How brave + strong + masculine of this person!  Never mind that fist abrasions produce bruises & would look more like he caught his hand on the back of a big cheese grater before healing (probably without noticeable scarring), rather than "webs" of scars.

Props: okay, I like the word "webbing."  Points for that.

"fight me." "but you're a girl." "i know, it's unfair of me to outmatch you, but i really need the practice."

Oh puh-LEEZ.  For once, can I have a story with a physically-capable female character whom the men respect & who respects the men in turn??  Is that too much to ask??  

"surely, i could tell you," he smiled roguishly, with his playful eyebrows raised, "but would you really believe me, lass?"

Gaaag.  Any female who falls for this is either desperate or stupid.  Or both.  This fellow sounds like a grade A s.o.b., & the inclusion of "lass" (is this what "Outlander" has done?? i don't know, i don't watch it) is not doing anything for you.

Props: "for to everyone who has, more shall be given, & he will have abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what little he has shall be taken away." your moves. you have none, & what you do have needs to be surgically removed at once.

"i knew it. you're the thief." the man spoke harshy as he lifted the hood. maria glared but said nothing. the man grinned. "now would you kindly restore what you stole?" maria also smiled & simply said, "no."

I always suspected her appearance of goodness.  We've got some great bad-boy vibe going on here: note the "harshly" + the "grinned."  Obviously this dude has the rough edge + the swoon-worthy charisma that young females are susceptible to - but WAIT. our heroine is (melo)dramatically holding out!  So self-possessed.  So brave.  So much in need of an editor because her reply is clunky.  Also she probably needs a good slap on the face.

Props: pare this down & then we'll talk about giving you props.

but on her, he liked the fangs. on her, they were sexy.

Except when you get cold sores inside your lips, you know?  Then the fangs catch on them & it's so annoying.  But yeah, if you compare Jane Doe with fangs to her Aunt Agatha with fangs, I would call that sexy.  Not gonna deny that.

Props: the construction of the sentences is decent.

her ring glimmered in the moonlight. what was that symbol? it looked like the one he had seen on the evil lord mac de diube's ring... could it be? could she really be a boarlonian? "azara, you wouldn't know anyone by the name of mac de diube, would you?" her face registered surprise + then sadness. "how do you know of him?" "then you do? azara, i'm shocked." "so am i." "he is my greatest enemy." " must go. i didn't tell you cause i thought you didn't know anything about him..."

w  o  w.  We've got some major stuff going on here.  First of all, it must be a beautiful night with a massive full moon & no light pollution for him to be able to make out the insignia of this girl's bling.  Don't get me wrong, a full moon on a clear night in a pre-electric world is a pretty spectacular thing.  But they also didn't have super effective ocular aid & eyes weren't so good either.  Remember that.

The evil Lord Mac de Diube.  Use of bland villainy gets 0 props.  Don't tell me he's evil; show me that he's trying to force his only daughter to marry a disreputable person merely in order to form an alliance, or some such.  & maybe don't name him something that I'm going to mentally translate as "Mac de Dweeb."

i also read "boarlonian" as "baloneyian."  truth.

This guy is definitely not smooth, so casually asking Azara (why does she have a Persian name when this feels Scottish at best?) if she happens to know the man who shares her household symbol.  Nice going, there. I want to know why "Derik" has to go now.  Are we leaving Azara all by herself?  Is she a dead albatross or something?  What's with the melodrama??

Props: her face registering surprise + sadness isn't bad.  

The last excerpt has enough to go on, I'm going to rewrite it real quick to give you an idea of what I might do instead.  This is just me, though; there are probably a billion + one different ways to write this better.

The firelight created a halo around Azara's head as she bent to her embroidery.  In the long, unlit hall, the little pool of crocus-glow around the fireplace seemed to stand out in relief.  As her hands drew + tugged at the threads, Derik noted a flick-flick-flick of flamelight refecting back off her needle, & a second little glimmer blinking off a heavy band on her signet-finger.  She was leaning too far forward to notice him watching in wrapt suspension.  On one side of his face, the fire warmed to a prickling heat; on the other, a cold dread blanched the blood out of his veins.

"A heavy piece for you, that ring - don't you think?"  He reached for his mead-cup as if it were an idle thing.

Azara's hands hesitated, trembling, before performing two more uneven stitches.  The hand with the signet-ring slipped out of sight under the fabric.  "It is...not my favourite piece."  Her voice was strained.

A dozen red warnings flashed through his mind.  She had got him wrapped around her finger like that hideous ring, and he was afraid she had done it of a purpose, afraid that it was now too late.  He got stiffly to his feet.  There seemed to be no warmth at all in his body now.  "I will bid you good-night."

She looked up quickly, biting her lip as if to hold back something desperate.  He had a horror of whatever it might be, of confession or regret, so he turned away at once before she could speak.  He heard her silence reaching after him as he walked from the circle of firelight into the lonesome dark; in his mind's eye he was haunted by the vision of her gaunt, frightened face and the tiny depression on her signet ring of a boar and a broken crown.

There, I'm biased but I like that a sight better - though they do need different names. Now you can

a:: tear apart my writing
b:: tell me what you think about all the excerpts
c:  make your own rewrites

thank you for reading!
xoxo, jenny

7 ripostes:

  1. Oh my goodness, 'medirval warrioress, armor princess'. That is classic. Just too good :D

    I do like your revision of that scene; it gives it more mystery, for one thing; and it's a lot better written for another. But ... Derik? Yeah. No.

    Obviously I have no clue about Pinterest because I thought it was just something where you pin interesting ideas for clothes/hair/decorations/etc.

  2. Please do something more with that revision! I want to get the full story.

  3. Laura Elizabeth - yeah, "Derik" is just so bad. You'll also note that I refused to integrate "Mac de Diube" in my rewrite. XD

    Eli - whaaaat. noooo. I have no vision for this piece, I just word-vomited something into my blogger post. XD I'll leave you to run after this Br'er Rabbit of a plot bunny. I don't want it!

  4. It's so true! You wonder that people can hold up their heads.
    I laughed the hardest at "Mac de Dweeb" and the Pride and Prejudice reference.

  5. Caroline - sadly, they don't realize how absurd they are. (Yes. I was one once. It's tragic.) Some people are really good at constructive criticism, but this kind of absurdity is so thick-headed, I prefer straight-up scorn as an antidote. XD

  6. You have a startling habit of making cringe as I remember quotes from my own manuscripts. But it's not a "blast it! I give up" type of cringe. It's more like an "That's right. I can do better."

    So, thank you.

    Also, this post made me laugh quite hard.
    While I cringed.