Monday, October 6, 2014

Avoiding Melodrama by Katie Ganshert

Katie Ganshert

Avoiding Melodrama
by Katie Ganshert

I’m an overly dramatic first-drafter. I blame it on Donald Maass and his insistence upon high stakes. To be fair, I think I take his advice out of context.

Something I’ve learned from working with a brilliant editor?

More often than not, less is more.

Just like too much sugar upsets the stomach, too much drama can exhaust our readers. We run the risk of diluting the impact and poignancy of the drama that should matter. It’s sort of like those characters who are constantly crying. Somehow, the never-ending waterworks make for a less emotional reading experience.

Not to mention, too much drama can flush that all-important suspension of disbelief down the toilet, which is the very last thing we want to do as writers. There reaches a point where eyes stop watering and start rolling.

This is what I found myself doing as I revisited one of my old manuscripts. I had given my two leads back stories that were more tragic than they needed to be. Which led to my new rule of thumb.

When critiquing my work, I ask myself a very simple question:

Is this necessary?

Is this particular piece of drama or backstory or what-have-you vital to the story?

If I removed it, would the character’s motivations no longer make sense?

If yes, I leave it.

If no, I take it out. Lest my drama becomes melodrama.

Because of that question, I was able to alleviate some unnecessary tragedy from my hero and heroine’s past. And by doing so, have hopefully made this story one that is more emotionally engaging.


Thanks for visiting, Katie! How about you, dear reader? How do you include high stakes/action/emotion without melodrama? Any secrets to share? ~ Annette


Christy Award finalist and Carol Award winner, Katie Ganshert, graduated from the University of Wisconsin in Madison with a degree in education, and worked as a fifth grade teacher for several years before staying home to write full-time. She was born and raised in the Midwest, where she lives with her husband, their young son, and their goofy black lab, Bubba. When she’s not busy writing or playing or reading or snuggling, she is obsessing over the paperwork and the waiting that comes with adoption. You can learn more about Katie and her books by visiting her website or author Facebook page.


An October Bride
What if the only way you could make your father’s last wish come true . . . was to marry the man of your dreams?

Emma Tate has just moved on from one fiancĂ©, so when she announces a sudden engagement to her lifelong buddy Jake Sawyer, every busybody in Mayfair goes into high alert. Of course, no one but Jake and Emma know the real reason they’re getting married—so Emma’s dying father will have a chance to walk her down the aisle.

But while Jake and Emma move forward with their plan—and frantically plan an October wedding—it becomes clear that their agreement has a few complications . . . the biggest being their true feelings for each other.

With dubious friends, deliriously thrilled parents, and a town that won’t keep its nose out of their business, Emma and Jake will have a lot to contend with if they’re going to pull this off. 
The real question is: Who wants this wedding more, Emma’s dad . . . or Emma?


  1. This is me. I have the same problem with melodrama for similar reasons. For me, killing my "darlings" isn't about removing cleaver phrasing or flowery prose. My "darlings" often come in the form of dramatic elements.

  2. Oh, I can do drama with the best of them, lol. Great tips, Katie!

  3. "Less is more" is also a rule for news writing! :) It's all about being precise and concise and when I was in school they told us Journalism students that you should be able to tell your entire story in 19 words (the lead, which is the first sentence to every news story) or LESS! So yes, I totally get what you're saying, especially as an aspiring author. My main struggle as a writer of creative fiction is showing instead of telling, I think it's because of by background in Journalism that I tend to "tell" more than "show" my readers what's happening in my stories. Love your books, Katie! :)

  4. Love this advice, Katie! I can easily descend into melodrama as I write. Such a simple question to ask, and yet it makes a whole lot if sense!

  5. Great points! as I head toward revising my current project, will definitely take this under advisement. Thanks, Katie! :)


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