Friday, August 19, 2011

Is your book melodramatic?

How does one know when his or her writing crosses the line from emotionally compelling to just too much?

For me, it's often in "the twist." Something that's merely intense veers into soap opera territory when an author adds that one. more. thing. The twist in these cases is often highly salacious or verboten rather than subtle and surprising.

For instance: pregnant terminally ill main character discovers she has to solve a murder--of her baby daddy.

Or: Small town guy realizes he's gay and must face coming out to his Bible-belt family and friends--but then his father dies in a plow accident and CAN HE REALLY RISK TEARING HIS FAMILY APART MORE?? Oh, and then he discovers his father's stash of child porn when going through his effects.

No joke, those were in my inbox.

Trust yourself, writers. The above stories have great hearts: facing one's own death as a new one is starting. Navigating prejudice of those close to you. Tell those stories; you don't have to throw the kitchen sink in, too. 


  1. It all comes down to intent though. Melodrama can be a lot of fun, if done intentionally.

  2. The coming out as gay one only seemed "too much" when the porn was discovered. Then it just got ridiculous.

    The idea of "tearing your family apart" interests me greatly because I know how easily it can happen.

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  4. You say those stories were in your inbox--did you have permission to post them here? If not, I don't think it's really ethical to make fun of them on the internet like this.

  5. Lils, I didn't see any quotes so these may not be passages taken directly from letters, rather adaptations.

    But yeah, no one likes to be made fun of. Yet at the same time everyone gets made fun of, so be like a Christina Aguilera song, and have it make you stronger, work just a little be harder... run just a little bit faster.

  6. Lils - I did not feel Ms. Barnes was criticizing or making fun in anyway. She took the examples out of her slush pile and used them for educational purposes. As a professional, it is prudent to take her opinion as a critique for improvement.

    Look up other agent blogs and you will find many dos and don'ts.