How Much is Too Much? – Drama

Anyone ever read a story (or watched one) where, whatever one character says or does, the others are going to react in the worst way possible? Rather than ask what Character A meant, Character B either 1) blows a gasket or 2) storms off to go mishandle a nonexistent problem. It’s very sitcom-esque and even in sitcoms this ploy can be painful.

Of course, this is just one very stark example of drama that goes beyond the bounds of suspension of disbelief. There’s also the kind of story that executes so many plot twists to subvert expectations that the reader just ends up dizzy and annoyed.

I, personally, like my “drama” to come from the excitement of the plot and any character issues that reasonably can develop within it. If a character is a spit-fire who flies off the handle with ease, then I can reasonably expect he’ll misinterpret other characters and a great deal of interpersonal drama can ensue. If the character is set up as a very intelligent, rational, and careful person, it’s a little harder.

I was a huge fan of Erin Hunter’s Warriors series as a kid. However, I stopped after the second series because the drama reached a point that was both too stressful and too infuriatingly unrealistic. None of the characters ever stopped to think before they acted. Of course, they were all anthropomorphized felines, but they were treated as if they had human-level capacity for reasoning. So, the fact that there wasn’t a time, no matter how normally sensitive and understanding a character might otherwise be, when they didn’t erupt over a sudden revelation (most of which were things that really could have been revealed sooner and better if the author wasn’t relying a little too heavily on drama) was exhausting to say the least. I still have a great fondness for the books. They’re very creative, the world is well-developed and complex, and a great deal of time was clearly spent making sure that everything else made sense. But, oh the drama.

Since that last paragraph wound up way longer than I was anticipating, I’ll cap it to one example, albeit of drama in juvenile fiction. I think everyone’s probably got a book in mind already that fits the bill here.

So…what’s the point?

The point is, drama can very easily become too much. You can annoy, alienate, and even totally exhaust a reader with it. But drama (in some capacity) is necessary for story-telling.

I think the key is to keep the drama confined to what makes sense. How would Character A actually react? Have her react that way. Even if it causes no drama. Because that keeps the story moving. There will be another character who’ll react in a way to cause drama at a better time and in a more believable way. And there’s more than one time of drama. Drama in its truest sense happens whenever a character faces a dilemma or the fallout of a major event.

Please don’t overdramatize it.

Or, if you want to, tell me why in the comments below!

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