Melodramatic = exaggerated, sensationalized, or overemotional
I'm studying HOOKED, by Les Edgerton, while I re-write my opening. Edgerton reminds us to open our stories with an inciting incident within a dramatic scene. "A scene is a unit of drama. Drama means conflict." But he's careful to point out that the scene should not be melodramatic.
He illustrates his point through THELMA & LOUISE. If you've seen the movie, you may remember the opening where Thelma strays from the norm when she chooses not to ask her husband for permission to go on a trip. It doesn't open with the shooting of the would-be rapist, or the car explosion at the gas station. Thelma's decision to keep quiet sets the story in motion. It's subtle, yet effective.
Edgerton quotes Janet Burroway on the subject of melodrama vs. drama. "Another mistake frequently made by young writers is to think that they can best introduce drama into their stories by way of murderers, chase scenes, crashes, and vampires, the external stock dangers of pulp and TV. In fact, all of us know that the most profound impediments to our desire usually lie closer to home, in our own bodies, personalities, friends, lovers, and families. Fewer people have cause to panic at the approach of a stranger with a gun than at the approach of Mama with the curling iron. More passion is destroyed at the breakfast table than in a time warp."
Edgerton suggests we start small, with low volume, then amp it up throughout the book. After all, if we begin with a nuclear bomb, where do we go from there? And while we're on the subject, here's a list of Opening No Nos.
What's your opinion? Do you prefer openings with dramatic scenes or melodramatic?