Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Bermuda Triangle of Drama.

I've poisoned myself with too much drama. Too much reading. Too many books. It's a good thing I'm going to a writing conference soon and will be reading material that has not yet been anointed by the glow of publication. In short, I am not expected by anyone to like it without reservation.

The same cannot be said of published work. I read a lot, and all these books present stories I am asked to accept and value. And sometimes it just gets too hard. Because pure drama exists in a dangerously small area bounded on three sides by irreconcilable issues. Which are:

1. If the story presented is too serious or idiosyncratic, it loses believability and with it the reader's credulity and investment in the story. It tends to slide into either comedy, however dark, or melodrama, however florid.

2. If the story is kept contained in the interest of realism, it risks becoming dull or pointless. You don't want to offer a supposedly damaged family to a reader who has known worse at home. Or still has worse at home.

3. The attempted end-run around the above is the memoir. That is an unfair assessment to the best of them, but there is a generic category of memoir that uses "but it really happened" to cover the sins above.

So there we have our triangle, and within it is the mystery of good drama. It is a vanishingly small target to hit. There are styles and careers to be made by sailing right over the line in any direction, but landing a story inside the triangle is hugely difficult. I keep searching for the successes.

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