99 Problems and Drama is One…

Comedy Tragedy

dra•ma/ˈdrɑmə, ˈdræmə/
1. a composition in prose or verse presenting in dialogue or pantomime a story involving conflict or contrast of character, especially one intended to be acted on the stage; a play.
2. the branch of literature having such compositions as its subject; dramatic art or representation.
3. the art dealing with the writing and production of plays.
4. any situation or series of events having vivid, emotional, conflicting, or striking interest or results: the drama of a murder trial.
5. the quality of being dramatic.

Let’s face it, there are some people who lead lives that seem utterly tragic. They have more problems (translate=drama) than they can seem to keep track of and every time you speak with them, there’s a new issue popping up. Most of the time, you feel sorry for them, shaking your head out of empathy for their woes even when sometimes just from listening, you can pick up what they might have done to bring this crap upon themselves. Admit it; you know who I’m talking about. But still, even when you know they might have been the culprit, you pity them. Why is it that some people attract all the drama in their lives?

When creating characters, I think it’s important to give the person a healthy amount of drama to overcome. The reality, is that if you are to create someone who is real, even in fiction, drama must exist. How many people do you know exist without drama tainting their lives? I know people who say they don’t “do” drama. Sure you don’t. I don’t “do” drama either but drama will happen whether you try to do it or not. We are human and our interactions with one another will produce some sort of conflict after a while, ultimately shifting our emotions and interests. In a nutshell-you’d have to be dead to avoid having drama and let’s be honest-drama is what makes the story/plot interesting. With that said, there can be an unhealthy amount of drama for anyone. And as I’ve already pointed out, there are people you know that stay embroiled in it. But when you are writing fictional characters that you want to portray as real, how much drama is too much for your reader?

In the romance genre specifically, the drama-balance game can be tough. Too little can make you wonder if these people are living at all; they can’t be so into each other that the outside world doesn’t exist. Too much, and you wonder how they manage to still breathe or more importantly, how they have found the time to fall in love at all. I just read a book that made me want to weep because the heroine was just that overcome with problems. Drama was hitting her every which way to the point, I couldn’t understand how she’d even had a leg to stand on. People are strong and resilient, yes, but in 220 pages you are telling me that she got up on her two feet amidst extreme turmoil, met a man she couldn’t trust, trusted him and then fell in love? I mean, all of a sudden, he showed up and the sun is shining and all her problems have rolled away? I’m not quick to buy it, even with great writing and as much as I love the fairytale, I want my fairytale to be one I can believe would happen to me. Not only that, happiness is what I go to romance for and I assume you do too. Her story was…tragic until the VERY end(sigh).

So as I continue to write, I’m trying to remain cognizant of not placing too many hardships on my characters. They need to time to breathe and to fall in love and despite how real I want them to be…I don’t want them to have 99 problems. Do you think about whether you’ve placed too much on a characters’ shoulders and what do you do to work that out?



16 thoughts on “99 Problems and Drama is One…

  1. I think this is the reason why I add a little comedy to my writing. Drama is great! It’s interesting and fun to read, but it can wear you out. Our characters need balance just like we do. Even the most drama prone, need a break every now and again! lol

  2. Comedy is an excellent way to balance that out. I haven’t read Jaded Hearts yet but even in our correspondence I can tell you have humor and it’s refreshing. Thanks for weighing in Olivia!

    • Me too. I’ve been tempted to stop reading. The only reason I continue is that I’ve spent my money and don’t want to waste it. That and I hold out hope.

  3. I am definitely of the “I don’t do drama” crowd and find that I actually CAN avoid it by simply going the other way. Both in life and in writing, drama doesn’t interest me much. More interesting is why certain characters attract it, how their choices may breed it, how they deal with it once it’s there. The actual sordid details of a murder, for instance, are not as compelling a narrative to me as why that character might choose to kill someone. An affair is uninteresting to me, but why the character had the affair is interesting. And I definitely try not to write in too many things “happening” to my characters for the sake of “drama” because in my opinion drama doesn’t “happen”; people in books (and in life) tend to create it.

    • Thanks for weighing in Nia! Are you saying because you avoid it, you’ve never experienced it? I’m going to have to pick up your technique if that’s the case 🙂 I find that people most certainly attract it with their actions but ultimately one way or another even when we avoid it, someone or something will create a conflict, even when it’s not justified or when we’ve been minding our own business. How we deal with it, I think, is what creates the story more specifically for our characters. Do they stay engrossed in it or do they brush it off? Drama or the feeling that results from it for me have less to do just with personal relationships but how we navigate our ways through all life’s ups and downs. And not only that, drama can be the result of something completely unavoidable, uncontrollable, unintentional like divorce, a break-up, job-loss and mounting bills, unexpected pregnancy, nagging exes. These things we work hard to avoid but they do come knocking especially in fiction and it can make a story great! How much of that is too much in a story? And what do you do to balance it when the drama is great but necessary like with Shawn and Riley?

      • My technique to avoid it is to not engage. I don’t consider job loss, mounting bills to be drama — that’s just life. Unexpected pregnancy may be drama but again that’s a result of someone’s choices not something that “happened” to them. Its the consequence of something they did. How much is too much? It’s a reader’s (and writer’s) choice in my opinion. I’ve had some reviews that said some of my work is “boring” because there wasn’t enough drama. That doesn’t faze me — it just means that person is not my core audience. I can’t say how much is too much because every writer is different (just as every reader is different) and what we write or read is always going to be a matter of personal taste. As for my characters having had drama in their lives? That’s never the point. As I mentioned before, for me the point is what led to it, how they reacted to it, how they grow from it, etc.

  4. Thanks for more feedback, one of my favorite writers.

    The drama I’m going by is the definition I posted-

    4. Any situation or series of events having vivid, emotional, conflicting, or striking interest or results: the drama of a murder trial. So job loss and mounting bills would fit that scenerio because while it’s life it has a huge emotional impact.

    What I’m picking up from you is that drama for you is the back and forth that can come from misundertsandings, people’s BS, etc. Which you avoid. Gotcha. But in a story, you don’t think that those series of events you keep plugging into it, aren’t dramatic? And I’ll use Shawn and Riley in Commitment because it’s one of my favorite love stories- There were a lot of events or even one BIG HUGE event which had an emotional result in my opinion (what are your readers thinking?) But a lot of BS in the story, no. Boring, your stories are not 🙂

  5. Great post! I am one of those “I don’t do drama” people. I don’t want it in any part of my life and I work to keep it at bay. My husband feels the same way and it makes for a wonderful/fun home environment. Now don’t get me wrong, occasionally outside forces try to sneak drama into our world – but we’re clear on how much we’ll tolerate. I’m also very selective with the people I have in my circle of friends for fear their drama will jump off on me – can’t have that.

    I also find this topic interesting because I started reading a novel a few weeks ago and to this day I haven’t been able to finish it – though I want to. Normally I’m a fast reader, but not with this story. In the first chapter the couple was arguing non-stop and I honestly felt like I had run a marathon by the time I arrived at chapter two – which turned out to be much of the same. I get what the author was trying to do, but it was WAY too much for me. With that said though, it will make me more aware of the books I write and the drama I incorporate in them. So far, my gauge has been – if the drama in the story starts getting on my own nerves – then I know it’s too much.

    • Thanks for stopping by Sharon! I’m with you on it coming into my home life. I work hard to keep balance at home but I have been blessed with not too many external forces trying to gain in on me and my family. But it does take place from time to time- and usually it’s someone else’s stuff trying to come in. I do my best to brush it off and keep peace inside of me. Where it matters.

      You do a lovely job balancing your character drama. I suppose just using my own tolerance level would be a good rule of thumb. But since it’s so low, I don’t want to bore my reader 🙂 And while I write what I want to write, I also plan to write to sell, and people need to enjoy it, to buy it.

      Thanks for your input!

  6. I think that we can at least minimize the amount of drama in our life. I learned over time to trust my instincts. I can usually tell right away people that I need to stay away from, or places that ‘something’ always seems to happen at. No matter how nice or fun, or who else thinks highly of it. Certain people try to fill up a void by focusing on other people. They don’t realize or care that every action has a domino effect of events. Me… I can sometimes know that what I’m about to do or say is going to tip that first domino. So, I don’t. Always being in drama can be out of habit or rubbed off by being around certain people, but constant drama is like loud static. There is so much more that opens up when you leave the nonsense behind! Loving the blog Aja!

    • Thank you and I agree whole heartedly! Avoiding as much as I can control makes a peaceful existence and I’ve learned to cope with drama that is forced upon me. Pivoting, brushing it off, changing friends, changing employment, but most of all, I pray. It works for everything in my opinion. My reaction to the dramas in life is what is most important. And I will work on making sure my characters react in a way to relieve the reader of the burdens I place in the story. Thanks for continuing to share your thoughts 🙂

  7. Sheonna Franklin says:

    It seems like in today’s society, the more drama, the better – judging by the success of all of these silly reality shows on every channel. However, in my opinion, rather watching a show or, to your point of discussion, reading a book, I like a happy medium with my drama. Of course we all know most people enjoy the juicy drama here and there (I know I do) but too much of it is exhausting and as a reader….quite disengaging. I am a reader that loves to see a happy ending – seeing how, despite the drama, the person persevered.

    • I think you really have expressed what it is that I like about romance or more specifically, a good romance. The perseverance of the person and the couple. Romance is essentially about LOVE. Period. And Love perseveres through all drama. I’m happy you said that and it puts my story in perspective now. Thanks for stopping by Sheonna, my friend!

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