Posted by: nancycurteman | March 6, 2015

How to Avoid Melodrama in Sad Mystery Novel Scenes

Bookmark and Share

th-2Melodrama has no place in a mystery novel. Unfortunately, melodrama can creep into the sad scenes that are essential to a convincing murder mystery story and sabotage the hoped for effect. There are ways to avoid turning a serious emotional scene into a farce.

Don’t be too explicit. Words that tell how the character feels–heartbroken, devastated, sad, miserable, wretched–do not allow the reader to participate in the emotion. You need to let the reader imagine the emotion based on their real life experience with tragedy rather than telling them how to feel.

Show how your character is reacting to a tragedy through her body language. She moves in slow motion, her body droops, her speech sounds flat, lip trembles. She hangs her head, gulps back tears. Your reader will recognize these symptoms of sadness. Let the emotion come from subtext.

Make character reactions realistic. Consider how the type of character you created would react. A stoic male would react differently than a sensitive little girl.

Keep sad scenes short. A few paragraphs that show your character’s pain will have much more impact than a full chapter of dwelling on the tragic event.

Build up to the sad scene. In earlier chapters, emphasize close relationships between characters. In the case of a death, show the importance of the victim in the lives of other characters and emphasize his good qualities.

Draw a connection to a previous tragedy. Maybe your character’s mother died of cancer and now your character’s best friend has been diagnosed with the same kind of cancer.

Make character reactions realistic. No one in real life would say something like “This is horrid beyond words,” when they witness an accident or other tragedy.

These are techniques you can use to avoid melodrama in mystery novel sad scenes.

More tips:
How to Write Love Scenes that Generate Emotions Not Giggles
How to write Emotion into Love Scenes
5 Ways to Make Your Characters Tap Into the Emotions of Your Readers



  1. Great post!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: