DZ-67: Writing “Passive” Protagonists & Melodrama

Stu and Chas are joined by Stephen Cleary following his exploration into Melodrama, and together they try to reclaim the word from its pejorative meaning.

By examining powerful Melodramas – like THE HANDMAID’S TALE, LADIES IN BLACK and STRANGER THINGS… with many a tangent on MARRIAGE STORY, PETE’S DRAGON, MILDRED PIERCE, GAME OF THRONES, LOST, THE JOKER, THE KILLING, THE WITCHER, war movies and survival films – the three hosts try to unpick what makes Melodrama an alternate story paradigm to the Hero’s Journey.

They delve into how Melodramas centre on characters that don’t have agency; where the plot happens to characters (as opposed to being driven by them); how Melodramas don’t end so much as close; and how all of the above delves into character questions more deeply than the Hero’s Journey. And to wrap it all up, the kind of techniques you use on the page to write effective melodramas.

CW: There is a lot of discussion in this episode about melodrama being associated with “women’s stories” vs the “hero’s journey” – which is biased towards a ‘masculine’ mode of storytelling – and we fully acknowledge in the show and here that we are three cismen talking about these things.

This episode was edited by Christopher Walker. Audio excerpts used for educational purposes only.

DZ-46: Structure & Point of View

Waaaaaaaaaay back in DZ-5, Stu and Chas examined how shifting narrative point of view (i.e. what the audience knows in relation to the characters on screen) heightens emotions in any given scene. We’ve now taken that micro idea and applied it to the macro: how can deciding what the audience knows and when in relation to the characters organise your story? Are whole sequences or even acts driven by the audience following a character, feeling concerned about a character, empathising with a character or being absorbed in the irony of knowing more than all the characters interacting on screen.

To tackle this topic, Stu and Chas dive in to films that make very conscious structural choices in relation to narrative POV, namely: GET OUT, DUNKIRK and the underrated German film THE LIVES OF OTHERS (with honourable mentions to LA CONFIDENTIAL and MANCHESTER BY THE SEA).

DZ-43: Driving Sequences – Character and Plot Intensity

Chas and Stu are joined for the fourth time by the inestimable Stephen Cleary – this time to take a deep dive into sequences. A real deep dive. A 3+ hour deep dive.

Stephen postulates that sequences can compel the audience in different ways via the type of dramatic questions being posed. Are they plot questions (“Will she defuse the bomb?”) or character questions (“Will she understand what compels her to defuse bombs?”) or a combination of both? What is the impact on the pacing, structure of your story or audience experience of your characters by changing the type of question being asked? What happens to your story when your protagonist decides to literally abandon the plot?