How to Create Compelling Melodrama in the Courtroom

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Plot-Driven Melodrama in a Courtroom – He Who Tells the Best Story Wins!

With every story there are essential elements, such as plot and characters. Without these minimum requirements, a story would be incoherent. Great storytellers know how to emphasize the most compelling components of characters as they carry out the plot.

When it comes to real life situations, especially in the courtroom, the involved characters may not always be the most exciting part of the story. Therefore, the plot has to be strong enough to keep the interest of, and win the favor of, the jury. A good way to create a strong plot is to deliver the story in the style of a melodrama.

What is Melodrama?

In some writing communities, the topic of melodrama in stories is one that is constantly debated. Even the definition of the term often comes into question as writers struggle to weave melodrama into their masterpieces.

But for the purposes of clarity, a melodrama can be defined as “a work characterized by extravagant theatricality and by the predominance of plot and physical action over characterization.”

Again, one could probably debate what type of work technically falls into the category of melodrama, but an example of this storytelling style can be found in many soap operas. Characters in these shows often don’t demonstrate great depth in their backstories. Further, soap opera audiences are often more interested in “what will happen next” rather than how the characters will grow and change.

How to Create Compelling Melodrama in the Courtroom

The plot to any story, regardless of whether it’s in a courtroom or a storybook, will have 5 elements:

1 Exposition: To start, the storyteller must set the scene. For the jury to be invested at all, they have to be hooked during the exposition.
2 Rising Action: Significant events that led to the cascade of future events are often used as a means of building tension during the story. This is known as the rising action and it ultimately leads toward the climax.
3 Climax: The climax is what all the tension built during the rising action has led to. This is the point in a melodrama where the audience is basically holding their breath, waiting to see what will happen. Every story needs a good climactic moment.
4 Falling Action: Once the tension has built to the breaking point and the climax has left the jury in shock, it’s time to start easing them back to a gentle calm in which they will deliberate on the case at hand. The falling action allows the audience a slow descent from the action so that they can move on to the conclusion.
5 Dénouement/Conclusion: At this point, any remaining questions will need to be addressed or left hanging to build suspense for the next story in the series (although the latter option should be avoided in the courtroom). Denouement translates literally to “untying”. This part of the story unties anything that’s still knotted up in the jury’s mind and leaves no doubt about the trial lawyer’s message.

The Art of Storytelling

Above all, storytelling is an art. Trial lawyers need to treat this part of their craft as they would any other artistic pursuit: with an open mind, creativity, and willingness to receive constructive feedback.

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