The term melodrama is often loosely used and begs for a concrete definition. Such a definition will be attempted here, subject to correction by more knowledgeable writers.
A melodrama is a story with the following characteristics.
- The central struggle in the tale can be described as Good vs. Evil, without much ambiguity. The good guys are given a very hard time and suffer greatly, physically or emotionally, before the story concludes. (See fourth point, however.)
- A sensational plot and dramatic action tend to overshadow characterization, with romantic elements likely present. Unlikely coincidences are sometimes seen. The exaggerated plot makes the story somewhat unrealistic, but readers are willing to suspend disbelief for the sake of the ride.
- A strong effort is made to wring emotional responses from the reader (suspense, fear, shock, grief, relief, joy, etc.). The story might have comic bits but is quite definitely serious in overall tone.
- After an epic struggle between the protagonists and antagonists, a (generally) happy ending is achieved with the triumph of Good over Evil.
The term melodrama is fairly broad and can encompass stories from many genres: romance, science fiction, fantasy, detective thrillers, westerns, soap operas, etc. It is sometimes used in a pejorative sense, lowering the significance of "unrealistic" dramas vs. "realistic" ones.
Though the two styles are similar, melodramas are distinguished from angst writing in Daria fandom in that angst stories focus on intense suffering and are not guaranteed to have a happy ending.
While Hurt/Comfort stories can be melodramatic, this is not always the case. Likewise, melodramas may or may not include Hurt/Comfort elements.
A special award for Favorite Melodrama is voted for in the annual Daria Fanworks Awards. There is considerable confusion when using the terms "drama" and "melodrama," to the point that the nominations for Favorite Drama and Favorite Melodrama often show considerable overlap. (The same dramatic story might win in both categories.) Excellent recent examples of Daria melodramas, making use of the definition above, would include "Apocalyptic Daria," by Doggieboy; "The Crow-Daria Ascension," by legendeld; "Three" by Richard Lobinske; and "Something To Shoot For," by Dervish.