A modern melodrama is a dramatic work in which the plot, typically sensationalized and for a strong emotional appeal, takes precedence over detailed characterization. Melodramas typically concentrate on dialogue that is often bombastic or excessively sentimental, rather than action. Characters are often flat, and written to fulfill stereotypes.
Contemporarily, we use the word melodrama for narrative works that go to great lengths to induce certain kinds of emotion at all costs, to detriment of the internal cohesion of both plot and characterization, often in a manner that some consider cheesy, corny, or excessive. All soap operas are melodramas, as are many movies and TV shows. Some melodramas are cheap and fail to achieve their effects, while others can be more rich and even sophisticated. In a way, many mainstream stories are, to some extent, melodramas, even when there are other, more salient genres. There's melodrama in action, crime, and science fiction.
Here are some examples of what I consider more or less contemporary melodramas:
- The Young and the Restless
- Grey's Anatomy
- The Color Purple
- Downton Abbey
- Dawson's Creek
- Gone with the Wind
And here are some stories that are not melodrama, but contain a whole lot of it: