Author Carolyn Clarke explores a fast-growing genre that balances the elements of drama and comedy.
If we’ve learned anything from hit books like Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeymoon or New York Bestselling author Fredrick Backman of Anxious People and A Man Called Ove is that grief and misery are best paired with joy and humor. They go hand in hand. And you’ll see it more as this distinct combo genre known as ‘dramedy’ makes it way in the entertainment world. TV shows, movies and now novels (even Amazon has a “dramedy novels” list) are adopting this ‘super’ genre, much like the ‘rom-com’ phenomenon, because readers get the best of both worlds—if done well, of course.
So, what exactly is a ‘dramedy’ as a genre? Simply put, it’s a story that balances the elements of drama and comedy. In other words, a comedy drama, or a drama comedy. Either way, this mixed genre often deals with real life situations and circumstances, with characters that are genuine, unpredictable, flawed and easily relatable. The ratio of drama and comedy can vary, but most of the time there’s an equal dose of each. Most times, whether book or movie, the plot is character-driven with lots of dialogue and sometimes overly exaggerated action. Onscreen, think Meet the Parents with Ben Stiller and Robert DeNiro or on the other end of the scale, the heartwarming, touching and very funny smart movie, The Descendants starring George Clooney.
When it comes to common themes and topics found in dramedies, they’re familiar to everyone, and most often universal. Serious topics like illness, family relationships or financial hardships, divorce, aging, and broken hearts. These topics are based on real life experiences and fleshed out with added details which help to personalize them.
I just finished reading Tom Perrotta’s latest novel, Tracy Flick Can’t Win – a continuation of Tracy’s trials and tribulations in Election. But this time as a midlifer, she returns home to take care of her ill mother while after soon being hired as the Vice Principal of her school – which has several dark comedic moments as we move along in the heads of many of the dysfunctional characters interacting from their pasts to the present. The underlying themes found in politics that plague not only the children of our schools, but society at large, is quite serious. This well-written suburban novel full of wit and satire might be one of the most obvious examples of ‘dramedy’ because not only does it inject drama and realistic dialogue into the seriously quirky moments, but the extremely flawed but identifiable characters are distinct when it comes to their personalities and voices in the written dialogue (a superb talent of Tom’s).
I’m a true fan of dramedies. The emotions coming from all the drama in our lives mixed with the realities of the day-to-day stuff certainly inspired me to write my novel And Then There’s Margaret. I set up the plot (even though I never got to meet my mother-in-law, but I know we would’ve been great friends) and wrote out the narrative thanks to listening to and reading about mother-in-law confessions, sins and stories which were always a combination of serious drama with some hilarious moments. Although And Then There’s Margaret revolves around the complex and challenging relationship between a daughter-in-law and mother-in-law, in the end the two characters, Allie and Margaret, become better people with a better connection – it’s filled with realism and humor that enlighten and perhaps soften the story. Allie is a genuinely flawed character, facing challenges and problems common for any ‘midlifer’ – a twenty-two-year-old marriage, a tiring and thankless job, and two almost grown children still giving her gray hairs.
Life can be complicated and messy and whenever changes force their way into our existence, it can get ugly. Toxic, even. Dramedies might sound like depressing and dark reads, but with the right dosage of laughter and tears, their stories come alive with engaging and relatable characters as they go through their day filled with obstacles and problems to take on–it’s the comedic elements that pierce a hole through the stress balloon that make these novels true dramedies.
(c) Carolyn Clarke
About And Then There’s Margaret:
When Allison Montgomery’s beloved father-in-law and long-time confidant passes away, her mother-in-law, Margaret, ‘temporarily’ moves in. From rearranging the furniture and taking over the kitchen, to undermining and embarrassing Allie at every turn, including funding her daughter’s escape, throwing a hissy fit at the mall, and publicly equating Allie’s glass of Chardonnay to full blown alcoholism, Margaret turns Allie’s life upside down causing her to bounce between a sincere desire to support her grieving mother-in-law and an intense urge to simply push her out of the nearest window.
Feeling annoyed, trapped and even a little childish, Allie struggles to avoid a complete meltdown with help from her fearless and audacious best friend, a plan for reinventing herself and enjoying a second act, and, yes, a few glasses of Chardonnay. Along the way, Allie discovers the reasons behind Margaret’s attitude toward her all these years. Does it help? Maybe…
For fans of Maria Semple’s Where’d You Go Bernadette or Camille Pagan’s I’m Fine and Neither Are You, comes the perfect laugh-out-loud dramedy AND THEN THERE’S MARGARET about marriage, midlife and a controlling, manipulative and self-absorbed mother-in-law thrown into the mix. MULTI-AWARD-WINNING debut novel, AND THEN THERE’S MARGARET, takes readers on a relatable and hilarious ride, as Allie realizes the only way to survive the angst of family is to let go….and let be.
“Perfect for women’s fiction books club wanting to explore complex and turbulent family relationships. It’s a playful coming of (middle-age) novel.” –IndieReader
Order your copy online here.