Moving love scene or melodrama?

I’ve been reading Sol Stein’s Stein on Writing. It’s an excellent book, well worth reading. Unlike so many how-to writing books, Stein’s is chock-a-block with good examples.  I’ll talk more about what’s in Stein’s book soon, but I couldn’t resist sharing the example reproduced below, because I’m not sure it works.

First, some context. The passage comes from the chapter entitled “Love Scenes” (Ch.18, pp. 174-5), and it was written by student of Stein’s. He offers it as a good example of an exchange between a couple of lovers. I’ll let you read it before I saying anything.


“I never wanted to see you again.”

“Then why did you come back?”

“The roses,” he said.

She turned in the archway, gilded by rays, back to him, walled, protected, and stared into the tangle of exploded flowers. They had opened and fallen back upon themselves like silent film stars, dried leaves, brittle branches.

“You came to see a dying garden, Ryan.”

“We planted it together.”

“I didn’t know you were coming.”

“Me, I didn’t know you would be here.”

She felt his eyes on her back. The Bukhara sucked in his footfalls as he crossed the room. He edged beside her.

“It needs water, care…”

“Maybe it will rain,” she said.

“Can’t count on rain. It needs…some care.”

“You were always too busy,” Meg said and turned slowly toward him. “It was beautiful once. Wasn’t it?”

“Like a meteor shower,” Ryan said. “I’m sorry.”

“So am I.”

Okay, to me it reads like a scene out of a daytime soap opera. It’s melodramatic, what with the dying flowers sprawled out like “silent film stars” (meaning what?).  Maybe I have a tin ear for this sort of thing, but it didn’t move me to anything but an embarrassed chuckle—which, I assume, was the opposite of the intended reaction.  


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