Melodramas are built upon stock characters that have entrance music which suggests their personalities. In addition, the music gives these stock characters the timing they use, almost as though the drama is choreographed. These stock characters dwell in a very simple universe in which good and evil are easily identifiable with the hero and the villain always in conflict with one another.
Although the hero is always noble and good, he is sometimes duped by the villain's nefarious plans, plans that often include endangering the heroine in order to lure the hero into a trap. But with luck and fortitude, the hero escapes his trap in order to triumph over the villain. In more modern melodramas, the hero can be a frontier roughneck, a highwayman, or a fireman.
The heroine is a paragon of virtue: truthful, faithful, respectful of her parents; her beauty reflects her purity and innocent heart and complete lack of pettiness. Just at the point in which all hope seems lost, the hero rushes in and saves her.
The heroine's father
The heroine's father is often used by the villain because he can be swayed by the villain, or he may have something in his past that the villain threatens to expose, thereby using him to gain control of the heroine.
The comic servant
As a plot device to speed up the conclusion, according to Michael Booth in English Melodrama,
Typically this comic servant or companion instantly saw through the villain, put the situation in perspective, and made light of the high standards of conduct by which other characters feel inconveniently bound
The villain typically sneers and behind the backs of his victims, he laughs a sinister laugh. Although he is eloquent and well-dressed, the villain lacks integrity and is not above engaging in sadistic acts such as tying the heroine onto railroad tracks and attempting to throw her over a cliff.
In melodramas in order to create excitement around the simple plot, there are often explosions, fires, drownings, even earthquakes, and at least one stage effect.