So after I tauted my love for CASTLE in my last post, I thought it only fair to give my first love a shout out. Soap operas. Seriously, I don't watch that much TV, but I am a loyal fan to the few shows I cram into my schedule. Speaking of which, have you seen REVENGE? OMG. It's freakin' awesome, but I digress. We are talking about soaps.
I'm totally not kidding. I have vivid memories of watching Luke and Laura's wedding on General Hospital when I was five years old. My big sister watched soaps and in my attempt to be a "big girl" I glued myself in front of the TV. It was the age of Bo Derek’s 10 braids so I didn’t really have a choice but to sit still and watch TV as my sister braided my hair. Thankfully soaps weren't as graphic back then or I might have been scarred for life. Still, over the years, my obsession with soap operas hasn’t waned, although I cut back to two –General Hospital and One Life to Live.
I only watch about once a month. Oddly enough, that’s about all it takes to know what’s going on, but that’s what I love about them. Soap writers are masters at prolonging a story line to its utmost possibilities and advantages, until it is completely maxed out. They extend secrets, build lies upon lies, make characters indecisive, create a roller coaster of emotions, and mix up love interests. I’m fairly certain there’s some unwritten rule you can’t kill off a character unless he or she has sleep with half the town at least twice. And, heaven forbid, if somebody gets murdered. Everyone is a suspect and each individual investigation takes a week at minimum. After all that, the dead character will usually miraculously resurrect, too.
We as writers should take a hint from soaps and stretch a scene for all its worth. It’s our responsibility to get the most out of everything we write. That may mean multiple drafts and edits, but if that’s what it takes to achieve your best work, do it. Develop each character’s personality, appearance, conflict, and motivation. Focus on internal and external thoughts, problems, and solutions. Try different scenarios for resolutions. Write with efficient use of pacing. Reach from high emotional turmoil to utter calmness within minutes of each other. Perfect each scene with variety and tension. Does each character have a flaw or many? They should. Finally, think of soap’s Friday afternoon cliffhanger for the end of your chapters.
Do you have a suggestion to perfect a scene? Are you a closet soap addict? What story lines inspire you? Which characters make you sit up and take notice? WHO do you just like to look at? John on One Life to Live gives me that "ah" moment. Dark and brooding, mysterious, confident, and HOT – all qualities of a dreamy hero. Jason on General Hospital has that incredible bad boy thing going on that makes me want to swoon (minus the whole mob killer thing), but these cocky bad boys are fiercely loyal with a heart of gold that is waiting to be discovered by the right heroine. One of my favorite characters is a Spinelli, a sidekick, computer hacker on General Hospital. He’s not gorgeous or rockin’ a bod, but his corky personality and the weird things he says make him memorable and adorable. These characters (and the writers behind them) inspire me and hopefully, you too!