Writing Tips I’ve Learned from Watching Soap Operas

Flopping down on the couch to catch up on with my soap folks at the end of the day isn’t high on my priority list. I do, however, still enjoy watching batches of episodes while working on Novel Escapes, my blog, or whatever marketing and chit chat I’m doing online. I’ve watched General Hospital for close to thirty years and have watched various soaps since I was in diapers with Granny and Granny. Yes, they both wanted to be named Granny. Confusing to mini-people, my brothers and I labeled them Granny Down The Street and Granny At The Lake based on where they lived, and it stuck until I was thirty and Granny at the Lake left this world.

 

Granny at the Lake and Lydia - Val's Wedding2

Granny at the Lake

Lydia and Granny Down the Street

Granny Down the Street

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My maternal granny, Granny Down The Street, called them her “stories” and watched As The World Turns and Guiding Light which she sadly outlived both of. My paternal grandmother, Granny At The Lake, called them her ‘soaps’ and watched Another World and General Hospital. I’ve watched all of these at one point or another with them, sometimes cuddled on the couch, sometimes lying on the floor with my feet kicked up in the air while reading a book, and very often baking cookies in Granny At The Lake’s small kitchen with her tiny black and white TV crammed on the corner counter. To this day, I love cooking and baking when there’s a television nearby to watch, particularly soap operas. Fond memories die hard.

I’ve seen it all over the years from the devil (during a very brief stint with Days Of Our Lives in university) to mobsters to hundreds of characters risen from the dead. It’s all very implausible yet I keep watching. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s the tie to my grannies or maybe it’s that watching all the drama can make you feel better about your own life when it’s not where you want it. Maybe I just want background noise and something I don’t have to pay close attention to.

A soap opera is the first thing I ever tried writing that I can remember. I was thirteen. Determined, I hammered away on the ancient typewriter we had – yes, I am that old. I find it very odd now how I thought I could do this. But now that I am older and have some experience with life, I find I can actually write about it.

Here are a few lessons I’ve learned about writing based on my soap opera watching:

  • Repetition is bad. Soap operas are the worst for this. I often refrain from whipping my converter at the television when it occurs. But I get it. They’re looking for a new audience and often have to explain things should someone new be watching. This isn’t needed in novels, however. No one is picking up a book at page 113 wondering what happened before that point. Just a nudge of memory here or there should suffice if drudging up something a reader might not remember immediately.
  • Keep things interesting and moving. No one likes to watch/read the same thing droned on and on about – part of the reason I’ve stuck with General Hospital is that their plot actually moves along at a quick clip. You can tune out for six months and come back having (almost) no clue what’s going on.
  • Interesting characters are move fun to watch/read.
  • Cliché and one dimensional characters are boring to watch/read.
  • Make things believable – and if they aren’t you better have a good reason for it happening.
  • Tension should fluctuate. Too much and it becomes unbearable, too little and it becomes boring.

Have you ever found writing tips in unusual places?

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2 thoughts on “Writing Tips I’ve Learned from Watching Soap Operas

  1. Oh, I love this! And while my grandmother and I didn’t share a lot of interests, I loved that she had been a fan of As The World Turns back when Lisa Hughes had been considered a “vixen”. (My aunt was into it when Betsy and Steve were all the rage, and I got into it when Holden and Lily were the couple to watch.)

    I think it’s interesting that you don’t watch soap operas the way your grandmothers did; I think that’s the case for a lot of us, and I wonder if that’s part of why the soaps have gotten so much more fast-paced than they were before (and usually doing a better job of it than they had in days past).

  2. Pingback: Gardening Grannies and Magnificent Mom | Lydia Laceby

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