For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a huge fan of soap operas. My four favorites were The Young & the Restless (I love Victor and Nikki) and The Bold & the Beautiful (I’ll always think that Ridge and Brooke belong together), along with two others that are no longer on the air, As the World Turns (one word, CarJack), and The Guiding Light (Reva and Josh…soulmates).
Just recently, I found my first short story, which was taken off from a scene from The Bold & the Beautiful. It was about a scene that I’d seen that day (thanks for leaving the TV on, Mom). At that time (all those years ago—we won’t say how many), I was obsessed with the names Brooke and Ridge, so I didn’t change them. While the story wasn’t too bad, it could’ve been so much better if I’d used the following three tips, which I’ve learned from watching soaps:
1: Readers want hot/fantasy guys, but make them real: Ladies, admit it—we all have book boyfriends, right? I know I do! Most of the men in soaps are tall, dark and handsome, have chiseled jaws, and a body you could only fantasize about touching. The truth is that men like that really don’t exist…at least in the “real world.”
As an author, I want my heroes to be the best they can be, which means that what I really want is for them to be the perfect man—like the one who plays on in the soaps. The only problem with this is that I want my readers to be able to relate to the characters in my books, yet still be able to fantasize about them, too.
There are two tricks to this; the first is to make him a nerdy-type who’s really good in bed and has a delightfully charming personality (like James Bond, for example), and the second is to make him a handsome man, but with a quirk or a birthmark (for example, if he’s eating a meal, he eats the foods in alphabetical order, or he has a mole between his eyes…something along those lines).
2: More drama/conflict, the better: Another thing to admit is that we watch soap operas for the storylines (for some reason we’re drawn to know who slept with who, which sister is pregnant with your favorite heroine’s husband’s baby, and who killed Alan Spaulding), so as a writer, adding drama to your storyline is very important. It makes for a page-turner, where most often your reader will be staying up until late into the night reading your book.
One of my most favorite things about being an author is creating drama/conflict for my characters. Whatever the drama/conflict is, be sure that it’s something that can’t be fixed in a few sentences or pages—make your characters fight to solve it, and make your readers curious as to how it ends up.
The trick to this one is to be creative, and think outside the box. If you’re at a loss for ideas for storylines, observe people around you, watch TV (even something you thought you’d never be caught watching), or put yourself in the situations you’d want to be in, and go with it.
3: Watch actions and expressions: One of my biggest issues is writing actions or expressions. As of recently, I’ve learned to watch how soap opera characters closely (this involves everything from gestures, hand placement, nervous habits, etc.). This will help you will draw the reader in, and make them feel emotions about what’s going on with the storyline.
To do this, I encourage you to watch soaps, but one you don’t normally watch—only because you’ll be too busy watching the storyline unfold. But if you can’t do that, put your TV on mute and just watch. If you can you determine what your character is thinking or feeling, then you’re on the right track. Now, go write!