Can Soap Operas Help Us With Our Writing?

The soap opera medium, and how helpful is it to writing ebook fiction, is a question which has always been on my mind. Can soap operas actually help writers with the mechanics of writing, or, is it a form which is of little assistance to writers?

While soap operas and book fiction are two different forms, with alternative rules, and ways of doing things, they do have much in common. The soap opera is a form that has a beginning, middle, and no end, unlike books, which have a start and finish point. The only similarity may be book series which have several instalments. As soap operas are daily serials, broadcast five days a week, all through the year, a book, on the other hand, can be picked up, and finished whenever the reader wishes, and does not require the same level of commitment. Apart from these, there are some other differences to books that are easily discerned.

With the soap opera, the viewer is presented with the characters and story location onscreen, with little need for them to imagine what the characters look like, where they live, and what they do. In a book, the author creates for the reader the story world, either as a light sketch, or, as a full-blown depiction of the characters and their narrative world.

Another striking difference between the two mediums is the use of repetition. The necessity of this in soap operas is of paramount importance, serving, in a practical manner, to inform viewers of events they may have missed if they have not viewed several episodes. The same does not largely apply for books. If there is too much rehashing of events in a book, it may hamper the book’s appeal to readers, and, also, slow down the action. While there may be much to separate the two forms, I believe that they converge in one main way, which would be very helpful to writers.

As an example of this, I will utilize a vintage clip from the soap opera ANOTHER WORLD to illustrate this. The older clips of soap operas, in my opinion, while longer in time frame than newer episodes, displayed a great attention to characters, their emotions, and their psychological worlds, which is fascinating the watch. Exposure to these scenes would be extremely useful to writers who wish to write intense, full-blooded emotional scenes which explore a theme in great detail. I have attached one such scene from ANOTHER WORLD from 1973 between Jacqueline Courtney and George Reinholt as the on-again, off-again lovers Alice and Steve Frame, which I hope you find both interesting, and helpful.

And, as always, I will end my post with a question in which I would be interested in learning of your opinion; can soap operas help us with our writing?


2 thoughts on “Can Soap Operas Help Us With Our Writing?

  1. I have never seen a soap opera that isn’t fiction, generally bad repetitious fiction with a boringly meaningless plot of safe-for-daytime-TV scandals that try to be shocking.
    fiction=’not real’
    Writing isn’t the only form of fiction. Writers should try to know the meaning of the words they use.

    • I have clarified what I meant by fiction in the article by adding the word ‘e-book’ to parts where it seemed a little confusing. For the purposes of the article I have just concentrated upon e-books to make the comparisons less convoluted, and to try to not make the focus too broad, and exclude other mediums such as film.

      To be honest, from my viewing experience over the years, there are many soap operas where acting, writing and production came together in a beautiful, affecting manner, and which did not depend upon gimmicks or too many melodramatic plot twists. This is why I used the example of ANOTHER WORLD as, from memory, it was the pinnacle of writing in its era.

      There are, though, other spellbinding examples from other serials such as GUIDING LIGHT, DAYS OF OUR LIVES, THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS and other serials which showcase more psychological material. Youtube has many of these, and they are a resource for people interested in older clips.

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