Soap Operas: Fifteen Unwritten Rules

HOPE DAWNS ETERNAL, my new paranormal soap opera thriller, is practically finished. I plan to have the final edit completed by my birthday, July 31st, and to make it available online in September, so it’s high time I start building some buzz about it.

Michael Easton as John McBain

Michael Easton as John McBain

My hero, Lieutenant Jonah McQuarry, is the narrator. With his years of experience as a soap character, he has an expert but often cynical take on the venerable traditions of daytime drama.

Here are fifteen of the conventions he talks about. While they’re not hard and fast rules, they occur more often than not. See what you think:

  1. When two friends or former spouses share a hug, usually in times of tension or grief, one of their significant others discovers them. That person may sneak away to brood in silence or may confront them openly, but either way, he or she refuses to believe it’s just a friendly hug.
  2. People don’t phone ahead to set up appointments or check whether someone is available. They prefer to drop in unexpectedly.
  3.  When someone knocks, those inside open the door without asking who it is, much less using an intercom or peephole.
    An exception occurs when there is no answer, the visitor barges in, and two people are caught in bed in flagrante delicto.
  4.  When a man and woman have spontaneous, unplanned sex, the woman gets pregnant.
  5. If the pregnancy is unwanted, it never ends in abortion. The woman may consider terminating the pregnancy and may even discuss it, but always decides to keep the fetus, which is always referred to as “the baby” even in the first few weeks.
  6. When two people are shown in a car, there will be a crash, usually resulting in a fatality or at least a life-threatening injury. It’s never just a fender bender.
  7. When people share confidential information with each other, they do so in a public place, and usually in perfectly audible voices. Preferred locations are parks, hallways, bars and restaurants. It follows that:
  8.  Someone is eavesdropping. That person will share the information in nefarious ways.
  9.  The people who shared the information will be flabbergasted that the news got out, and will usually blame each other for spilling the secret.
  10.  Anyone who shares a secret on condition that the other person swears never to tell another soul is delusional, because that person always confides it to someone else.
  11. People spend enormous amounts of time discussing and bringing each other up to date on the goings-on of everyone else.
  12. Many of these people have professional careers or run newspapers or corporations, but they are rarely shown at work, and they never let their responsibilities interfere with the more important business of discussing the other characters. Partial exceptions include cops, doctors, lawyers and others whose jobs impact directly on the plot.
  13. Those with no discernable jobs or income nevertheless live in lavish or at least comfortable living quarters.
  14. These living quarters are always immaculate and clutter-free, though the inhabitants are never shown cleaning house.
  15. Unless someone is shown actually dying, for example flat-lining in an intensive care unit, that person can never be considered unconditionally dead. Even flat-liners can sometimes be miraculously resurrected. At the very least, they can come back as ghosts.

Can you think of any soap opera conventions I’ve left out? Do you disagree with any of mine, or do you want to elaborate on them? Please leave me your comments. And please subscribe to this blog so as not to miss any exciting new developments as publication of HOPE DAWNS ETERNAL draws near.

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Alison Armstrong
    Jul 25, 2014 @ 18:51:39

    Witty, perceptive commentary on soap opera conventions. One thing you might add–when people answer the door, if they are male, they are usually shirtless and often have come from the shower, having a towel wrapped around them. Sometimes women also answer the door with just a towel wrapped around them provocatively.

    Reply

  2. www.julielomoe.wordpress.com
    Aug 27, 2014 @ 13:45:23

    Thanks for commenting, Alison. That’s a good one. But it applies mostly to the younger guys, like “Detective Sexypants,” and the ones who work out a lot, like Maurice Benard.

    Reply

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