the Antipodean winter approaches, why not try your hand at writing?
Nothing too taxing, mind; something light airy would be best; something
like . . . a soapie.
is just like every other genre of writing it has its
conventions and key elements: a sonnet must have fourteen
lines; a Shakespearean drama must have an exposition, a
climax and denouement; a Three Act play must have . . .
well, three acts.
list of Must Haves if you're planning to write a Soapie:
square-jawed hero it's absolutely essential that you make it crystal
clear in your directions that the actor playing the hero must be able to
show the whole gamut of emotions from A to B ( . . . sorry, I pinched that
be able to look:
this is done by half-closing the eyes and parting the lips
anguished this is done by furrowing the brow
puzzled (this is where you really test the acting abilities of your
hero) the eyes must be half-closed AND the brow must be furrowed (phew .
. . challenging stuff).
academy-standard actors, those who know that less is more and that
subtlety rules, learning how to twitch that little muscle that runs down
the side of the jaw is well worth the effort. Then, as a writer, you
simply have to give your directions thus:
(hearing that lover is leaving): You're leaving? Now? (twitches muscle
(receiving news that child he thought was his is really his father's):
Not mine? (twitch)
(watching plane bearing his wife, mother, new lover and father off to
Paris for the weekend): (twitch twitch)
the nuclear family with its 2.2 children family relationships must be as
tangled and convoluted as is humanly possible. Allow me to illustrate: Mum
and Dad have two grown-up sons; Dad trades Mum in on a younger, spiffier
model and has two children with her. Mum hates new wife and vows to bring
ruin down upon her pretty, blonde head.
ditches Dad and takes up with son number one (her step-son as it happens .
. .) Just before the wedding, new wife is in a plane crash and is rescued
by . . . wait for it . . . a billionaire sultan who decides to keep her
for his harem.
being a tad thick, continues to plan the wedding, apparently not realising
that a wife is somewhat de rigueur for such events. When the hour of the
nuptials arrives, hero decides to cut his losses and marry nearest
available female who has been consoling him through recent episodes.
bliss must then be interrupted by the unexpected return of spiffy blonde.
Unperturbed by the fact that she's ditched Dad and missed out on son
number one, Spiffy sets her sights on a hat trick and seduces son number
meanwhile, has hatched a plot, with number one son's second-choice wife,
to finally rid themselves of Spiffy. Plot must backfire and son number one
must ditch second-choice wife and marry Spiffy.
in a disputed paternity for one of Spiffy and Dad's children could it be
that son number one is the father? (While Spiffy was married to Dad, she
was already making it a family affair.)
of disputed parentage must have a birthmark. This birthmark has only ever
been seen by the natural mother, the adopting mother and the nurse who was
present at the birth but who has since left the country for an exotic
naturally, has been secretly adopted by a key member of the family who
must be kept on tenterhooks in case someone discovers that the baby isn't
the advances made in telecommunications, and the various devices used by
characters in every episode mobile phones, telephones, hands-free
phones, lap-top computers etc it's imperative that every vital phone
call goes unanswered. In fact the only person who ever hears the phone
ringing on these occasions is the camera-man, and he knows exactly where
the ringing is coming from.
without saying that every character must be either a Mover or a Shaker.
Normal human beings do not a Soapie make.
medical profession is always a good choice plenty of opportunities for
your hero to look anguished and puzzled here and there's nothing like a
white uniform to get the pulses racing. The Law too allows you scope for
intrigue and passion. But the hands-down winning field has to be Fashion
no other background gives you quite the same scope to deck out the
heroines in flash frocks or to liven up the settings with foreign
more medical emergencies are required, preferably occurring at a crucial
point in the plot before a court case, prior to an important meeting,
when a birth is imminent. Don't feel at all inhibited here who knows
what advances medical science is going to make? Be in the vanguard of
modern technology and technique.
quite permissible for your hero or heroine to die at the end of one
episode and then to miraculously come back to life in the next (see
"advances in medical science" above). In Soapies, unlike real life, death
is not always permanent.
subject of medical emergencies . . . don't overlook the dramatic potential
of amnesia. It's an undisputed law that a hit on the head will cause
amnesia and a similar hit on the head (after a suitable passage of time)
will cure it. The amnesia is of a special kind, it never causes the victim
to forget how she did her hair or how she applied her make up, only who
criminal activity is, of course, essential. A stalker is good giving
ample opportunities for your heroine to be seen walking around in a flimsy
negligee; a hunky cat burglar adds a little spice if he's hurt while
getting away and forced to take off his shirt while the heroine (still
wearing that flimsy negligee) dabs cotton wool soaked in that lotion that
causes grown men to grimace, on his brow.
all, however, is a kidnapping. And best of all kidnappings are the ones
that nap kids! For the ultimate plot twist, have the kidnapper take the
child of disputed parentage (come on now . . . keep up . . . remember the
birthmark?) If the kidnapper happens to have connections to the nurse
(remember her?) and the billionaire sultan (you must remember him) and be
doing all this because . . . but I don't want to give you too many ideas .
characters will be self-educated they must be, because none of them ever
goes to school, not even the little children. This is just as well, since
it provides excellent training for their later lives when none of them
ever actually works. They'll all spend a great deal of time organising
meetings and conferences and flying around the world, but no-one ever
really does anything.
characters must have a fondness for talking to themselves, expressing all
their innermost thoughts, deepest desires and dastardly plots but only
when the one person in the whole world they don't want to hear them is
standing outside the half-opened door or under the half-opened window.
[ Jennifers successful Internet-based writing
business, which she runs from her Queensland home, may be found at