Katherine MK Mitchell had three screenplays optioned for film and once wrote a soap opera bible for Columbia TV. Mitchell, a former Hollywood member of the Writers Guild of America, believes there's much we can learn from the now-fading phenomenon of daily soaps. I have the chance to share her ideas below.
Some years ago, daytime serialized drama on radio and television became popular fare for stay-at-home mothers and wives. Manufacturers of soaps and other household items rushed to buy time as commercial sponsors of the programs. Due to the sentimental nature of mostly domestic storylines, the reference to “soap opera” evolved from a passing nickname to a real form of creative writing.
There is learning everywhere and in everything. Seek it out. Blind faith cannot be a reliable guiding light.
Here are 5 things we can learn from soap operas.
- Relationships are the backbone of our lives. They are also the backbone of written works. The advice suggested in any work of art may be carved in stone—but not so in real life. Remember, art imitates life – then imitated life reflects in art.
Your own relationships are special unto themselves and as flexible as you are.
- Soap operas are immersed in emotional turmoil, similes of action, big resolutions designed to disintegrate, and always, always have designated storyline settings. Learn that literary liberties are for the purpose of entertainment—not for application in your own relationships.
Leave the drama to the soaps.
- Soap opera relationships, the characters’ machinations of one another are reminiscent to real life as known by the creator of the storyline. That’s only one point of view. According to the rules of soap opera writing, dramatic storylines cannot be altered in midstream to change directions that were established in the master storyline – also known as the story bible.
In real life you are not compelled by a predesigned outline and you can and should serve yourself in your relationships.
- Soap opera is a therapeutic school of life. It tugs at the heart. It is good. See it as therapy disguised as escapism. We don’t need to take it to heart.
You don’t escape from your relationships, but through therapy or self-help you can resolve the issues that do not serve you or the relationships.
- Relationships are all we have in life. Don’t worry about showing emotions. It can only help. Not showing them can hurt. Watching a soap opera character making mistakes, being betrayed, being too trusting, should not be our own learning experience only our entertainment. We must be mindful of what we absorb.
Be honest with yourself about your feelings and relationships.