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Thursday, July 7, 2011

Rent-A-Plot: Recycled Soaps

Those who have read my work can agree that twists and “oh shit” moments appear frequently, and I fear the childhood brainwashing of daytime soaps is the culprit. For as far as I can remember, I’ve had some badly scripted melodrama playing in the background from noon to 3 pm. I blame my mother. Babysitters were too expensive.

Lately, I’ve been watching a few shows and I haven’t missed much as far as originality. No, I’m not gonna tell you what show, because EVERY soap writer uses the same wheel-of-plot. So here are a few that I’ve come across. The bad acting, gratuitous parade of shirtless men, and pointless inner/outer monologue aside, these are the clichés that really get under my skin.

THE PATERNITY TEST SWITCH

I can’t even enter the waiting room of Sentara without getting patted down by security and butch nurses. How the hell do these women grab a white coat, sneak into the lab; know exactly where the files are hidden, and forge documentation/ blood samples? Are there NO cameras in the hospital? Is there no creepy custodian lurking around? At least do something creative, like bribe the lab tech guy.

THE BAD ONE-NIGHT STAND

You can see this train wreck coming a mile away. It starts out with someone drunk/upset and sleeps with a random guy then wakes up the next day, pretending that it didn’t happen. They also forget a little something call contraceptives, AIDS tests, and the morning-after pill. You’d expect teen girls to act this careless, but the women on these shows have degrees and run corporations. For any other person, a quick trip to the local CVS would be the first stop during the ‘walk of shame’ home. But that would interfere with the plot, which is … you guessed it, she gets pregnant and is not sure who the father is. This bombshell usually leads to the aforementioned paternity switch cliché.

THE DOPPELGANGER

There’s always an imposter/ long lost twin/ sci-fi worthy plastic surgery that makes a villain look exactly like one of the main characters. They have the same height, weight, body fat ratio, eye color, dental work, voice pitch, freckles and birthmarks. At least the movie Face-off tried to fix some of these inconsistencies. Anyway, this evil replica somehow kidnaps the main character, traps them in a dungeon, and passes themself off as that person. Where do they find these dungeons? What kind of friends/ family members can’t tell the difference? Why does it take six months to figure it out?

THE BLACKMAILER

Everyone does a little dirt, some more than others, some worse than most. But there comes a time where you need to man-up and face the music. If you slept with someone’s husband—tell his wife (and your own husband) and deal with the fallout. But no, you drag it out for six months, chuck out money, lose sleep, create more lies, and then plot to kill your blackmailer. Honesty is the best policy and if you’re anything like me, it will be worth it when the person is put in jail for extortion.

These plots have been done to DEATH. If anything, these popcorn shows have taught me what Not to do in my own writing, yet keep the element of suspense. There are A lot more but these are the ones that stand out the most, and I thought this would be a good topic to discuss regarding bad writing. If you can name anymore, leave a comment.

3 comments:

  1. Soap Operas also rely heavily on the lack of communication. The characters jump to conclusions without ever actually checking the facts by talking to the source. That gets aggravating.

    Also the "he's dead! No, he's alive! And he's dead again! No, he's alive! He's dead...or is he?" Comic books are bad for that too, sadly.

    The biggest two aggravations for me though are:

    1. Comas that last long enough for convenience, but from which the character wakes up just fine. (Comas that last for more than a couple of days are rare, and the likelihood of waking up from one that long isn't great).

    2. The amnesia plot. This is the worst for me. The characters who experiencing amnesia are experiencing "fugue", which is not at all common.

    They must be able to write something other than this...

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oh yes!

    The thing about soaps is though. Noone watches them for originality. They watch them because they love the dirt. Love to see people in these situations.

    I don't think people read for the same reasons.

    I agree with Taymalin's other plots as well.

    and one more plot:

    I've secretly been your mother/father/brother/sister etc all along.
    A new character turns up, and somehow they're a secret love-child that noone ever mentioned for the last 25 years, and they're sleeping wiht their sibling of course, or about to marry them.

    ReplyDelete
  3. All good points. One of my absolute fave is the conveniently timed interruption:

    “Honey, I have something to tell you. I been meaning to find the time to tell the truth about—“

    The phone rings/ someone walks in/ the person gets distracted/ car crash

    Moments/ days later, the person asks, “What were you going to tell me, dear?”

    “Oh nothing. It can wait?"

    I HATE THAT!!!

    ReplyDelete

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