Back before Battle Star Galactica started in on its downward decent towards mediocrity, I can recall an evening in which I watched an episode that my wife commented on. “It’s like watching a soap opera,” she said. To which I responded, “Whatever.”
But on reflection, I realized that she was right. It was pretty much a soap opera, just one set in the future/distant past, and in space. Lee loved Kara, who used to love his brother, but she got stranded and fell in love with a jock, but a cylon fell in love with her, and maybe she does love Lee, but Lee is with Dee and then Kara and Lee get a bit too close for comfort so Dee leaves and Lee’s alone and Kara’s crazy but she does love her jock who turns out to be a cylon but not the cylon that loved her but that’s okay because she’s an angel and . . . . yeah, total soap opera.
Just the other night I was sitting and watching Netflix with my wife. She was watching a Master Piece Theatre collection. Midway through the first episode I said, “So it’s basically a soap opera set in the 1800’s?” “Yeah, basically,” she said. (She’s much more mature about these sorts of things than I am).
So there’s my thought. All storytelling is a soap opera in some form or another. Life is a soap opera. That’s why romance novel’s sell like hotcakes, and teenage angsty stories like Twilight capture the hearts of the young. What’s Pride and Prejudice if not a soap opera from a different era? Greek tragedies? Soap operas. All stories are some form of emotional conflict wrapped up in the messiness that is the human condition.
Here’s your license to go out and write a soap opera. It’s just the degree of how obvious you make it that sets it apart from other works of art. Use too many clichés and you wander down the path of teenage melodrama, be inventive and you’ve got the next The Kite Runner. The choice is yours in so far as the degree, but not in the act placing drama in the story, for without it there is no story.