Soap Up!

Because you might get a little dirty... watching day-time soaps! LOL

A soap opera is the perfect example of how to hook a reader. Every day millions of women and men spend an hour of their day watching these. Maybe more. Five days a week.

What makes a soap so compelling?

1) Hooks, hooks, hooks
2) Conflict
3) Drama
4) All of the above is constant

Why do you think soap operas are so addictive? Have you ever watched one? What elements of a soap opera could you incorporate into your writing to make it stronger?


Tabitha Bird said…
Yeah, I have been been guilty :) I hope most novels move faster than a soap though. And my answer would be 4-all of the above. And possibly that mum are home with little kids and craving some drama that doesn't involve a dirty diaper- LOL.
Jessica Nelson said…
Hahaa! Tabitha, you're right about that drama. LOL
I know, I gave up soaps when I moved out of my mom's house because it aggravated me so bad how I'd have to watch every day to find out what happened!
Katie Ganshert said…
Oh wow, this is SO true. I have to NOT watch General Hospital, because if I start, I can't stop...I can't believe I just admitted that. And that's exactly why - always conflict, ALWAYS hooks. Even though they are ridiculous, they know how to grab your attention. Never thought about relating them to writing.... Very interesting, Jessica. Definitely something to think about. :)
Debra E. Marvin said…
I grew up on them with my mom and gram and so, when my kids were babies it was a natural for my 'afternoon ME time' while I caught up on household tasks. I quit and went to reading books instead.

(I notice in the ads that the same people are still having the same terrible things happen to them 20 yrs later! )

ANYWAY -to me, it's the cliff hanger endings used in almost every scene. Someone says something terrible and they all pause and look at each other. It's totally overdone and funny but it keeps people coming back.

PS Congrats on your 100% completion, Jessica!
Jody Hedlund said…
I haven't watched soap operas, but I'm sure there's a lot to learn about hooking, because I can't believe people feel the need to keep watching them day after day! Must be something to them that draws people back!
Jessica Nelson said…
LOL Katie,
You're right. They just suck you into the lives of the characters. And even though there's lots of unrealistic stuff, the characterization is strong. The emotions are real, even if they're to the extreme of ordinary. :-)
Unknown said…
I haven't watch GH in years! I always forget all the characters! I think it's mostly the hooks, and possibly the mooshy love stories.
I was going to post on Soaps tomorrow!! Great minds...!

I have to admit to watching Days of Our Lives for years. Haven't watched a Soap in forever until the other day when I tuned in while flipping channels. Sure enough I knew almost everyone and the story lines.

I learn a lot from soaps by watching the interactions, expressions and emotions of characters on them. And I love how they definitely hook you! Learn a lot from the Soaps!
Jessica Nelson said…
LOL Debra!!! YOu're right, the same bad things keep happening, but in different ways. Snort!

Thanks for the congrats. Now I'm smoothing things out. Or trying. LOL

I grew up with soaps too. It was a big thing. We'd all sit down with our lunch and just veg for an hour. LOL
Jessica Nelson said…
Oh Jody, if you only knew!!! Heeehee. Just be smart and don't start watching. :-)
Jessica Nelson said…
Hi Marybeth,
That's funny how you forget the characters. It's been years since I watched All My Children but I remember the main ones. Who could forget Erica Kane? (Susan Lucci) She's amazing. LOL

I think the romance is a huge part of the lure of soap operas too. :-)
Jessica Nelson said…
Hi Donna,
You're right, there is a ton of emotions in soaps. Makes them relatable, in a way. Funny, didn't we almost post on the same thing before too? Haircuts? LOL
MeganRebekah said…
I used to be *obsessed* with GH (and really all ABC soaps). In high school I would record them on VHS and watch them after school (oh those days before Tivo). And during the summer I worked for my parents and was supposed to be home in time for soaps, but if I had to stay late I'd get so mad. Seriously.

Then college and life took over... but a couple times a year I catch a few minutes, or glance at the covers and sigh.
Jessica Nelson said…
Hehee! Megan, my high school ended at twelve when I was in eleventh grade. I always rushed home to catch AMC. LOL
Cindy R. Wilson said…
I don't watch soap operas, but I think it's all about the drama and the romance.
anita said…
I'm a Days of our Lives girl. My mom and I both watch it daily (I tape it when I work--heh)and then we rehash the storylines and gripe or cheer about the characters later on the phone. Heehee

I agree they're popular and good writing fodder for the reasons stated above. But there's also things to learn NOT to do from a soap. Someone pointed out dragging the story out to long. That's one.

But my fave is how to NOT write dialogue. Often in soaps, they repeat something that earlier took place in someone's dialogue to remind the viewers of the incident, or where we're at in the story. It comes across as very contrived and lame, so it's helped me to be conscious not to do that in my writing.
Jessica Nelson said…
Hey Anita,
Wow, it's been so long that I didn't remember that about dialogue. But I never watched DOL either, only AMC. Too funny! Yes, the dragging out would make me so mad!
I didn't know that about you and your mom! :-)
Kristen Painter said…
I haven't watched soaps since high school. When I lived in NYC and worked for Christian Dior, I helped the Guiding Light wardrobe person coordinate accessories for a wedding they were shooting.
Jessica Nelson said…
Kristen, that's so cool! Wow, what a story. What did you do at Christian Dior? Was it always coordinating?
It's been years since I've watched a soap. But I'd almost turn the tv on now and call it research. Fear in doing so? Yes. The last thing I need is to get addicted to a daily show. ;)
Jessica Nelson said…
Hahaa! The things we do for research... LOL!
i went through a stage of about 3-4 years where i watched 2 different soaps: days of our lives and passions (do NOT give me grief over wasn't the best of soaps, but there was one love story i couldn't get enough of!). i started watching them b/c of my grandmother...she loved them. then i got involved in the only takes a few days in consecutive order to get hooked. i kept watching them sometimes to see if the writers ever wrote something that was sane (you know, someone NOT coming back from the dead or from being demon-possessed). but it was always the conflict the loves stories had to watch just to make sure they'd get/stay together!
Stephanie Faris said…
I was addicted to Days of Our Lives in high school, as were all my friends. I loved the conflict and the characters and the (sigh) romance. But after a while it all seemed repetitive and I lost interest once I reached college.
Jessica Nelson said…
LOL Jeannie! Who says grandmothers are a good influence? Heeehee.

I agree. Some of the romances are verrrry compelling.
Jessica Nelson said…
Hi Stephanie,
I think it does get repetitive after awhile. The producer people must be really loyal too, because I always think it's a hoot when a character who's been dead for ten years suddenly comes back on the show. LOL
Dara said…
Yes I used to watch them. I used to watch all the ones on ABC--from Port Charles at 12:30 to General Hospital at 3.

It annoys me though to go back and see what's happened and how many characters I liked that they killed off. But then I tell myself that to just give it time because the dead always mysteriously come back :P I haven't watched them in years but occassionally if I'm home from work early enough, I'll get curious and change it to ABC to see what's happening on GH. But it never stays on long.

It also annoys me when they change who plays the characters...oh and when half the babies that are "born" either die or their born early because Mom gets pushed down stairs, or kidnapped, or in a car accident...

Oh and aging the kids. They like to make one that's supposed to be five ten years older in order to get the teen audience. Or something.

And yes, I can pick all of these out because I watched them for too many years, thanks to my mom (from about sixth grade through high school).
I can not watch Soap Operas. Those hooks and drama just does not reel me in!

Congrats! I see your bar has reached the 100% mark! Yaaaaaaaaaaaay, Jessica! What's next?

Jessica Nelson said…
LOL Dara! You're too funny and I totally get what you mean. Snort! They DO age the kids crazy-like, whereas the adults never age. LOL

I hate it too when a character I loved comes back from the "dead" (LOL) but it's a different actor. Heh.
Jessica Nelson said…
That's good! While they have some good qualities for us to study writing-wise, morally they're not the best. LOL

As for the manuscript, I reached my word count, now I'm going to print it up, read through it, then find some readers to tell me what's still wrong with it. :-)
Keli Gwyn said…
Jessica, I'm dating myself, but I remember being hooked on Dallas, which was billed as the first prime-time soap opera. Like so many, I waited to find out who shot J.R. Ewing. In those days, I didn't even know what a VCR was, so it was live or nothing--until summer reruns. (Yup Seriously dating myself. LOL.)

What I see as a strength of soap operas are the characters we grow to love (or not) and the strong hooks we're left with at the end of scenes and episodes. Those lingering questions keep viewers coming back. As you said, these are aspects we want to incorporate in our stories.
Tana said…
I used to get addicted every summer when I was a teen! Thank God for VCR's back then. Every now and again I watch Y&R. (on fancast) but the rest have left me dry.... I enjoy my plot lines to move a little quicker. Come to think of it soap plot lines are sort of on par with the glacial pace of the publishing industry lol! Fun post.
Hi Jess -

As a teenager, I'd race home from school to catch, "Another World." As they grew raunchy, I abandoned them.

There's very little I watch on TV now. Antiques Roadshow, American Idol, and Christian TV - that's about it.

Susan :)
Kara said…
You are so right, they have so many hooks. I try not to watch them unless I am folding or cleaning. They do move slow in the sense that you can not watch one for a month and then watch an episode and not be behind,lol.
Warren Baldwin said…
Make the conflict something that could arise in the lives of ordinary people. wb
Elana Johnson said…
Beautiful people + sexual tension + murder mystery = great TV watching. This also makes a great recipe for novels.
The only time I ever watched soaps was with my college roommate who was addicted to Days of Our Lives, and then we started watching Passions too, but that was mostly for laughs because it was so terrible.

I think you're right though that soaps do have that ability to keep people watching. I think there greatest ability is being able to sustain tension over a long period of time.
~Brenda said…
I think they're addictive because they're all about relationships - and so am I! Because I'm female! :-)

Having said that, I broke that habit years ago. I'm on to much more spiritual things. You know, like blog hopping.

Jessica Nelson said…
You guys are so funny! Thanks for sharing your soap opera experiences with me. I love hearing what you've learned, what you watched, what you thought stunk. LOL!
Jessica Nelson said…
LOL Brenda. I'll confess blog-hopping is my addiction too!
I watched one soap opera in my entire life - and just for a little while - it was the "Luke and Laura" thing waaayy back in the 70's ---

I like to entice people by leaving something at the end of a chapter or sometimes the beginning, but I don't know if I do it always, and effectively! :)
Jessica Nelson said…
Luke and Laura... would that be General Hospital? LOL! Never watched it but I'm sure I've heard those names. :-)

I'll bet you do it great! Still have your book on my wish list.... but very soon, I'm snatching it up!
Karen Hossink said…
How funny! Just today I was thinking about the soap I used to watch. (When I was in junior high!!!) Guiding Light was my show.
Is that still on?
And is Reva still in love with Josh???
I think the hooks, drama and conflict all kept me coming back for more. But it was so unrealistic!!! (Of course, I didn't think it was terribly unrealistic at the time...)

Wonder if I could spice up the drama in what goes on around my house to make my writing more fun? *grin*
Deb Shucka said…
It's all those naked feelings, and unlikely crises, and really great clothes. I haven't watched for years, but at one time in my life I arranged my days so I could be home for all three ABC afternoon soaps.
Stephanie said…
I've been an All My Children fan since before high about 18 years...yikes!!! I so love it for all the reasons you mentioned...constant drama...always something going on!!! Always something new! You get to "know" the characters so well...most times when I'm reading a's my soap characters envision..I know how they talk, ow they's easy to envision them in any situation.

I think this show has had a huge impact on my writing...I write contemporary romance/women's fiction. I even wrote a novelette about a woman who writes and got a gig writing for her favorite soap and eventually became one of the show's stars! LOL!
Pen Pen said…
Ya know...I was reading today about first novels--I think that authors can start slower in books-or really not have too many hooks, EXCEPT when it comes to the first novel. I think the break out novel get you INTO the business and sometimes isn't your most...thoughtful work. By that I mean- 'A Brief History of Time' probably wouldn't push your name into the market as well as a story like 'The Devil Wears Prada'. 'Devil' is kind of surface material that draws you in--I'm not positive of the point I'm trying to make-I just mean that I think hooks and quick turns and stuff is important to get people's attention. Look at 'THe Da Vinci Code'-THat was not Dan Brown's first book, but it put him on the map and NOW people are going back and reading his "less explosive" stuff... :)
Pen Pen said…
Oh! And I forgot to answer ur question u asked in this comment from my blog on Katherine Heigl:
-I didn't watch this but I've heard she's a little bit snobby.

Maybe they get paid so much because of the hours and the work? Did you take drama? Hmmm, now I'm trying to remember about your comment on my post...or if you made a comment. LOL! I'm sorry.

Anyways, do you know how many scenes they have to do over and over and over. Blech.

I don't doubt at all that actors and actresses work hard. I think they're overpaid but at the same time it's the demand for them that does it. So those who do well and enchant people deserve recompense for their hard work.
But she... well, my sister can't stand her so I bet it's the way she's talking that irritated you. Maybe I will watch it after all. LOL!-
I was in drama for a while in school and I do feel bad for all the other actors who were working 17 hours, but the way she said it came off snobby and entitled to me...I would just hate to be a starving actor who hasn't gotten a break that would do anything to have an acting job like hers and hear her complaining about long hours. If it happens way too much-that's different, but I read somewhere else that the long shooting days she was having this year was to accommodate her schedule for promoting her new movie and to keep with union regulations. She just rubbed me the wrong way-I know it's an exhausting job, but I just felt it was out of line. I worked at a juvenile detention one year and had to pick up some extra shifts when a bout of the flu hit my coworkers-I slept there like 6 days a week and worked about 18 hrs a day...but I was doing counseling-something I LOVE, and I was lucky to have a job-They selected me and my other 5 coworkers out of 300 candidates. I just can't imagine complaining publicly about such an amazing opportunity. I was hurting for all the other unknown actors.
ANYWHO- Sorry this comment was CRAZY long! AND-Sorry it took me a couple days to get back to u on the question :)
LOTS of love!! :)
Jessica Nelson said…
Hey Pen Pen,
I didn't even expect you to get back to me, so thanks! ;-) No, I agree with you and though I still didn't watch the clip, I def. think it was her and how she talks. Maybe she got famous too fast? YOu know? Never had to work at it... I don't know. Maybe she was really exhausted when she did the interview, snort! I just hope she's careful 'cause the public is fickle and nobody likes a snob. We like Sandra Bullocks and Meg Ryans. LOL!!!

As for books, I agree with you there too! Really! I'm actually fixing to pitch a book that I think is my strongest because of the unique premise, but if no one wants it then I'll be writing something new rather than pitching my others, simply because my others don't have such cool hooks. I think they're solid plots, but not "great" enought to break me into the industry.
Thanks Penny, for commenting! I always like reading what you have to say.
Jessica Nelson said…
LOL Karen,
I'm not sure any personal kind of drama can be fun. *sigh* Only other people's drama is hilarious. LOL Particularly fiction!
Jessica Nelson said…
Oooh Deb!!! You were hooked! ROFL I love how you say "naked emotions". They really are, and we respond to that.
Jessica Nelson said…
I'll bet you have some great hooks then! :-) My mom always loved AMC and I liked it too. While I got annoyed with the waits and sometimes with the "reappearances" of characters, most of the time I thought the characters were very real and very relatable. They do a good job of rounding out their villains too. Everyone has a goal and a motivation.
When I was a teenager, i got hooked on "Dark Shadows." I laugh when i think about it now, it was so silly. But you are absolutely right, the hooks and constant drama keep you coming back day after day, even though the story line is pretty predictable.

Wonderful post! You amaze me.
Jessica Nelson said…
Hey Jen,
LOL Why do I amaze you? :-) I've never heard of that show before. Now I need to google it!
Genny said…
I watched the Young and the Restless when I was in high school a few times, but never got hooked (only because we weren't allowed to watch a lot of TV in my family). But I agree...a story isn't a story without a good hook.
Robyn Campbell said…
Don't watch them. But I can see how addicting they could be. Romance and the unbelievable amount of tension draws the people in. :)
I used to watch General Hospital when my first few children were small and took naps. It was a way to escape! But they always end with a cliffhanger and a pregnant pause!!!! lol

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