Giving Soap Writers Credit

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Blast from the Past: It's a dirty, thankless job!

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Dear Suds Buds:

When I was in high school and college, soaps in the afternoon was the nature of things.  Some of my college cronies would even schedule their classes around a favorite show.  All My Children was big in my college dorm.  No one scheduled classes from 1-2 PM ET so they could watch it. 

Soap operas always intrigued me because of the writing.  You literally do play God as a writer of soaps.  You create characters and situations, kill characters off, bring them back to life, get their evil twins involved, etc.  As long as developments grow out of character, the audience will usually buy into the storyline. 

Back then, I always used to say that I’d love to write for soaps.  Figured it would be such fun!  Little did I know -- and knowing what I know now, writing for soaps is a dirty thankless job and those that do it, deserve a lot more credit than they usually get. 

How would you like to be putting out close to 300 pages of script a week?  There is never a re-run in soaps, save for the occasional network gift of a previous Xmas episode, and rarely a pre-emption.  Writers are creating for soaps 5 days a week, 52 weeks a year. It is a monumental task.

Take this column for example. I started to write it last night.  I sat at the computer, starring at the monitor for about an hour before finally giving up and going to bed. There was just nothing in me that wanted to get out on the page. There was nothing important I wanted to say. The creativity well was all dried up.  And this is a column for a soap opera website.  This is not writing 300 pages of dialog and action a week. 

Nope, I don’t envy the writers of soaps.  Not only must they be clever and witty and include pathos, empathy, blood and guts, in their storytelling each week, but they must also consider actors “outs,” those clauses in an actor’s contract that gives time time off to do other projects, or take vacation; actors’ demands:  “I am working too much. I am not working enough;” and of course every word written is pending network and sometimes, sponsor, review before it ever gets on the air – meaning numerous “re-writes.”

Writing for a soap is a true calling -- one of dedication and stamina.  What do they do when the creative well dries up?  Where do they go for inspiration?  I give soap opera writers a whole lot of credit. They work hard while enduring constant criticism from fans wanting different things for the same characters—the famous “fan factions.”

Yup. I give soap opera writers tons of credit.  They forge ahead under any and all circumstances.  Feeling as I do today, totally drained, and creatively dry, I couldn’t imagine being faced with writing or editing 300 pages of script for the week.  Tons and tons of credit…

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