Thursday, July 30, 2009
Soap Operas: The Mother of all conflicts (and father of everyone on the show.)
~by CiCi Barnes
Watched any good soap operas lately? Or should I leave out the ‘good’ in that question?
Now that I work from home . . . Work? Who said writing was work? Just throw words on the screen, send it to a publisher and wah-la, you’re an author. But I digress. Now that I work from home, I get to take an hour and a half for lunch, unlike when I taught school and had maybe twenty minutes.
I make the chicken salad, pull out the carrots and grapes (trying to counteract the consumed chocolate while working) and settle into my lounge chair for a trip through Genoa City. I think that’s in Michigan, or maybe Wisconsin. Not sure, and neither here nor there. It’s a soap opera city, where conflict abounds. A great place to see how throwing your characters to the wolves really works.
I’m conflict-challenged. My first heroine was deemed ‘too nice’ by my critique partner. So was my hero. They needed to mix it up a little bit. Actually, a lot. But I was told to write what I know, and I know peace and harmony. After all, I was a teenager in the ‘60’s. Flower child, extraordinaire, here.
I don’t like conflict in my life. It really gets in the way of a good day, week, month, etc. Hubby knows I don’t like conflict and does his best to waylay it for me. Such a wonderful man.
But my characters need conflict, have to have it to survive the world of publishing. Where to go to see terrific conflict? Books by great authors can do the trick, but if you have a life outside writing, it takes more than an hour or so to read through the entire story to see how the conflict arises, flows and is resolved.
Here’s where the soap opera comes in. A daily trip to Genoa City (for me – you may have another town in Conflict Land) gives me all the conflict I can handle – and some I can’t. Those characters get into more trouble in an hour than I could think up in a lifetime. One character is pregnant. She doesn’t know if the father is Ex 1, Ex 2, or the brother of Ex 2. She’s bounced from Ex 1 to Ex 2 so many times, the kid might be a mix of the two. I mean, two of those little swimmers could have collided inside her and exploded right into her egg. How’s that for conflict? I think I’ve watched one too many episodes.
Another character’s son died, then she found out that her real son was switched at birth, so the dead son wasn’t really her son. The real son found her after 30 years and came home to her. But the mother of the son of the unreal son found out the son that came home wasn’t really the son. The dead son was the real son and he wasn’t even dead. He finally showed up, announced he’d been alive all these years and had faked his death. Are you still with me? Yeah, right.
But I think you get the picture – or not. If you want to see conflict in action, watch a soap opera. Even if you only take a pinch of what you see in an hour show to help you with your WIP, you’ll have more than enough conflict to sustain your book to The End. The two examples I’ve cited are a skip through the meadow compared to all the other things that go on.
Here’s a small sample of some conflict I’ve foisted onto one of my characters, mild compared to what you read above, but I’m working on it. My inner flower child is quite stubborn.
“I think I’ve traveled back in time.”
She watched him smother a grin.
“I mean it, Jaybo.”
He cleared his throat. “I’m sure you do. When did this happen? What time did you go to? How?”
Was that a note of condescension she heard in his voice? It better not be. She wasn't adverse to slapping him up side the head.
“It’s happening right now.”
His confused look would not deter her. An explanation existed somewhere in the mist of the universe and Jaybo was going to help her find it.
“You’re back in time now?”
She nodded, holding her breath, waiting for him to laugh at her, tell her he’d changed his mind. She was mentally delusional.
“You’re telling me you’ve been in the future and now you’ve traveled back to relive your youth?”
“I don’t know what I’ve traveled back in time to do.”
He stared at her in the midst of a long sigh. She wouldn’t blame him if he got up and walked out of the room. He didn’t, though, just sat back in the chair next to the bed, a plethora of emotions crossing his face in quick flashes.
“I know you think I’m crazy, but it’s true. This town, our friends, you. This is all in my past. Even I’m a past version of present myself.”
He stood, looking ready to dismiss her confession, but said nothing. When he turned and strode to the window, she watched his broad back, waiting for his verbal reaction.
“If your future self is here, then where is your present self?” Jaybo’s voice cut in as he turned toward her. “Is she in that town you left us for? How far in the future have you come from?”
His questions spewed forth in the rapid fire of a repeating rifle. She really hadn’t thought about that possibility. Was there another Tessa Woodward roaming the streets in Kingston?
“I’m from the year 2010.”
He took a step back. Had she suddenly grown horns?
“Tessa. This is 1973.”
“I know. Duh. That’s why it’s called time travel.”
He scraped a hand over his face and returned to the chair.
“I’m trying to understand, but you’re not making any sense.”
“Nothing makes sense. The only thing I’m sure of is this is happening and it’s just as weird to me as it is to you.”
Hold that thought. I have to get back to Genoa City now and see if I can find a man to father Tessa’s child and bring her forward to 2010.
by CiCi Barnes