How Not To Wreck A Soap by Douglas Marland
One of the all time famed soap head writers Douglas Marland wrote and published an article in SOD about how not to destroy a soap. Marland was a former head writer of As The World Turns, Guiding Light, and General Hospital. He worked as a writer on Another World and co-created Loving. He won multiple Emmy awards and Soap Opera Digest awards. Marland, a former actor, loved daytime. He passed away on March 6, 1993. Here is that list.
1. Watch the show.
2. Learn the history of the show. You would be surprised at the ideas that you can get from the back story of your characters.
3. Read the fan mail. The very characters that are not thrilling to you may be the audience's favorites.
4. Be objective. When I came in to ATWT, the first thing I said was, what is pleasing the audience? You have to put your own personal likes and dislikes aside and develop the characters that the audience wants to see.
5. Talk to everyone; writers and actors especially. There may be something in a character's history that will work beautifully for you, and who would know better than the actor who has been playing the role?
6. Don't change a core character. You can certainly give them edges they didn't have before, or give them a logical reason to change their behavior. But when the audience says, "He would never do that," then you have failed.
7. Build new characters slowly. Everyone knows that it takes six months to a year for an audience to care about a new character. Tie them in to existing characters. Don't shove them down the viewers' throats.
8. If you feel staff changes are in order, look within the organization first. P&G [Procter & Gamble] does a lot of promoting from within. Almost all of our producers worked their way up from staff positions, and that means they know the show.
9. Don't fire anyone for six months. I feel very deeply that you should look at the show's canvas before you do anything.
10. Good soap opera is good storytelling. It's very simple.
Now let's as soap fans list the ways bad soap executives/writers at Y&R and GH have broken these rules.