Note: On the TWoP boards, in light of recent comments Corday made in Soap Opera Digest, we were discussing how it might be a good idea to start a letter writing campaign from people who are fans of the whole show, who want to see quality stories across the board. This is my attempt at just such a letter. Feel free to use it or adapt it or change it in writing a letter of your own.
3400 W. Olive St., Suite 170
Burbank, CA 91505
With the recent ratings drop, you must be wondering what to do to fix it. I’m sure you’ve been hearing lots of complaints from fans about airtime and particular storylines. It’s laudable to try to respond to fans’ concerns about airtime and other issues. But in order to create a quality show, it’s important to tell good stories above all.
Couples have their fanbases and naturally those fans want to see their favorites. But a balance is called for. Steve and Kayla shouldn’t be sacrificed for John and Marlena, just as John and Marlena shouldn’t be sacrificed for Steve and Kayla. This goes for all the characters on the show, young and old, couples and singles. Characters can cycle to the backburner for a time when the story calls for it, but one character or couple should not be sacrificed for the sake of another. A balance in airtime makes the most sense.
Striking a balance among the types of stories being told is also crucial to the show’s success. Dark, unhappy stories should be balanced with light, happy ones. Romances are important, but other types of relationships—siblings, parent/child, friends—can be explored and developed. Mysteries and adventures can incorporate many different characters and storylines.
One thing I loved about the show last fall, when Hogan Sheffer first started writing, was how the storylines intersected and different characters interacted. When characters interact outside of their circles, it makes all the storylines more interesting and enriches the canvas of relationships. I’d really like to see more of this.
I also love to see romance on the show. Love scenes have been missing in action lately. Even when a couple is apart, longing glances across the room go a long way. One thing I would love for the younger set is to see romances develop slowly, over time. Some of the recent pairings, especially Max and Abby, seem rushed. I don’t enjoy hearing in the dialogue of the show that a couple is “meant to be.” Show us, don’t tell us, that a couple is meant to be. And there’s no shame in admitting that a coupling isn’t working, and trying something else.
I’d like to see some of these younger characters established and grounded as well-rounded individuals, before they get paired off. Integrating them into the rest of the canvas, with the older generation, their families, and friends, and showing them at their jobs or at school, is a good way to establish character.
Which brings me to my most important point. Above all what I like to see are character-based conflicts and stories. Soaps have always played with extreme situations, but those situations need to be grounded by real, multi-faceted characters who react believably. Chelsea’s story is a wonderful example of a character working toward redemption, not always succeeding but always striving. I’d like to see characters taking control of their own lives, trying to do the right thing but failing occasionally, and facing the consequences when they make mistakes.
Good guys don’t have to always be good, but their poor choices should be believable and their motivations explained. Bad guys don’t have to be all bad, in fact they’re far more interesting when they’re not. James Scott, for example, is capable of giving EJ layers—let the writing help him out.
Please try to remember that there will never be a story that will please all the fans. People will write to complain whenever their favorites are not being featured, or when their favorites are split up or unhappy. And it’s good to respond to fan concerns. But if you have faith in your story and know that it will pay off in a way that most fans will like, I think it’s better not to change horses in midstream.
How do you think all those fanatical fans were created to begin with? By developing consistent, layered, active characters and putting them in long-term story arcs that challenged them and forced them to grow. There was suffering and angst, yes, but always leavened with romance and fun, and the payoffs made the suffering worth it.
It’s not a quick fix to the ratings problem. But the fans thus created are far more loyal than those who tune in for one shocking storyline. Hogan Sheffer has a good grasp of character and writes smart, quality dialogue. He’s demonstrated that. Won’t you trust him to develop some long term story arcs and let them play out?