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As I mentioned in my earlier post, Blame it on Too Many Soap Operas and My Misspent Youth, I was once a soap opera junkie, and even though I no longer watch the soaps, they still have a big influence on my writing. Fiction is all about conflict, and when it comes to writing romantic fiction soap operas are a great model to work from. Soap writers have relied on a handful of basic plotlines for decades because they consistently work and keep viewers watching. I in turn use my own variations of these plotlines and, interestingly enough, the comment I hear the most from readers is that they can't put the book down. So, here are the standard soap plotlines that I use.
1) The Romantic Triangle. I've done my fair share of romantic triangles in my books, and they work amazingly well. In The Betrayal, leading lady Emily's cousin, Annette, thinks she's much better suited for Emily's husband than Emily is. In The Letter, I have Danny's ex-girlfriend, Martha, who refuses to let him go. My personal favorite, however is the father-son triangle in The Reunion, when Jeremy sets his sites on Dad's old flame.
2) Extramarital Affairs. When it comes to creating romantic conflict, few things work as well as adultery. The Deception is the story of a woman who unknowingly becomes involved with a married man, while The Betrayal is the story of a wife who's been cheated on. Both women face unintended consequences and both books are reader favorites. Expect to see more adultery themed novels in the future.
3) The Big Frame Up. Alas poor Emily. The cheated on wife in The Betrayal is betrayed a second time when she's framed for a crime she didn't commit. This happens in real life, and I may use it again in a future novel.
4) Catastrophic Diseases or Injuries. This is one area where soap operas can and often do go over the top, and because I strive for accuracy I take the time to do my homework. Both Cassie, in The Journey, and Rachel in The Stalker, suffer traumatic injuries, and my research included consulting with friends who are former nurses and who were more than happy to help me write some of those scenes.
5) Amnesia. Amnesia is actually a rare condition, although it's been a soap opera staple for decades. I've only used it once, and that was with Jeremy in The Journey. Again I took the time to research it carefully, and a former nurse beta read the manuscript. But because it is so rare, I'll never use it in another novel.
6) Returning from the Dead. Another extremely rare event in real life, but often used on soaps. Again I did it with Jeremy in The Journey. It made a great story and readers loved it, but it will never be done again.
7) Long Lost Family Members. The Deception includes a subplot in which a lead character is unexpectedly reunited with a long-lost family member, and readers tell me it was their favorite part of the story. Mine too.
And there you have it. Stories of star crossed lovers have worked since Romeo and Juliet, and as my high school drama teacher once said, soap operas are based on real-life experiences, somewhat exaggerated. And that's what makes them so entertaining.