So, I was at the gym at lunch today, and a couple of the televisions they had on were playing soap operas. One of them I know was The Young And The Restless, the other one I'm not sure about. All of the TV's there play with the sound muted, but with the closed-caption "subtitles" running. I hadn't brought a book or my Kindle with me today, so while I was treadmilling away, I started watching what the "actors" and "actresses" (I use these terms lightly) were saying on the soap operas.
I recognize that these programs have a long history of success, especially The Young And The Restless (aka Y & R) – which I'm fairly certain every human being in this country (either willingly or by force) has watched at least a few times at some point in their lives. Seriously, every job I've ever had, if there was a television in the break room, at any point during the 12:30 to 1:30 hour, you were sure to see a minimum of five people crowded around the screen to watch Y & R and discuss the latest drama. It didn't matter if you hadn't seen a single episode in two or three years, you could catch right up. The only discernible difference might possibly be that the central character's little baby, who had just taken his first step two years ago, was now a teenager or was college-aged. But otherwise, you could pick right up wherever you left off and be fine.
Anyway, to make a long story longer, this got me thinking. If people can get paid to write dialogue that bad, why can't I? I mean, I have at least a modicum of writing skill, so I ought to be able to blow these people out of the water, right?
But then again, good dialogue probably isn't even necessary. Maybe it's not even wanted. Ingenious plotting? Nah, who needs that? Just slap some clichés together on a piece of paper, rehash some plot lines you've been using for decades – sometimes on different characters, often on the same characters – and you're good to go.
Then watch as even the subpar performers they've hired to act out this drivel struggle to say their lines with a straight face, wanting to laugh at the absurdity of it all, yet knowing that any shred of dignity they ever possessed as an actor is dwindling rapidly with each daily episode.
So here's my stab at a typical soap opera scene. I'm warning you – it isn't any good. It's riddled with phrases that I would try never to use in serious writing. But – if I'm successful in my attempt – it should end up being pretty much par for the course in the world of soap operas.
Here goes nothing (and I mean that):
ANDREA: Oh, Granite, I'm so glad to see you. I've been so lonely.
GRANITE: But I just left you twenty minutes ago. I told you I'd be right back.
ANDREA: I know, and I tried to tell myself to carry on, but I didn't think I could bear one more second alone.
GRANITE: Oh, Andrea, sweetie, you know I would never leave you.
ANDREA: I want to believe that, Granite. Really, I do. (dramatic pause) But what about Melissa?
GRANITE: What about Melissa?
ANDREA: Did you tell her you'd never leave her, either? Before you broke her heart?
GRANITE: Andrea, that was a long time ago. You know she means nothing to me anymore.
ANDREA: It was last week, Granite! You left her standing at the altar. And for what? For what, Granite?
GRANITE: (dramatic pause) For you, sweetie. I did it for you. You know I never loved her as much as I love you. I could never love any woman as much as I love you.
ANDREA: Oh, Granite!
GRANITE: And besides, if I had married Melissa, I would have spent the rest of my life in misery, knowing that every moment I spent with her was a moment I couldn't be spending with you.
ANDREA: Oh, Granite! (crying now)
GRANITE: Shh, shh, shh, shh. Dry your tears, darling. Look at me. I love you. And I will always love you.
ANDREA: I know that, Granite. Really, I do. It's just that...Melissa...
GRANITE: Stop it! I don't want to hear any more about Melissa. It's in the past.
ANDREA: You're right, Granite.
GRANITE: Your past on the other hand...
ANDREA: My past? What about my past?
GRANITE: Are you sure you don't still have feelings for Dorian?
ANDREA: No...I mean, well...of course not, no. (dramatic pause) That was a long time ago, Granite. How could you even bring that up again?
GRANITE: It was last week, Andrea. I don't know, call me crazy, but I think you still have feelings for him.
ANDREA: For Dorian?
GRANITE: Yes, for Dorian. You really loved him.
ANDREA: Yes, I did.
GRANITE: And I think a part of you still does.
ANDREA: That's where you're wrong, Granite. You think you know me so well, don't you? Well, I've got news for you. You don't know me at all!
GRANITE: I'm beginning to think you're right. You've changed so much lately. You're not the same Andrea I fell in love with.
ANDREA: Oh, Granite! How could you say that?
GRANITE: I'm just calling it how I see it. Your heart belongs to another.
ANDREA: My heart belongs only and always to you, Granite.
GRANITE: I hope you're telling me the truth, Andrea. Because if you're not, then what I'm about to ask you is going to be the biggest mistake of my life.
ANDREA: (dramatic pause) Granite, what are you saying?
GRANITE: (drops down on one knee, looking up at her) Andrea, you are the one bright spot in my otherwise gloomy existence. You are the glue that holds the pieces of my wounded heart together. And I don't ever want to spend another day in this life without you. Andrea Slater, will you make me the happiest man alive and do me the honor of becoming my wife?
ANDREA: Oh, Granite!
GRANITE: Is that a yes?
ANDREA: Yes! Oh, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes! Oh, of course, Granite! Of course I'll marry you.
GRANITE: I love you, Andrea Slater.
ANDREA: And I love you, Granite Rockwell!
(There is a knock at the door.)
ANDREA: Who could that be?
GRANITE: I don't know. But whoever it is, they better have a good excuse for interrupting the happiest moment of our lives.
(Crosses to the door, and opens it. MELISSA stands there, arm in arm with DORIAN.)
MELISSA: Hello, you two lovebirds...
DORIAN: Surprised to see us?
(GRANITE and ANDREA simultaneously give us a blank stare, which could be interpreted any number of ways, as we cut to commercial.)