Rules to Introduce a New Character

Every Friday I try to post a definition for a term of soap opera jargon. Find them all on the Soap Opera Jargon page and if you have any suggestions please let me know.

Rules to Introduce a New Character – I’ve mentioned before the blog Dark Shadows Every Day by Danny Horn. Today I’m going to define his rules for introducing a new soap opera character. “If they want you to care about a character, then the character needs to make a joke, make a friend and make a plot point happen.” He bases this on what makes a soap opera character interesting and therefore important to the audience. People have to like the character or at least love to hate the character for the new character to stay around. Find this version of the quote in the comment section of this post. But Danny frequently references these rules so you will find many mentions throughout the blog. Especially see his analysis post about why Rhoda drug the entire pilot down in The Mary Tyler Moore Show and how they fixed it.

I would like to add to the list that it helps if they are a member of or closely tied to a core family. Being part of that group or having a vendetta against it so you have lots of interaction with a core family creates deeper and more complicated relationships and means any storyline will comparatively have more legs than a similar storyline run with a more isolated character. Not that it always works. Members of core families are written out, but it gives you a leg up in the longevity contest. That is also one reason that it is hard to introduce characters that stick around that are from different ethnic, religion, etc. groups than the core families unless you introduce an entire new core family at once (which does happen) or steadily build a new one around a pre-existing popular character. Like any other character not tied in to the core families, it’s just to easy too isolate them or for other reasons to run out of story.

Take for instance the character of Blake Lindsey on Guiding Light. They introduced her as an independent businesswoman, but her story had mostly run its course when they “discovered” she was really a grown up Christina Thorpe, Holly’s daughter with Roger Thorpe. This inspired them to bring back the characters of both Holly and Roger which not only tied Blake who was conflicted about her belonging to this family, but also tied her further to the Bauers (Ed had been her step-father during some of her key growing up years). If she had remained an individual character, I think when she left during her engagement from Phillip Spaulding (who typically goes through romantic partners like Kleenex), he would have gotten a one-sided phone call or a letter breaking off the engagement and that would have been that.

Robansuefarm is the handle of one of Manny and Guiding Light‘s biggest fans following in her family’s footsteps of Guiding Light fandom since 1939. This blog is an effort to make it easy to find Guiding Light and especially Manny online. Check back here for her blog, find fanfic previews and fake WSPR newscasts on her YouTube, find podcasts that look back to old shows and audios of her fanfics on Blog Talk Radio, and finally follow her on Twitter and Facebook.


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