Sunday, April 1, 2012

Bo & Patch & The Walking Dead

First, I want to say "Thank you, so much!" to Lisa's pharmaceutical expert, Dave Hopkins, for taking the time to visit with the Rockville 8 and for his fantastic answers to our questions.

And now, I want to talk about soap opera.

My mom loved Days of Our Lives, so I grew up watching the good families of Salem. But it wasn't until I had two small kids myself -- and Bo Brady rolled into town on his motorcycle -- that I got HOOKED. And not long after that, Patch Johnson, Bo's ex-BFF, came to Salem looking for revenge. 

Oh, the bromance! Oh the conflict! 

Oh, the soap opera . . . to this day, it's my favorite kind of television. 

Not that I'm still watching Days of Our Lives -- I had to give that up when my youngest started school and I went back to work. But, luckily for me, there's plenty of soap opera in night time television, too.

Veronica Mars. Friday Night Lights. The Vampire Diaries. Being Human. Luther. Justified. The Walking Dead.

Give me a good anti-hero and I'm IN (Hello, Patch!).

Give me a good bromance in a conflict lock, a la Bo & Patch (Damon & Stefan, Boyd & Raylan, Shane & Rick) and you've got me riveted to the screen.

When The Walking Dead first debuted, it didn't interest me at all. But that's because they didn't advertise it as a soap opera. LOL. I heard good things about it, about the writing, but I didn't hear the right things so I never looked it up. 

Luckily, I kept hearing good things, and then I got a Roku and, on a whim, I cued up the first episode of The Walking Dead.

And then the next. And the next.

Anti-hero. Bromance. Conflict lock. Honor at the core (Thanks, Mary Blayney!). The Walking Dead has it all. 

Yes, it's the end of the world. Yes, the earth is overrun with zombies. But that's just the backdrop for the soap opera of a cast of good (i.e., fascinating, not necessarily moral) characters making difficult choices. And that's what I love and need to learn to do in my own writing.

I'm not much interested in episodic shows like Law & Order or CSI in all their many incarnations. The case of the week can be interesting to catch here and there, but it doesn't hold my interest the way an ongoing saga of human emotions does. And as I was rewatching some of TWD season 2 last night, it occurred to me that the key to all of that is in the choices. The writers set up the storylines, like dominos, and then they knock them down. They create characters that I care about and then they force those characters to make a choice. 

My favorite storylines are the ones where the character makes what should be the right choice -- and it gets them into even deeper trouble.

So. That's what I'll be thinking about, as I set up the dominos of my own storylines . . . what choices will my characters have to make? 

And how will that make it worse?

Or, as they say on the companion show, Talking Dead, "What's eating YOU?"


  1. I watched from the beginning but that's why I stayed with it: the characters, the drama, the soap opera!

    I'm waiting for the baby to come out looking like Shane, but knowing how slow the in-show time moves versus real-life time, it will probably be years before Lori starts to show.

    And what with everyone infected now? I so expect to see Little Zombie-Shane Jr... You know, in like 2018...

  2. Awesome post, Evie! I, too, loved Days as a teenager. You hit so many of the nuances that worked then and still work in the modern-day soap opera. Many, many people love that drama that tugs at their emotional heart strings, the ingrained conflict that can't be avoided--no matter what decision a character makes--and the triangle or bromance. Great analysis. And, now, I'll have to look up some of the new shows you mentioned because I am sorely behind on my evening TV soaps! ;0)

  3. Amalie -- too true, the in-show time moves like molasses! And that's one highly anticipated babychild. Knowing what we know now, about the infection.

    And was it just me or was Zombie-Shane kinda hot?

    Yeah. Probably just me. :-)

  4. Candy -- LOL about the new shows. But NOOOOO! Don't get sidetracked!!

  5. I am so not a soap fan. I can't stand hanging chads!!

    The only way I can watch a continuing saga is if the whole season is done and I'm watching back to back episodes. I need me some instant gratification!

    Which is possibly ironic, given the number of urban fantasy series I'm commited to. Sigh.

    But I hear you, Evie, about the choices we force on our characters and how the "smart" choice should lead to Bad Things and Hard Times.

  6. Keely -- yes! The smart choice should make it worse. But LOL about your not liking soap opera. To me, the hanging dangling storylines are what keep me coming back. As long as I feel like the writer has a firm hand on the reins.

    If it's one red herring after another and never any payoff (The Killing*, I'm looking at YOU here) then I'm OUT.

    *see also "LOST"

  7. The Rock and the Hard Place!!! I so, so, so love it when characters face that, too!

    Maybe that's one of the reasons I adore detective fiction. For the protag, there's usually No Good Choice. Just lots of messy, yucky-and-yuckier choices. Yum!

    While I'm not much for soap operas, I have to say my guilty TV pleasure is slightly soap opera-esque and that's Pretty Little Liars. Sure, the mysteries keep me going (Who is A really? And what happened to Ali?), but it's the rock-and-hard-place choices that keep me hanging on week to week. After all, what's a girl to do?

    (Well, very little now since the show's in spring hiatus. Big sigh!)

  8. Yvonne,

    I'm a "Walking Dead" virgin, so this is all news to me, but I have fond memories of "Dark Shadows" from way back in the day. My sister and I weren't allowed to watch that show, but we sure did sneak around and find ways to see it. Sadly, my mom always knew when illicit viewing had occurred because I had bad dreams.

    Fast forward and I'm the person who still hasn't seen Buffy yet because I'm afraid it will give me bad dreams, but I did read many of the Sookie Stackhouse books and not a single bad dream.

    It just goes to show that it doesn't matter how many zombies, ghosts, and other denizens of post-apocalyptic horror you jam into your story, a good plot and strong characters are still what it is all about.


  9. I love your analogy about setting up dominoes and then knocking them down. That's a great way to think about it. Great post!