So You Want To...
More from the best selling book So You Want To Ruin Your Soap: A Guide To Alienating Viewers and Courting Cancellation! Here's chapter seven, "So You Want To Make The Whole Show About One Character: Part I", by Megan McTavish.
1. NO ONE CAN RESIST A CHARACTER WITH AN ADORABLE NAME, NO MATTER HOW HORRID THEY ARE
The easiest way to whitewash the bad actions of a character, from murder to espionage to wearing white after Labor Day is to make sure they have the world's sweetest name. This means that anytime someone mentions them, they are using a term of endearment! It's also a signal to the audience (who, let's face it, is quite often a little slow) that they should like this character and get used to seeing him/her/Zarf onscreen all the time!
My most beloved and successful example of this is the character of Arabella Carey. With a name like that, you'd probably think she was a bitch. But if you call her Babe, you know for sure that she is a good and pure young girl who only does things for love and she's just so sweet and adorable and southern fried that you can't help but love her for the complex girl she is and the wise and strong woman she wants to be.
2 (a). IF OTHER CHARACTERS LOVE THIS CHARACTER, THE AUDIENCE WILL TOO
My boss, close friend and personal idol Brian Frons once said that the audience sometimes needs to be trained because they're too stupid to understand things on their own. And boy did I learn that the hard way! It was distressing to find that people actually preferred Greenlee and Leo to Greenlee and Ryan, or Erica and whatshisface Montgomery to Erica and the dashing Jeff Martin. Who are these people and why are they allowed to watch tv?!
One of the easier ways to ensure that your favorite is their favorite is to teach them by example. When people fall all over themselves professing love for Babe, it is my subtle way of telling the audience that they should love her, too. Josh is in love with her much in the manner of Jamie's previous infatuation with her. Remember when Babe went to visit Sean at school to clear Josh's name (soooo romantic!) and all of the boys fell all over themselves with glee at being in her presence? Who could possibly hate someone who inspires such love in hormonal boys?!
2 (b). USE THE MOST OVER THE TOP AND HACKNEYED DIALOGUE AROUND TO DRIVE HOME THE POINT THAT THIS CHARACTER RULES AND SHOULD BE LOVED
I often have characters like Bianca and Krystal discuss Babe in the most glowing of terms, pointing out that when she loves, she does it with her whole heart, and that she's such a great and compassionate person, but the best way to convey to the audience the awesomeness that is Babe Chandler was to have Josh refer to her, romantically and majestically, as a walking miracle. She so is, y'all. She so is.
3. NOTHING IS EVER THEIR FAULT!
This part is really important. Even if your character has done despicable things, they are deserving of forgiveness, especially if you have a character who will take responsibility for their crimes, or if you decide to ruin other characters in order to make her look better in comparison.
So your character stole a baby and kept this baby from her grief stricken mother for a year. If she makes the baby's actual mother her godmother, that totally makes it okay! And it's not an actual crime because Babe's momma confessed and went to jail for a few hours for it, so Babe didn't actually do anything wrong, she just did it because she loved too much. She was loving Bianca and the babies and the snowstorm and the husbands and the wind and the rain and the cold and the sky and she just got so overwhelmed with the love that she got confused because she loved that baby that she stole and she loved the stolen baby's mother and there was so much love that it was all okay and it all worked out in the end because they both got their babies back and they loved them!
What about when your character cheats on her husband? It's so easily explained away if she has a good reason for it. Like, let's say that her husband is concerned that his teenaged sister is dead and won't pay attention to his wife. What sort of wife would put up with that treatment? Not a normal one! Of course the logical thing to do would be to find the first aborted fetus you could and make love in a kiddie pool on the rooftop of the company you work at.
You can also take a beloved character and have him or her or Zarf do the same thing your character did. Take, for example, Kendall keeping the secret that Ryan is Emma's biological father. She kept a child from his father, just like Babe! I mean, true, she did it for about three days and Ryan's only a sperm donor, and she didn't actually steal the baby but rather kept it hidden, much like you do in the Gap when you find a pair of pants in your size and hide it in the back of the rack for safe keeping until later, but the point remains the same. And if the audience likes Kendall, they have to like Babe, too, because they are so much alike!
4. MAKE THIS CHARACTER THE BEST PARENT IN THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD
Who could possibly hate someone who treats their child with a mix of indifference and mild kindness? Nobody. If you can't show your character spending quality time with their child or talking about their child--and I'm not blaming you if you can't; it's hard to do that in between rooftop kiddie pool sex and crying about people hating him/her/Zarf--make sure that other people mention the fact that the character loves their child at least six times an episode.
5. PIT YOUR CHARACTER AGAINST THE WORLD!
When I created the groundbreaking character of Zarf in an effort to ruin the groundbreaking storyline about Bianca's lesbianism, I knew that it would create an enticing plot wherein hatred and bigotry is explored. Bigotry is bad. That's why the entire town has been taunting Zarf about being a freak or a monster. The entire town except Babe! She's the only person who supports him and since support is good, that means that Babe is good, and since Babe is good, the audience will love her and yearn to see more of her. Because who doesn't love a good trailblazer? Rosa Parks...Eleanor Roosevelt...Babe Carey Chandler.
6. TREAT YOUR CHARACTER THE WAY YOU WOULD A BELOVED DAYTIME ICON
If, say, you were to kill off one of your show's most cherished heroines in the most insulting and absurd way possible, it would be a great time to put your character in peril. That way, people tuning in for the mourning of a character like Dixie will be treated to scenes where a character like Babe worries that she, too, could die of a poisoned pancake, and they'd start to worry, too. Bonus points if you fake your character's death and give her a double funeral (except not!) with the beloved heroine! Joint mourning means joint loving!
7. ALL ACCESS 24/7
I know this is obvious, but it is important to say anyway: Make sure your character is in every scene of every episode of every year. If she isn't physically onscreen, have characters refer to her. This is essential in letting the audience know that the show isn't an ensemble but, rather, a vehicle for the brilliant character you created!
- Promising Ingénue