the soap clichés bible

New to daytime? This handy list of soap clichés will make it easier to figure out why things are happening in the way that they are on your favorite soap. COPYRIGHT 2005-2014 SOAPHUNKS.NET

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Amnesia: Don't Forget That! Soap characters have a much higher rate of amnesia than the regular medical population. These amnesia victims also have a greater tendency to forget the very people and things that make it most convenient for plot-induced trauma to the other characters.

Angels Among Us. Lazy writing device employed by soap writers in which a living character is visited by a deceased character's ghostly spirit, who most often will talk the living character into a different way of behavior for the plot. Chiefly employed due to the limited number of daytime actors who could convincingly pull off the notion that they were being visited by a ghost without us, the audience, seeing it as well. Also provides a quick paycheck for the departed actor who has been unable to secure an acting gig since leaving.

Appendage Rule. When a character is being brought back onto a soap (usually from the dead) and his/her return will send shockwaves all over town, the month preceding the reveal of this character being back will be filled with shots of his/her hands, shoulders, and the back of his/her head (i.e. DAYS' Marlena Evans, OLTL's Marty Saybrooke, GH's Lesley Webber, etc.).


Budget Cut Driving Sequences. Notorious for ranking as the cheapest-looking moments on soaps, scenes in which a character is driving always feature a completely fake-looking background delivered via a blue screen effect. Often accompanied by the character wildly rotating the steering wheel, totally oblivious to the fact that the background is not matching his/her driving movements.


Carly's KKK. One-word-only speech pattern employed by ATWT's Carly (the excellent Maura West) when pronouncing the name of her husband Jack. When she says his name, it would have to be spelled in a transcript as Jackkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk.

Caste System Be Damned! Curious phenomenon seen on all soaps in which the wealthiest, most upper-crust citizens of town will routinely interact with the poorest, trashiest citizens in town, with no regard for class differences (i.e. AMC's Adam & Krystal, Y&R's early Drucilla & The Abbotts, ATWT's Jade & everyone, etc.)

Come On In! When any soap heroine answers the front door to find the town bitch gunning for a verbal fight, the heroine will never just slam the door in her face. Rather, she allows the arguer to enter, so the fight can continue to take place in her own living room.

Convenient Miscarriage. If a female character is raped or otherwise unfortunately impregnated, she can rest assured that this pregnancy will rarely be carried to term, although the pregnancy will not be aborted. Instead, she will be involved in some freak accident, frequently involving a flight of stairs, lose the baby, thereby sparing the writers the uncomfortable storyline of raising an unwanted child.

Curious Coma Cure. Soap characters, even with medical ailments that would not normally lend themselves to comas, will often find themselves in one upon admittance to the hospital. During this coma, this character will be talked to by other characters "because I know he/she can hear me," which usually leads to the character coming out of said coma and going home the next day, completely recovered.

Cost-Cutting Car Crash. When a soap needs a character to have a car crash but doesn't want to pop for an actual set for the crash, the easy way out is just to have the character scream after hearing a car horn, with the camera then swerving to the right. Next episode, she'll wake up in the hospital.


Dance Floor Disappearance Rule. Two soap characters shown dancing at a club or restaurant can enjoy the convenience of the other dancers clearing the floor to watch, clap for, and generally cheer on the main characters from the sidelines.

Depends Rule. Soap characters do not go to the bathroom. If a soap character goes into the bathroom, it is for a reason other than using the bathroom.

Disappearing Corpse Rule. When a popular character is leaving his/her show via death, the body will disappear in one way or another, providing the writers with a way to bring back the character any number of years later.

Don't Answer That. Soap characters will never let a ringing phone or a doorbell go unanswered, even when they do not want to be disturbed or caught doing something. Rule particularly in effect when another character says, "Don't answer that!"

Doriaccent. Vocal pitch suddenly employed by OLTL's Dorian (Robin Strasser) whenever she comes to a word or name of Hispanic origin. For example, in the sentence, "I'm sure that Carlotta would love to go to Puerto Rico," every word is spoken with a normal Llanview accent, except for "Carlotta" and "Puerto Rico," which will be uttered as though Dorian were a lifelong resident of Pamplona.

Double Pregnancy Rule. If two female characters find themselves expecting a baby at the same time on a soap, it is guaranteed that they will go into labor the same night, so that these babies can be conveniently switched.

Drugstore Was Closed Rule. Two soap characters who indulge in a random one night stand will never use protection and it will most certainly lead to surprise pregnancy, especially if one of the two is in a romance with someone else.


Engagement Ring Enormity Rule. Engagement rings offered to soap heroines are always comparable in size to the Hope Diamond, regardless of the income of the male character proposing to her.

Elevator Breakdown Rule. If two soap characters are shown in a scene taking place on the interior of an elevator, the elevator will break down, trapping them inside.

Endless Employment Philosophy. Soap characters can change career fields overnight with no experience or training required. This is also true of characters who have never worked in an office environment suddenly finding themselves with high-powered corporate jobs (i.e. Y&R's Brad Carlton, who went from trimming the hedges to the Jabot boardroom).

EPT Principle. When a female soap character emerges from the bathroom in which she has just completed her home pregnancy test, she and the other characters begin waving around the stick she has just urinated on as though it were an air freshener.

Evil Twin Rule. It is a proven fact that whenever an angelic character begins acting completely out of character, it's never truly them, but their never-before-seen or mentioned evil twin brother or sister.

Excuses, Excuses.
Lame reasons supplied in throwaway lines explaining why pivotal, core family members are not present for major events like weddings, funerals, and holidays. It is stunning how many characters who no longer have actors on contract suddenly have pressing business in Europe when all logic would say they would be flying home.


Female Fainting Formula. If a female soap character suddenly faints for no apparent reason, she is pregnant. Also true of unexplained vomiting.

Forgive and Forget.
Past misdeeds done by soap characters, particularly heroic ones, will be conveniently forgotten by the other townsfolk if the storyline in which they were committed has since wrapped.


Gift Wrap Rule. Any soap character who receives a gift can rest assured she will not have to rip the lovely package's wrapping to open the gift, as the box's lid will have been wrapped separately from the box it covers, for easy lift-off, no-tear convenience.

Gilligan Principle. Soap characters have a much greater likelihood than the general population of being stranded on an island with someone other than his/her significant other.

Glass Houses. Rich soap characters, generally men, when faced with a situation that upsets them while in their palatial living rooms, will always angrily hurl a breakable object (such as his liquor glass, a picture frame, or crystal vase) at the fireplace. (AMC's Adam Chandler is the king of this.)

Gym's Liberal Shirtlessness Policy. Contrary to the rules at 99% of U.S. gyms, male soap characters are required to work out shirtless. Generally, an added rule of profuse perspiration is also required.


"Have You Done Something Different With Your Hair?" When a soap character is permanently recast, no one in town will ever notice or acknowledge the change in their appearance. This is even true when a character changes races (i.e. OLTL's Blair).

Hold Your Peace Moment. Tension-filled moment of silence observed during all soap weddings after the minister has uttered the obligatory line "Speak now or forever hold your peace."


"I Am So Mad Now, I Don't Know What I Might Do!" Filler dialogue spoken by characters all over town to a dastardly villain soon to be murdered. Dialogue like this ensures a town full of potential suspects.

Invasion of the Summertime Teens. No need to check your calendars--if your soap has suddenly been overrun with 14-to-19 year-olds and their suddenly melodramatic lives, that means summertime is upon us. When these problems are resolved, it's autumn.

Invisible Hairdresser. Continuity goof that strangely occurs from time to time where a character appears in the same scene but has had an obvious haircut seemingly halfway through. Though these scenes were clearly filmed days apart, soaps too often think we just won't notice.

"It Doesn't Look Good." The obligatory first answer from soap doctors when asked about a major character's condition after admittance to the hospital. (Don't worry, though; they'll actually be out of the hospital before you know it.)


Just Missed Dinner Rule. Soap characters are not shown truly eating a meal. Scenes are generally joined just as the meal is being finished, or just as it is served. In the case of the latter, the meal will be consumed over the commercial.


Kissing Cousins. Icky soap phenomenon in which two characters make out (and sometimes make love) only to find out later that they are in fact related (i.e. Y&R's Cricket & Scott, PASSIONS' Chad & Whitney, at least for a while).


Law Disenforcement Rule. Soap opera policeman and detectives are among the most useless creatures on the planet. They are always late to the scene of a crime and never solve The Big Case prior to someone getting victimized by the villain. Examples include GH's Mac Scorpio, Y&R's "Detective Clueless" Paul Williams, and ATWT's entire Jokedale Police Department.


Madonna/Whore Dichotomy. A soap heroine who does not know who fathered her unborn baby is never called a tramp by other characters. A soap villainess who does not know who fathered her unborn baby is always called a tramp by other characters.

McBain Rule. Curious phenomenon in which "heroes" are allowed to shamelessly break the law in order to achieve their goals. Their reckless disregard for the law is absolved by the show's writers' decisions to tell us that he is in fact, the hero, no matter how his actions may say otherwise (i.e. OLTL's John McBain, GH's Jason Morgan, ATWT's Paul Ryan, etc.).

Meaningful Scenes of Foreboding Death. When a beloved character is being killed off due to the actor leaving the show, the last handful of scenes he/she appears in will invariably seem oddly meaningful as he/she interacts with his key co-stars and recites lines as if to know their own death is imminent (i.e. Jonathan Jackson leaving GH as Lucky).

Medical Miracle. Don't fret when your favorite soap character is maimed, scarred, paralyzed or crippled in a horrifying accident. They will always get better, usually just in time to affect a major plot. In addition, these injuries will be forgotten years later.

Menial Labor Exclusion Policy. Soap characters are exempt from having to perform rudimentary, menial tasks around the house such as cleaning toilets, scrubbing ovens, or washing dishes. Such tasks are only performed if they will be 1) immediately interrupted, 2) just completed as the scene starts, or 3) used to demean the character in some way (i.e. ATWT's Carly having to wash dishes to pay for a bottle of champagne).

Misidentified Abduction. Soap heroine is grabbed from behind by menacing intruder. Soap heroine screams bloody murder. Soap goes to commercial after this shocking act. Soap returns from commercial, whereupon soap heroine realizes her "attacker" was actually her love interest, who claims "Sorry, I didn't mean to frighten you."

Morning Breath Rule. Handy daytime phenomenon in which characters never wake with morning breath; useful in that making out may commence directly upon waking.

Murphy's Law: Stork Version.
Female characters on soaps who are desperately trying to get pregnant will NOT. Female characters who desperately want to not get pregnant WILL.


Necklace Principle. According to soaps, the most romantic act a man can perform towards a woman is slowly, from behind, attaching the clasp of her diamond necklace.

No Nerdy Names. Soap characters will always been named Blaine, Storm, Brick, and Thorne and will never be named Elmer, Bertha, Sholondra, and Gladys.

Not Brought To You By. Endlessly clever mechanism employed by soaps to cover up or alter the names of brand-name products whose makers have not paid for any product placement.

Now Exiting Salem/Now Entering Talent Concept. Curious phenomenon in which fledgling actors and actresses who display no discernible or noteworthy acting talent while on DAYS OF OUR LIVES suddenly become quite talented in their next role, daytime or otherwise. Examples include Kirsten Storms, Victor Webster, Jensen Ackles, Mary Beth Evans, Wally Kurth, Don Diamont, etc.

Now Flying Nonstop Rule. All soap cities will feature an international airport, with non-stop flights to absolutely all world locations, with a flight to each leaving within the hour. These flights also arrive at their destinations in record time.


Oddly Shirtless Odd Jobs. The new soap hunk to town will always remove his shirt to perform tasks that do not require shirtlessness (i.e. changing a tire).

One & Done. Soap characters, regardless of income level, never wear the same outfit twice.


Paternity Test Principle. Any paternity test performed on a soap will be doctored, switched, or otherwise compromised.

Perilous Pregnancy Principle. No soap female experiences a trauma-free, normal pregnancy. Instead, she will always have at least one pregnancy scare and very rarely will give birth in a hospital with a physician performing the delivery.

Plastic Surgery Principle. Soap plastic surgeons are at the absolute top of their profession, with skills that will allow any character to look EXACTLY like another character overnight, down to the last detail (e.g. Y&R's Sheila Carter), icnluding height.

Plumbing Principle. Soap hunks called upon to fix the pipes under a female character's sink can be assured that these pipes will burst during this process, dousing him with water and forcing a removal of his shirt. See also Shirtless Spillage.

Pool Rule.
Highly professional technique employed on soap sets which do not feature a real swimming pool. When a character supposedly dives in said swimming pool, what actually happens is he/she jumps off camera, followed moments later by a splash on the soundtrack and a bucket of water being thrown on the set. Rule also in effect for lakes, ponds, and rivers.


Queer as No Folk.
Gay characters on soaps are generally only gay in theory, although this is slowly changing. However, gay characters do not bed-hop, saliva-swap, and pants-drop anything like their straight counterparts, and sex between them is still much more taboo than with the breeders.


Remember Me? Whenever a dead or absent soap character starts getting remembered by name onscreen by other characters, you can be guaranteed that person is on their way back to town. See also You Again?.


Sheet-as-Clothing Principle. Odd fashion choice made by soap females occurring after making love. This character will never get out of the bed naked; instead, she will wrap her herself in the bed sheet, while her male companion is left to parade around in as little as possible.

Shirtless Spillage. Accident-prone soap hunks will often find either themselves or their future female love interests extremely likely to spill something (water, paint, spackle, brownie batter, etc.) on said soap hunk, forcing him to remove his shirt and display his hard body. See also Plumbing Principle.

Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome (SORAS). Curious soap aging phenomenon in which main characters' children should be 4-5 years old, but show up one day, often home from boarding school, and are suddenly a demographic-friendly 16-21 years old overnight. SORAS is known to strike more often during the summertime, when a larger audience of similarly-aged teen viewers is around to witness the Syndrome's effects.

Specialties Be Damned! Medical phenomenon witnessed on all soaps except GH. The resident doctor treats patients of all walks of life, regardless of injury or expertise, from brain surgery to obstetrics to cardiology to everything in between.

Stop Acting and Sing! If a soap actor or actress supposedly has musical talents, he/she will be afforded the opportunity to sing (often repeatedly) on camera, even when his/her character would never do such a thing.

Sweeps Disaster. Eerie trend of cataclysmic events such as floods, train wrecks, tornadoes, earthquakes, and hurricanes that seem to hit soap towns in the ratings-pivotal months of February, May, and November.


Tea Rule. When any soap heroine visits a friend's home to discuss her terrible problems, the friend will always hear the problem and then immediately offer the heroine a cup of tea, because without tea no problem can be solved.

"This is Highly Irregular."
Required line of dialogue by all courtroom judges in soap trials after chaos erupts in the courtroom and a lawyer requests something out of the ordinary.

Token Black Professional. African-American character on a soap who generally does not have a storyline of his/her own, who instead serves as either a lawyer, doctor, or cop in service to the white characters (i.e. ATWT's Jessica, DAYS' Lexie, GH's Justus, AMC's Livia, etc.).

Tummy Rub Reminder. If a female soap character is pregnant, whether one week or nine months along, she will always rub her stomach to subliminally remind the audience that she is indeed with child.


Unannounced Dream Sequence. When the first scene of a soap episode features six months worth of secrets being exposed or the estranged supercouple suddenly reuniting, the scene in which these events take place will always turn out to have been a dream.

Unlocked Law. Contrary to what people do in real life, when soap characters leave their homes, they do not lock their doors, allowing easy access to villains and vixens of all varieties.


Viki/Niki Principle. The concept of split personalities is fair game for all soaps, but the Viki/Niki Principle is specific to OLTL. At least every three years, either Victoria Buchanan Davidson or one of her offspring must develop a sinister alternate personality.


Wake Up in Makeup. Female soap opera characters shown waking up in bed will already be in full makeup upon waking. Similarly, male characters will already be clean-shaven when they rise and shine.

Wedding Planning Timespan Principle. Huge, lavish soap weddings in which the couple will actually get married can be planned overnight with no on-screen preparations depicted. Conversely, soap weddings that are planned in detail on screen over a long period of time are guaranteed to result in something spoiling the wedding and preventing the marriage.

Well-Behaved Baby Rule. Unless necessarily present for the plot, soap newborns are always upstairs sleeping, always soundly, allowing his/her parent(s) the freedom to participate in other plot goings-on.


X-Rated Pasts. Soap heroines who have dirty pasts will always get a visit from sleazy pimps looking to cash in on their new lifestyle.


You Again? No matter how many times a character in their lives returns from the dead, soap characters will always act completely stunned when this event happens, even if the shocked person himself has also returned from the dead at one point. Never more evident than with DAYS' Jack Deveraux, who has returned from the dead four times, three of those within a one-year period, each time to a greater level of shock from wife Jennifer. See also Remember Me?.

You Can't Be In Here! No matter how serious the patient's injuries, the most important job for the medical staff in soap hospitals is to prevent the squalling heroine or combative hero from staying in the examination room.

"You Still Haven't Answered Me." Bizarre line of dialogue, most often heard on Y&R, in which one character poses a question to another, followed by a dramatic close-up and fade-out to commercial. When the show comes back from commercial, the asker states to the askee, "You still haven't answered me," as though they expected an answer over the commercial break.

Your Table Is Ready. Soap characters never have to wait on a table at a restaurant. In fact, the most desirable, centrally-located table will always be available for them to sit at. (On Y&R, this table is always provided by Gina Roma.)


Zip It Rule. If you are on a soap and have a deep, dark secret to hide, then by all means, announce the details of this secret out loud as often as you can, generally as near to the person who should not hear this information as possible.