“I’ll see you again in 25 years.”
There’s a very specific way that I say, “What the fuck, dude?”
In the TV show of my life, that would absolutely be my catchphrase.
And, as in real life, I’d sigh it when I’m watching, reading, or playing something that thoroughly fucks my mind. To the point that “What the fuck, dude?” takes on a new meaning.
I remove emphasis from everything but “fuck,” the “dude” shortened to a half syllable, as if, in that moment, saying the sentence clearly is too much to ask for. I’m just that tired. That ready for things to go back to normal.
Which is exactly why I muttered, “What the fuck, dude?” at the end of Twin Peaks.
No spoilers here, of course, but just . . . dude . . .
Twin Peaks is, at its heart, a soap opera. Which, of course, is immediately strange because, of all the things I expected Twin Peaks to be, a soap opera was not one of them.
It is also a mystery/thriller, for sure.
And a heavily supernatural, surrealist day dream/nightmare?
Side Note for Gamers: Twin Peaks is also completely responsible for Deadly Premonition. If you’ve ever played that game and thought, “This is so original!” Nope. It was heavily inspired by Twin Peaks. The two are different for sure, but the comparisons draw themselves.
But, whatever; my point is, at its heart, Twin Peaks is actually a soap opera.
And, in being a soap opera, it answered one creative question I’ve had since I was young: “What would happen if I wrote a thing and paid a ton of attention to every single character in that thing?”
The answer: that’s what a soap opera is. Obviously, there are other factors that make a soap opera a soap opera, but I don’t know another word for a huge ensemble piece that tries to captivate a large audience with a mix of relationship drama, intrigue, mystery, and popular fiction elements, regardless of genre.
It doesn’t matter if it’s set in a hospital.
It doesn’t matter if there are witches and little puppets who come to life.
It doesn’t matter if it centers around the mystery of a murdered girl.
Whatever it is–even if it’s a story with a cast full of dinosaurs–if you give each dinosaur their own subplot, what you wind up with is a soap opera. Even if you’re only trying to tell a bunch of individual stories based in one town, in order to do each story justice, you’ll have to add the relationship drama, the intrigue, the mystery, the popular fiction elements, and a bunch of other things anyway. Because, hey, the fact that the kids down the block are trying to save their buddy from the Underneath has nothing to do with Becky Terwilliger (I just made her up [I know, hard to believe]), but Stranger Things doesn’t show us what Becky’s up to, because it’s not a soap opera.
What I’m saying here is, giving a large cast of characters a lot of attention and complexity is what Twin Peaks does . . . and that’s why it’s basically a soap opera.
And, to be clear, I’m not saying that’s bad.
But watching Twin Peaks made me realize that unwittingly writing a soap opera . . . is something I never want to do.
Because, in the end, I’m not sure if I liked Twin Peaks or hated it.
I can tell you that I absolutely loved a lot of what it did. The main plot lines were intriguing, Dale Cooper and most of the characters were great. Some of the subplots were fun and exciting. Lots of the surreal imagery was bizarre . . . and awesome.
But I also just . . . hated some of the characters. Hated them to the extent that I didn’t care what happened to them.
But, unfortunately, the show really cared about all of its characters, including the ones that I didn’t like, which means–in true soap opera fashion–it refused to let them go. And, hey, I’m not saying Twin Peaks didn’t kill people off, but there were two cases of people just not dying when they should’ve. And one case of a character leaving the show . . . without actually leaving the show.
In one of the pretend-death cases, the writers did something new with a character, and it wound up being weird–and the best.
With the other . . . I mean, there was no reason for [REDACTED] to stay alive. I sensed hints of the ol’ Game of Thrones switcheroo, where we were supposed to start caring about a heel, but nope. It didn’t work. At least not for me.
In the last case, a character I genuinely disliked left the town of Twin Peaks, not sure when he’d come back . . . and Twin Peaks followed him. And started a new storyline just for him, with completely new characters. Yes, a spin-off of a show . . . in the show it’s spinning off.
. . . Why?
But, whatever. What matters is, I still enjoyed watching the weirdness of Twin Peaks. And I still learned a bunch from it:
- Massive stories with large casts are guaranteed to have characters people don’t care about. Because that’s just a symptom of soap operas.
You have to cast a wide net.
You have to make the pirate man with the burned hand, because, hey, some people like pirates.
In the same fashion, Twin Peaks had to make the robotic biker dude, because some people like robot bikers. Also (wow, I actually have to say this), disclaimer: there is no robot biker on Twin Peaks; I was being sarcastic. Just a really whiny biker who managed to super emote . . . while just staring blankly 90% of the time? Whatever–I hated him.
- Charming characters can get really annoying if their subplots go on forever.
One subplot involved one of my favorite characters deciding who the father of her child was.
Twenty episodes later, when she still hadn’t made up her mind, I stopped caring really hard.
- Incredibly annoying characters can become a ton of fun when they have drastic role reversals.
The example Twin Peaks provides is really, really out there, but it worked. And, even though it was silly (even the reason for the personality change was pure camp, oddly born from tragedy), I absolutely loved it.
It’s a thing that can work.
- High-level character alchemy can backfire. It can backfire really hard.
“Hmmm. I wonder what we’ll get if we combine a tough biker . . . with an incredibly fragile, emotionally-underdeveloped baby.”
The answer: Literally the worst character ever.
A part of me feels like I should’ve watched the new season of Twin Peaks before writing this, but I think I’ll save that for another time.
At any rate, thank you for reading. I hope you enjoyed this one. But if this was lost on you because you haven’t watched Twin Peaks, I . . . recommend it? Ugh. I’m not sure of anything anymore. If you like being really weirded out, watch it; making you feel weird–especially by showing you strangely human moments–is the very root of what this show does.
Ladies and gentlemen, my name is Louis Santiago, and I’m a fantasy writer based in the Bronx. My short story, “Aixa the Hexcaster,” was published last year in Mirror Dance Fantasy. However, I’m still very much learning about the writing process–still trying to figure it out–which means posting here every week, even though I make absolutely no money from it. So, if you like what you read here and feel up to getting updates by email – a new post from me delivered right to your inbox – then please hit the Follow button at the bottom of this page. Because, even though all I get from this site is emotional support, that support means the world to me.
But, either way, thank you just for stopping by. And, as always, write well.