How To…Write A Thai Soap Opera!

There are many a job to contemplate doing as a foreigner here in Thailand. If you pick up an English language daily you may come across some fine job vacancy that reads to the likes of ‘Wanna make up to 300,00 baht a week in sales?? All nationalities accepted’. Before you know it you’ll be stuck behind a desk at some illegal back-alley broker company calling up potential muggo clientele in Australia selling them bargain price stocks and shares that don’t actually exist, that is before getting busted by immigration and booted out the country.

Otherwise, if illegal activity isn’t yer cuppa coffee you can head for the islands and string yer guitar at a banana-shake backpackers’ bar and earn just enough to live on and perhaps even get the odd-job teaching English. A lotta foreigners on coming to Thailand hope to get into the ‘writers scene’ but are soon bewildered to realize that there are hundreds more just like them hoping to do the same thing and so magazines here can get away with paying their writers the equivalent to tiddly-winks, better off writing at thai-blogs for free.

So, if none of the jobs mentioned above don’t exactly strike you as that exciting, then how about going for a real pish-easy job and that is writing a Thai Soap Opera. Yours in name here has had the privilige of acting it out on a few of the nation’s Soapies during his time here but has unfortunately lacked the time actually needed to write a story. So, for all you buzzing writers wishing to ‘getta job’ and write a Thai Soap Opera, here below is stevesuphan’s essential guide..on ‘How To..Write A Thai TV Soap Opera.

Firstly, when writing your story it is extremely important to examine the characters required, here is a quick list:

1. (statutory) A milky-bar-coloured seemingly-innocent leading actress. Please be assured that even if she is as thick as your copy of the yellow pages and has the acting qualities of an ostrich, that is not the point – but looks are.

2. (statutory) A squeaky-clean leading actor. This is Thailand and if you, as a foreign girl, think one of the dread-locked beach-bums you’ve dated recently on Koh Samui fits the type of ‘macho-man’ then you are definetly mis-judged. Thai TV prefers actors with skin as smooth and white as a baby’s bottom.

3. (statutory) A jealous elder sister. Again, looks are vitally important and a right bitchie look is essential. Advised to also have previous real-life experience in beating up her friends, family and former lovers (Farangs desirable)

4. (statutory) Extremely dangerous ex-boyfriend/admirer. Unlike the leading actor this guy is squeeky bad, even richer, a filthy womanizer, addicted-gambler, drunkard and a complete delinquent.

5. (statutory) Totally nasty ex-girlfriend/admirer. Siding with the leading actress’ elder sister she is also an entirely loathesome type. Spends here time spreading gossip about the leading actress, stealing money from her parents and getting stupidly-drunk every time she’s upset

6. (opitional) A powerful and possessive father-in-law. Will not be doing much acting besides shoving one of his big-guns in the leading actor’s face and swearing to the likes of “Just you stay away from me daughter or I’ll be cutting off yer thingy-a-jig and chucking it to the ducks, and that’s before I kill ya”

7. (opitional) A not-so-smart ladyboy. Not much is required to fill this part, as the writer, just keep in mind that the ladyboy casted will be one of the dumbest, ugliest and most foolish around, moreover she will have looks that would frighten even yer neighbour’s blind cat.

8. (opitional) An uneducated Isarn maid. Again, acting qualities are not highly sought after but hilarious features are. It is recommended that you write her in as having a really corny country-bumpkin sounding accent, be as horribly dark-skinned as possible, have big goofy buck-teeth, big rubber lips and two holes for a nose. She need only spend her time waltzing around and whistling while wearing one of those kinky-looking French chambermaid outfits.

9. (optional) A ghost. Should you wish to stick in a ghost, do bear in mind that the visual effects on Thai Soap Operas are not of the highest international standards. Any green monster thingy that you have envisaged will probably end up with a striking resemblance to Kermit The Frog. Feel no fear however, just have it say ‘boo’ and half the viewers will be dumb-struck with fear.

10. (statutory) Extras. Of course, every production needs extras, but it is normal in Thailand to find ‘freebie’ extras. Any street scene you have proposed in writing is great for finding a few street urchins to strutt their stuff for only the price of a bowl of rice. As for any restaurant scenes – well, darned having to pay for any hired extras the director will soon be filming in front of a couple of tables of ‘real’ diners while shouting over “Pls do not look into the camera”

Secondly, a plot has to be written. It is highly suggested that the Thai Soap Opera writer have an education of no less/or the equivalent of Grade 6. TV Soap Opera plots in Thailand are more or less all the darned same from beginning to end. Here below, are a couple of quickie examples.


Our leading actress, on having lost her father is subsequently beaten and abused relentlessy by her mom’s new lover, the ‘scarfaced-all-powerful-stepfather’. Meanwhile, the leading actor has become the MD of his own company at the tender age of 24 and soon falls out of love with his former ‘nasty’ girlfriend and ‘in-love’ with the leading actress who happens to live just down the road. At the same time, the deplorable step-father is trying to set the leading actress up with some right vagabound who has promised dad-in-law a fancy under the table pay-back check if he wins his daughter’s hand in marriage. In the end however, the step-father and obnoxious admirer are arrested and charged for some unexplainable darned reason and given lengthy jail sentences. The leading actress and actor get married and live happily ever married.


Our pitiful leading actress is a Chiang Mai beauty, a true damsel in distress with a cute sounding slow Northern-Thai accent (unlike the horrible sounding Isarn one) and comes from a relatively poor background. Our poor leading actress has come to the big city to sow her fortune but is soon befriended by dozens of abnoxious folk trying to take advantage of the unfortunate little girl. In the meantime, the leading actor is falling in love with the Chiang Mai damsel but his mother is going absolutely ‘off-her-trosh’ at the thought of her beloved son marrying into a family of uneducated uncivilzed buffalo-herders. Mother instead, sides by his former girlfriend an alcoholic American educated Bangkokian girl with a super-rich daddie. Family feuds erupt. But eventually, after his mother has a heart-attack and drops down dead the leading actor and actress get married and live happily ever after.

Additional Notes:

Do remember to keep your script pretty darned short. Even though one episode of a Soap Opera is scheduled for one and a half hours do bear in mind that at least one hour of that time is devoted to TV commercials. In the west you say TV commercial break however here in Thailand it is in fact called a TV Soapie break, ie… for every five minutes of TV commercials aired there is one minute of TV Soapie time. Then, for some whacko crackpot reason the same TV commercial is often shown ten times in the space of ten minutes. Promoting advertisement products during the TV Soap Opera is the complete norm here, so when writing the script do not forget to leave out scenes such as the Isarn maid scrubbing the bathroom or washing the dishes while advising the leading actress to the likes of “Ooh the floor is so shiny and spotless” while there is a camera zoom-in on the cleaning product.

One more reason for keeping the plot just a little short is the availabilty of the leading actresses and actors. It is common on Thai TV that the same stars are playing on 4-5 TV Soap Operas simultaneously. Should you not believe me, then just flick around a few channels in the evening and you will soon be seeing the same folks acting it out in each and every show.

Next, there is location to contemplate. Thailand may only be a developing country but it is essential that your story be set in one of the spankiest flashiest houses that Thailand has to offer. Even though your script says nothing about the families involved actually having any work to do – that is not the point. It is mandatory that the story involves at least one family that is filthy rich beyond belief. Looking like a pauper is not the objective of writing a Soap Opera but beauty is. Even though all the actresses are actually just hanging around the house they will be dressed up and made-up to the heavens as if they were off to some fancy ball. And if you notice closely, you will soon be amazed that even after a nights’ topsy-turvy sleep the leading actress’ hair will be perfectly in place when she gets up.

Now, no Thai TV Soap Opera can exist without a bounty of fights, shoot-outs and slappa-ze-faces. Do when writing the script, think up at least three big scenarios every episode. Most popular scenes of all include ‘step-father belting his pitiful daughter-in-law’ and ‘jealous elder sister giving baby sister a good thrashing’. The viewers just love such scenes and the more the better to boost the ratings.

And finally don’t forget! Absolutely no love scenes whatsoever. A quickie cuddle between the leading actress and actor is perfectly all right but as for any scenes of the couple actually kissing, such filming is strictly prohibited unless the couple has been married in part. This is due to the country’s Ministry of Culture, who after much timely and costly research have deciphered that such intimacies do not occur in Thailand outside of marriage. So, if you want to put any filthy un-thai stuff like that in yer script you had better go back to writing in Farangland.

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