Your standard soap opera season is divided into three parts of episodes, which themselves are divided into a total of five parts altogether. Although they’re defined as thirds, they’re not necessarily as long; the mid-part is usually the longest, and the last part is probably just between two and four episodes.
The first third holds two minor parts; the beginning introduces most of the main characters and mentions or identifies the conflict or crisis that the season will evolve around, even though it mightn’t have started yet – it can for example be a mere mention of its ”eventual” future appearance. In the second part of the first third, the mid-point, the crisis develop, and forces the main character to make one or several hard decision(s) for the greater good, such as leaving a friend or partner, moving, quit abusing drugs, or in the more drama-based soap operas, murder or commit another type of crime. Reasons can vary a lot, with anything from as simple as ”those drugs aren’t good for you” to more complicated.
The second third only holds one part, but it’s also the body of the story. As already told, this is usually the longest part, and this is in which the conflict develop further, and so does the characters on personal level. Characters that in the beginning of the story were unknown to one another are suddenly friends, and others were best friends but parted ways forever (or at least for a few episodes, as always in the soap opera world). As the conflict rises, and as good people suddenly turn evil, and whatnot, the suspense increases, building up for the last third.
The last third holds two parts, yet two very minor. The first part is the one in which the conflict resolutes. As the suspense is at its height, the season reaches its climax, and there are one or two episodes with barely anything with pure suspense. All the questions are finally answered, people may very well fall to their death – or, as a cliché in the soap opera world, return from the dead as they really ”just fell into a coma” or ”played dead”. Depending on what the main conflict of the story was, the resolution ofcourse differs; for example the true villain is discovered, after one or two innocent were apointed as villains earlier in the story. Arguments between friends finally goes away. Then comes the denoument, which literaly is ”the end of the end” in French. The denoument usually just cover the last fourth of the last episode, and is therefore definitely the smallest part. After the climax comes the anti-climax, where we again see the characters in their natural habitat (home, school, work, etcetera), just like they were in the beginning of the season.
However, the phrase ”the end of the end” lies, for in the world of soaps the end of a season is never the end, but merely the beginning of the next. The denoument often shows a hint or even a part of the beginning of the next story, all to get the viewer interested enough to wait a month or two and follow the next season as well.
Soap operas usually have a line of writers and directors for a season, possibly changing this crew for the beginning of another season but not very usually in the middle of one. Both the writers and the directors usually vary on their post, either through having one episode each on every third or fourth, or co-writing basically every episode. There can also be teams of two or three which co-writes, and then these teams vary instead. One member in either the writing or directing staff (or in both) is often the creator(s) of the series, but they usually only write or direct an episode once in a while, in spite the fact that they often visits the recordings or observe the manuscript before released to the actors.
Even though a single writer often has the main control of an episode’s manuscript, it is not nessecarily at first created by him, merely detailed. The writing usually starts with a meeting with the staff, either only the writing staff or with the directors or producers. The next episode’s content is discussed, whereas ideas are debated and in the end one is chosen to be the used story. A main writer is choosed to write the basic manuscript, either through personal choice, totally random or through the list, if the writers vary with a planned scheme.
When the manuscript is finished and checked through, the actors are given their lines one or two days before the filming starts. The filming then usually lasts for about two days, ending about a week before it is released on TV, as the schedule usually is that they produce the episode while the last one is airing, always being one week before the viewers.