It’s all one big soap opera for writer Chris

Pen Power: Scriptwriter Chris Thompson of Cromford, who will be signing copies of his new book 'Writing Soap' at Scarthin Bookshop.
Pen Power: Scriptwriter Chris Thompson of Cromford, who will be signing copies of his new book 'Writing Soap' at Scarthin Bookshop.

With over 25 years experience writing scripts for The Archers and Emmerdale, it’s safe to say that Chris Thompson knows a thing or two about creating gripping storylines.

Chris’ journey to the glamorous heights of soap opera writing did not come easy, though.

He attended grammar school in Leeds, progressed to study at Cambridge University and eventually took a teaching job where he began writing plays for the children to perform.

Hooked on the buzz, Chris started writing his own scripts and sending them to television producers.

Despite the barrage of rejection letters he received, Chris did not lose faith and soon landed a spot of good fortune.

“I entered a competition run by the Radio Times as they were looking for half hour scripts,” said Chris. “I didn’t actually win the competition, but one of the judges was a radio presenter in Manchester and he kept me on his radar.”

Owing to this newly-found window of opportunity, Chris began to write semi-professionally whilst continuing his day job as a teacher in Leeds.

By 1989, though, Chris was successful enough to quit teaching for good and after a string of successful radio plays, he approached The Archer’s and landed himself a job as a scriptwriter.

In the four years that Chris wrote for The Archers he contributed to 150 episodes.

Chris said: “I left The Archers with some sadness as I really enjoyed writing for it.”

The Leeds-born writer’s unhappiness was short-lived, though, as he soon started writing for Heartbeat and courtroom drama Verdict.

These commissions quickly led to an invitation from Kieran Roberts to join the Emmerdale team in 1998.

“It was a bit of a homecoming when I went to Yorkshire Television in Leeds to start working for Emmerdale,” said Chris.

After 13 years writing for the soap opera, though, Chris felt like he needed to ‘recharge his batteries’ and left in 2011.

“It was lovely to write for a programme that was enjoyed by so many people,” said Chris.

“It’s a very pressurised industry, though, with no job security.”

Since leaving Emmerdale Chris has been keeping himself busy by writing a book for people interested in scriptwriting titled Writing Soap.

“The idea is that by the time you’ve read the book you have all the building blocks to write a good script,” said Chris.

Owing to his recent publication, Chris will be giving a talk at Scarthin Books, Cromford, on Tuesday February 7 at 7pm.