Susana H. Case

How to Write a Telenovela, Telenovela 12: Susana H. Case

How to Write a Telenovela

The protagonists—boy
who joins a group of cat-loving
Satan worshippers,
A-student goth girl who falls off
a rooftop while fleeing la polizia.

In a telenovela chapter,
there is an average of ten
scenes before a commercial break,
with more dialogue than a movie,
and lots of alternating plots.
Make sure there is a plenitude
of bullies, predators, thieves.

Provide enough iconic racy
moments while the marinara
is getting cold—smeared-lips kisses,
dress pulled off in one smooth
movement, tossed
onto a stranger’s bedroom floor.
Unrequited love, rapes,
tumors, mental hospitals, and secret
adoptions keep the audience
tuned in for more.

Make the viewers wonder if justice
will be done to the arrogant
hero, if the underdog will overcome
growing up poor. Remember,
the man most evil is always rich,
wears custom suits. There’s a woman
in his orbit who often goes shopping
at La Galleria Piazza Garibaldi.

Extra points for: una relazione a tre—
a romantic triangle; characters
switched at birth; and at least
one person in disgrace
with fortune and men’s eyes.
Make sure no one important dies.


Telenova 12

Sooner or later, a telenovela man
gets his face slapped.
Roberto, again.

Come un cane—the man is like a dog.
He dumps Lara, then pushes her
against a wall of his office,
penetration on his mind.
As Lara knows, having sneaked a look
at a letter on his desk,
he has just been abandoned
by the woman he professes to love—
Marina, the one with the best clothes.
Is such a man capable of love?
His employees’ eyes turn to slits
when they see him, brute in a suit.
He yells too much, and Lara
has bruises on her arm.

See all the smiling couples the day
of San Valentino and the sad ones, too,
who didn’t get, or give, flowers
and chocolates. A world can turn
on red indentations on one’s skin,
a dozen roses, a ribboned red
box shaped like an unbroken heart.


SUSANA H. CASE has authored eight books of poetry, most recently The Damage Done Broadstone Books, 2022, which won her a third Pinnacle Book Achievement Award. Her books have previously also won an IPPY, a NYC Big Book Award Distinguished Favorite award, and she was a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Book Award and the International Book Awards. The first of her five chapbooks, The Scottish Café, Slapering Hol Press, was re-released in a dual-language English-Polish version, Kawiarnia Szkocka by Opole University Press. She co-edited, with Margo Taft Stever, the anthology I Wanna Be Loved by You: Poems on Marilyn Monroe, Milk and Cake Press, 2022. Case worked several decades as a university professor and program coordinator in New York City and currently is a co-editor of Slapering Hol Press.