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I used to watch soap operas with my girlfriend and her housemates when I was between classes in college. I could never figure out what was happening because I didnt watch regularly enough to understand the relationships among the characters.
Why is she slapping him?
You idiot! He killed
Wait. Why is he avoiding that guy?
Duh! He burned down the other guys store in an insurance scam.
Whatever. There are so many characters in these dramas that its hard to keep track. And each one seems to have all sorts of secrets from or conspiracies with, or against, each other.
What I imagined at the time was a walk-in three-dimensional model. Inside the model, each character is represented by a hub bearing his / her name. Each hub is connected to every other hub by a line. The line contains written information about the relationship the two characters: ex-lovers, secret identical twins, what have you. I imagined that it could perhaps be best implemented using Tinkertoys.
A quick consultation of the model would reveal all the information one would need to follow the action, as long as the model itself was meticulously updated.
UML Class Diagrams
Perhaps you could represent these using some sort of diagram in UML. It will become easier to predict the possible relationship changes posed by new characters because object attributes and methods (possible translation: idiosyncrasies?) could be taken into account. [sdm, Aug 28 2001, last modified Oct 21 2004]
||As per sdm's link comment, I think class diagrams would do the biz. Come to think of it, I bet the same class diagram would do for quite a few soaps, if it was abstracted well enough.
||From the look of the page at the other end of the link sdm provided, UML may not have existed when I was in college. Tinkertoys did, though, and may still be the modelling tool I feel more comfortable with.
||Those UML diagrams scared me, [sdm]. They reminded me far too much of relational database design. Try not to do that kind of thing again.