Corrie storyliner reveals Nina story details and why characters have to die

We all spend many hours a week engaging with the sad, joyful, exciting and tragic storylines of our favourite soap, but just how much preparation goes into a show like Coronation Street and its multitude of storylines?

With teams of storyliners, writers, script editors and producers, it’s a long process for an idea to come from a seedling to make it to our televisions.

We caught up with Corrie story editor Amy Coombs, who told us how far ahead the show works (it’s Halloween in the Weatherfield story office right now, lads), which story she is most proud of since she started and why some characters have to get the chop for a story to pack the ultimate punch.

It’s the start of the working week. What does your Monday hold?

We have a conference week at the start of the month. The editorial team get together with the writers and we discuss the next block of stories — where we’re heading. Then the story team will get back together for the next two weeks and plot all those stories out. Week four is our publication week so that means we have to get all the storylines written and edited with the show’s producer, Iain MacLeod, and then compiled and published to a document to send out to the writers.

When will the stories you’re working on this week be seen on TV?

We are doing October at the moment. We are kneedeep in Halloween stuff. It’s crazy. We’ll start doing the lead-up to Christmas next month. It’s usually the height of summer when we do Christmas. Usually if we are in the office we put a Christmas tree up to try and get us in the mood. Obviously we can’t do that at the minute because we’re all still at home. You constantly feel like you are six months ahead of everybody else in life but you get used to it.

How far does Corrie go back in your life?

I’m from Manchester so Corrie has always been a massive presence in my life. My dad absolutely loves the show. When I was younger I remember the Battersbys coming in as the new family, driving down the cobbles and Leanne mouthing off at somebody. I loved that they caused so much drama. I was a bit obsessed with soaps as a kid. I’ve also always enjoyed creative writing — I did an English degree at university. I was a Coronation Street press officer first, then joined the story team.

Did you ever go on the Granada Studios guided tour as a kid?

My aunt took me once — I must have been under ten. It was at Quay Street. I remember looking through all the letterboxes on the street and not understanding why there was nothing behind the doors. People still don’t know that we actually don’t film behind those doors and that they are all in the studio.

What is the difference between being on the story team and being a scriptwriter?

The story team are made up of storyliners, a story editor and a story producer. The team basically come up with the stories. We discuss ideas, and writers also pitch, then we plot that story out over a series of four-week blocks. The different character groups and stories are divided up between the storyliners. So I might write Sally and Tim. It’s my job to write that story arc for a four-week period. If you read the document, it would be almost like a fictional book. Then it’s the writer’s job to transform those paragraphs into the dialogue scenes.

The Seb Franklin and Nina Lucas ‘hate crime’ storyline was planned as far back as when Nina, played by Mollie Gallagher, first joined the show. Is that exceptional?

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Sometimes we do bring in characters with a clear intention. Other times we might bring them in because we need someone of that age or demographic and we feel they would add a certain texture to the show. Nina was brought in very much with that story in mind. It’s been a long process because we needed to bed the character in and make sure that the audience warmed to Nina before we could start motoring on with this story.

Does Corrie’s story department check you’re not clashing over a similar storyline with other soaps?

Yes, we do with Emmerdale. The thing with all soaps is that eventually we are all going to cover the same ground. We have to keep our finger on the pulse in terms of seeing what the other soaps are doing so we know what to avoid. We are constantly in conversations with Emmerdale about the stories they want to play and stories we want to play.

Is there a storyline you’re particularly proud of?

The Geoff and Yasmeen coercive control storyline. I had quite a big involvement from start to finish. It’s a subject I feel passionately about. Just by the very nature of the abuse, it’s so subtle at first and under the radar. We worked with charities who were incredible, read everything in advance and helped us in getting that story told.

Mistakes, you’ve made a few?

When I started in the story office, it took me a while to find the courage to pitch a story of my own. I finally worked myself up to it and decided to pitch a new chapter for the Phelan story. Inexperienced and nervous, my pitch ended up being reams and reams long, and it took me what felt an eternity to read it out in front of 50-odd people. Since then I have learnt to pitch ideas in a way that doesn’t send everyone to sleep.

Are you very wary of killing off much-loved characters?

If someone is going to die in the show, it needs to be someone the audience care about. As much as our baddies always have a shelf life, and a lot of them do end up meeting a sticky end, we also know life doesn’t work like that. In real life, people who mean the world to us are taken from us. I’m thinking about Sinead. She was an incredible character but that meant seeing her die gave us so much story and had an even bigger impact.

The facts

Salary: Starting salary for a junior storyliner is about £30,000.

Regular hours? Technically it’s 9am to 6pm but it does involve some late nights and occasionally weekends.

Short and sweet advice: It is better to say a story idea and it be dismissed than keep it in, because it might be a real gem.

Top tip

Be open with your own life experiences and put a bit of yourself into the stories. You have to understand why characters do or say certain things and you can do that if you think of things that have happened to you

Coronation Street is on ITV on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and on ITV Hub

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