Sunday, March 18, 2012

What Writers Can Learn From Soap Operas


I know I might be going out on a limb here...



But...writers can learn about

--Compelling Characterization


Most of you may snicker at this post, but I am a closet General Hospital watcher, have been since I was five (it's my only soap, I pinky swear). I don't recall much about GH back then, besides sneaking a peek at "Mommy's Show," while I was supposed to be napping after half a day at kindergarten. What I do remember, was my mother laughing, crying, cheering, and being held captive for a complete hour of her day. 

Soap Operas give us characters we love to adore, despise (but secretly love!), need to know, crave to date, rise from the dead and characters we never, ever want to lose. 

Antonio Sabato Jr.
Anyone recall the great love of Luke & Laura? Frisco & Felicia? How about lusting after Dr. Noah Drake (Rick Springfield) or Jagger Cates, the hot gangster with a golden heart (Antonio Sabato Jr.)?




The lovely Kimberly Anne McCullough is an actress, singer, and dancer. She is best known for her longtime role as Robin Scorpio on the show since she was seven years old. It's rare in the Land of Soaps for the same actor / actress to remain on a show for the majority of their lives. 27 years, Kimberly played the character, Robin. The actress performed an outstanding role, in which she won many awards.

Soap Opera characters die every day. But, GH's Robin was different. She loved fiercely. She forgave everyone (most everyone). She battled being HIV positive heroically. She mothered little Emma like there was no tomorrow. Gentle, kind, giving, courageous, caring, dedicated, shall I go on?? 

We writers could learn a thing or two when creating our next character. Seriously, no more laughing at me. :-)

The writers of GH and Kimberly gave us a raw, compelling character. (Some of you are still laughing, aren't you???) I was so saddened by her "tragic death" on the show two weeks ago, I couldn't even finish the episode with her funeral service on Friday. I gave myself a tension headache from crying!

As writers, we strive to create believable characters, right? Anyone else inspired by a soap star? 

Check out what this Southern Belle View writer, Beth Webb Hart has to say about what she's learned from soap operas here .

Here's a bit about creating compelling characters over at Divine Secrets of the Writing Sisterhood. 
Stephanie's post begins with..." So her dog died and her husband is leaving her and her teenage son is peddling meth and now she’s fallen into a viper- and rat- infested mineshaft..."   You must check it out...great post!!!

And now, for you soap opera fans who cannot get enough from daytime shows, here's an episode from Gatonovela - Cat Soap Opera 

~A story of betrayal and loyalty, love and hate, support and jealousy and life and death. share with us the joy and sadness in the life of simple cats who are destined for greatness.


30 comments:

  1. I've never watched a soap opera although my mom watched them all the time. Not many around anymore.

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  2. Gosh I remember the Luke and Laura drama from when I was in college. A big gathering for their wedding, which one, I'm not sure. They're like weebles, they wobble but they don't fall down. My mother's housekeeper (seems the wrong word as she's more like my second mom) is a big "stories" fan. She does her ironing and dishes when the stories are on so she can watch them.

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  3. I remember my girlfriend going crazy for Luke and Laura's wedding when we were in college. There was no way I was watching soaps and still won't. Then again, is there really much difference between General Hospital and Grey's Anatomy? Seriously.

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  4. I've never watched a soap opera. But I agree, we must all strive to create compelling characters :)

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  5. Wow, am I really sticking my neck out here or what?!? Three of you have never, ever seen a soap opera??? I find that amazing!

    @Alex, no, there's not. GH I believe is one of the oldest ones still running.

    @JRo, that's funny! I recall our student center aired soaps during the lunch hours at our local college, and we all watched them, even the guys! lol.

    @Michael, Yeah, I'd say there's not much difference between a daytime soap and an evening show like Grey's Anatomy, Desperate Housewives, Scrubs, or any other "on-running" drama show.

    @Kelly, I'm shocked you've never watched one...although, I may be dating myself here, but they were quite popular when I was a teen. I knew lots of girls who'd pretend to be ill and miss school to keep up with their show.

    Times have changed, my girls wouldn't watch daytime shows, but now shows like Scrubs, oh yeah!

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  6. My point for this post was about how I believe the writers of daytime soaps do an outstanding job at creating 3D characters. Not all of them, of course, some are cheesy & lame.

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  7. LOL...Candy and not laughing at you! You nailed this post, because the characters you describe are literally bigger than life! Thanks so much for insight I didn't have before this and the PUSH to dig deeper in my characterizations!

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  8. Oh Candy, though I do not get to watch soaps these days, I grew up as a child of All my Children and General Hospital. Can I just say Quartermaines?

    Anywho, I think you've made an excellent point. I mean, think of the Young and the Restless. There's Victor. Victor is a character that has been so well developed and well played by the actor that for that show to replace him just would be UNTHINKABLE. To piggy back on the point you've made today, I'd also like to add that soap operas - cheesy or not - have mastered the art of tension buildup and cliff hangers. The writers create these moments where you're at the edge of your seat, waiting to see who shot so-and-so. Then take you on a joy ride of tension buildup to get to the whodunnit moment.

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    1. Definitely tension masters, aren't they??? Thanks for your comments, Angela!

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  9. Great post! The wonderful thing about these characters is that while they are larger than life, they are believable within the world that's created.

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  10. Well, they certainly know about cliffhangers. Especially on Fridays. ^_^

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    1. I'm not a big fan of Fridays for "my story!" However, I do love my Mondays :)

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  11. Yes! Authors can learn secrets of tight plotting, characterization, and especially how to dramatize from soaps! I was hooked on a sopa many years back called Santa Barbara--hehehehe-from which the great actress Robin Wright sprang forth.

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  12. Omg, I remember that one! When hubby and I lived in Japan, that was the only American show on during the day!!

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  13. I don't watch soap operas but I think they might be a good source for writers :-) Great idea, Candy!

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    1. Thanks for your comments, Angela! They can be a good source. The other area would be naming characters. Here are a few interesting or different names I can think of: Star, Lulu, Lucky, Jagger, Maxie, Donte, Jax...

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  14. I remember watching Kimberly Anne McCullough (Robin) when she was going out with Stone. Those were phenomenal episodes. And the aftermath of when he passed were equally amazing. Man, GH used to win awards above awards back in the mid-ninties for the awesome stories they had portrayed. Who could ever forget Sonny and Lilly? I certainly can't! Thanks for the memory!

    I've also tagged you in the 11 Questions post on my blog today!

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    1. I remember Stone & Robin, Sonny & Lily, but oh, do you recall the dysfunctional relationship between Karen and Sonny??

      I'll check by your blog later this eve!!

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  15. I totally get this. Actually, this is the very reason why I love WWE (it's basically a soap with sweet fighting scenes ;). It probably sounds totally weird (wrote a post on it a while back...) but it's the ultimate way to see characters develop and I adore how vivid their personalities are. It's awesome :)

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    1. What's WWE? Is it wrestling? Lol, I have no idea!

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  16. When I was teeny-tiny I watched DARK SHADOWS. I was just the right age for it to scare me silly! LOL.

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  17. Roland, I've heard tons about Dark Shadows from a family member. He LOVED watching that show! I wish it was still on, I'd love to see it!

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  18. Hooks especially - I bet I could learn a lot about rising tension and cliffhangers!

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  19. Instead of soap operas, I watch Weeds, True Blood, and Shameless pretty much for the same reason. There is so much drama packed into each show it makes my head spin. And keeps me coming back for more to find out what's going to happen next. That's key! Great post!

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    1. I've only watched True Blood from your list. Drama, heck yeah! I enjoyed Harris' books better than the show myself, but I met her too, so that helped.

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  20. ...admittedly, I grew up watching GH, and Robin of course. Broke the habit when the day job gained control of my afternoons many years ago, and until this very moment had no idea of Robin's tragedy. She was indeed a special character who will be missed ;)

    El

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    1. Ugh, I cried for 2 weeks, and I think she's risen! They showed quick clips of her in a hospital bed...should've known. But, they even gave her "remains" to Patrick. What the heck? Thanks for your comments!

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