Tuesday, April 04, 2006

How General Hospital Helped My Writing

My RWA chapter partners are probably tired of hearing me talk about this, but I now have the whole world wide web that hasn’t heard me. Watching General Hospital is one of the best ways to work on characterization and plotting.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. You think I’m crazy. I was never a soap opera watcher until 2001 when Port Charles started with a vampire story. Then I was hooked. Now Port Charles didn’t have the best writing or actors, but by watching it, I found General Hospital. Of course, first the gorgeous men caught my eye, but the story lines and the characters kept me watching. I have to admit I do use the fast forward button (as I work full time and have to record it). That’s only when certain characters are on the screen that I don’t like. But that has to say something about the writing, if it goads me into disliking an actor’s character or the storyline so much.

Look at the characters. You have the dark and brooding mobster, Sonny Corinthos (Maurice Benard). He’s got alpha male written all over him. Past baggage galore, a dangerous lifestyle from his "export" business along with a soft heart for his kids and the woman he loves. He demands loyalty at all cost and returns it two-fold. Talks soft and has the type of eyes you could drown in

Then you have his second-in-command, Jason Morgan (Steve Burton). He’s alpha male without all the brooding and emotion Sonny easily exudes. Jason will kill when ordered, but uses restraint when needed. He appears cold to the world, but feels more deeply than most realizes.

There are several good looking and interesting males, but I have to mention one of the younger characters. Nikolas Cassadine (Tyler Christopher). Oh, my, talk about sexy and making my eyes happy. When he takes off his shirt (required for every soap opera star), I do not move or breathe until he leaves the screen.**DH has to revive me** He has tattoos that I would love to rub off...oops, sorry, got side tracked. His character is alpha male with a little beta but in a good way. He’s a prince, charming (no pun intended), well-bred, and filthy rich. He might not beat up the bad guys with his fists, but he could easily use an epee.

Of course, you’re wanting to know about the plotting. You really need to watch it. The writers often have one or two storylines going that I think I know where it’s going, then POW! they surprise me. Don’t get me wrong. They work at making it believable. But they do occasionally expect the viewer to make a leap of faith. Besides like I said earlier, if I don’t like the storyline, I can always fast forward.

What TV show or movie helped you in your writing?


Paula said...

For me it was The X-Files. When the show was in its prime, it was really well written and the stories were compelling on a lot of different levels.

From studying that show when I was trying my hand at TV scriptwriting, I learned a lot about pacing and the organic flow of the four-act structure that I still use in plotting and writing my novels.

I also learned how to push myself to write about complicated characters and dramatic situations that I'd never tried before.

Christy said...

I've got to go with my favorite of all time. Buffy The Vampire Slayer had it all. The characters were so real and three dimensional. Even the bad guys were well drawn out, three dimensional and not bad all the time.

Everytime I watched that show I had so many lightbulb moments my head hurt.

You could root for the characters because they were so heroic. But then they'd do something stupid and you'd get angry with them. But no matter what, you always loved them. Yeah, kind of like family.

And the emotion? Josh Whedon is a master at putting humor and pathos together. There were few episodes I didn't laugh and cry in the same hour.

And the dialogue was amazing. So pithy yet realistic and always, always entertaining.

And oh yes, did I mention Angel, Giles, Xander, and Spike? There was Clem too -- not so cute. He was a demon with really droopy skin but so sweet, you just had to love him.

Carla Swafford said...

Another show I learned from was La Femme Nikita. The twists and turns of the plots. The characters were so deep in their motives it blew my mind. This is the show that has me adding more than one subplot and making sure each word that I write is important.

Paula said...

TOTALLY loved Clem, Christy. Buffy and Angel were both great shows.

One of the bits from Angel that stuck with me the most was the whole transition from Fred finally falling for poor Wesley, to her tragic and wrenching death, to her "resurrection" as Illyria and the adjustments Wesley had to make to dealing with her as the same...but so utterly, crushingly different.

I really hate that the series ended with Wes's death, because I saw so much potential in trying to build a relationship between Illyria (a vengeful, deadly god with no respect or compassion for her human underlings) and Wes, the soulful demon hunter who'd once loved the woman who'd inhabited the body Illyria now wore. He was the first, and possibly the only, human to ever touch a soft spot inside her, and I would have loved to see that explored in a movie.

See? Great television shows set up situations that spark our imaginations and make us want more. And when "wanting more" happens to a writer, we often end up turning that desire into a book.

Deborah Matthews said...

American Idol. They give it their all. Even the negative comments don't bother a lot. They just keep trying.

Like we must do. If we took every negative comment to heart and believed it, we'd never write again. Sometimes, you have to trust your instincts.

Cheryl said...

I couldn't agree more with everything you have just said. I, too, watch General Hospital, almost religiously so. It has helped me with my writing extremely well. I also found that a good way to help you with this if you are struggling, is to join a RP listing or site. I did this, and now, new ideas and creativity has kept me flowing without writers block for months!

You can check out some ideas and examples here, if you would like to see what I am referring to.