Friday, June 19, 2009

Friday Fiction - Learn from a Soap Opera

If you write fiction, then SHOW rather than TELL has probably been pounded into your head by your editors. There's a reason for this, and you can really understand it if you watch a good Soap Opera.

I've been a loyal fan of General Hospital for years, and granted, sometimes the storyline borders on ridiculous, but realizing that has helped improve my writing. My favorite character is Carly Corinthos Jax. Laura Wright, the actress who plays Carly, really SHOWS her emotions through her expressions. You don't have to guess when something surprises her...her mouth gapes, her eyes widen, and sometimes, she even gasps. These are things your reader can't see, so you have to SHOW them happening in your story to make them experience the moment. Let me give a quick example:

Carly was surprised when Sonny asked for a divorce. She felt mad and hurt at the same time.

Carly's mouth gaped. She widened her eyes at Sonny. He wanted a divorce? Anger fired her blood, but at the time time, her heart ached from him to hold her and say it was all a joke.

I'm sure you can see how the second would really SHOW the moment to the reader.

Of course, there are the scenes in GH when a couple awakens in the morning, breath stale and mouth pasty in real life, but they roll over, embrace face to face and engage in a passionate kiss. We all know that if that happened somewhere other than in front of the cameras, we'd push our partner away and tell them to "go brush." *lol*

That's why soap operas are like a training ground for writing. You want your story to be believable. An author never wants a reader to stop mid-story and raise a brow and think...yeah, like that would really happen.

I thought that today when I watched Jax and Carly in a tub surrounded by candles...I mean surrounded, and filled with rose petals. He massaged her foot, then gave her a diamond necklace. Yeah...that happens every day around here. *lol* Also, it's amazing how Leslie Charleson (Monika Quartermaine) seems to be growing younger the longer she's on the show. Between her and Bobbie Spencer (played by Zackie Zeman), it seems to be a race to see how tight they can get their faces. A dead giveaway is the crepe-like skin on their necks. You really can't fool mother nature...or a discerning viewer. I swear Leslie is starting to look a little like Skeletor. Still, I'm not sure I wouldn't try to undo the ravages of time if I could afford it. My biggest fear is I would look like a snake because I already have no lips. Of course, I could have them enlarged. That seems to be a trend right now among the actresses, but lordy, some have gone way to far in their pursuit to look like Angelina Jolie! I guess given my pocketbook and fear of reptiles, I'll stay as I am.

Anyhow, I got a little off track. Check out a soap opera some time and see the difference between good and bad actors and actresses. Apply the emotions to your writing, and you'll be surprised at what you produce. A good editor once told me..."You've written a great story, now we need to make it into a novel."

At the time, I didn't realize the difference, but once I went back through, added in the smells, the smiles, the pain, anger, fear, and showed them to the reader through my words, I learned what my editor meant. Don't just tell what's happening...SHOW your reader. Draw them in, hold them captive, and keep them turning pages. It's a skill, and I'm still learning, but as an old cigarette ad once said, "I've come a long way, baby."


Sloane Taylor said...

Ging, this is a GREAT post! Thanks for the advice. I'm not a soap fan, but can't wait to tune in and learn.

Darlin', the last thing you have to worry about is medical make-overs. You're beautiful as you are!

AmySoaps said...

Loved your blog, Ginger! So true!!!

Katie Hines said...

i have to admit, I'd never thought of "using" soaps the way you describe. Not being a soap fan myself, I think it's a new perspective!

Anna Kathryn Lanier said...

Hi, Ginger! Great post. I know they tell us to people watch, but I don't. Go to the mall sit and watch the people, make notes of them. Sounds like homework if you ask me! LOL. But that's a good idea to watch TV shows and see how they do it. I used to watch soaps but haven't for years. There is one long-time actor (who shall remain nameless) who has been on this soap for over 20 years....he still has no emotion. He can yell that he hates you or tell you he wants to make love to you and it all sounds the emotions. But yeah, he's cute and had a great bod, so I guessed that worked.....


Maryann Miller said...

Good points, Ginger, and one can get the same creative input from watching other TV shows and films. In fact, for a more subtle "showing" film actors have a way of expressing emotions in an understated way that works for some characterizations.

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