Sunday, August 11, 2013

Days of Our Words--Television vs. Novels

Always a fan of soap operas, my dream was to work on one.  My neighbor happened to be a songwriter and he introduced me to his managers.  They got me a meeting at ABC and a deal to write a sample script for General Hospital. 

Happy Dance!

Until they read the script and said I'd never work in daytime.  To ease my disappointment, I wrote a YA novel about a 17 year old girl who becomes a star on a soap.  This novel, In Real Life I'm Just Kate, now titled Just Kate, got me into daytime television and I worked in soaps for a number of years.

Having experienced both, I can now compare the two worlds of writing.
If I sit down to write a novel, I'm on my own with complete autonomy to make all artistic choices without input.  In television, you have no autonomy and everyone including the guy on the corner of 66th Street and Columbus Avenue who sells Italian Ices out of a cart has input.

Life is a little dull here when I'm writing.  I'm at the computer and then for excitement I visit my neighbors.  Life in the television studio is never dull.  It's one crisis after another.  
When I was the headwriter for NBC's show, The Doctors, word came from the higher ups that a character needed to be killed off.  They weren't happy with the actor, or he wasn't happy with them, I'm not quite sure was the problem was but he had to leave.  It was Alec Baldwin and I didn't want to kill him.  He's handsome, he did his job and he was always nice to me.  What more can you expect?  

I thought I would have to come up with a way to kill him.  No, I was told.  Two guns would be fired at him from different directions at the exact same moment.  You know what it looks like.  A disembodied gun coming around a door.

I said to the producer "You can't be serious.  How is the gun being aimed?"
"Just write the scene."

Okay.  You don't necessarily have to make sense in television .

My romantic comedy, Swept, will give you a sense of what goes on backstage on a daytime serial.

Swept away on a tide of words, Ariel Robbins finds her life all too alarmingly coming to resemble the soap opera she works on. 
There are bizarre events, unforeseen twists, insane producers and a love interest so complicated, Dr. Dorsey Rees, that even Ari couldn't have created him.  The more the television show spins out of control, the safer the harbor of Dorsey Rees is, but Ari can't navigate to him without hitting every damn rock in along the way. 
When all Ariel wants is Dorsey, has that ship sailed or is there a place at his dock for her?
--Barbara Morgenroth


Sandy Cody said...

Barb, love this peek into the world of TV writing. It's fascinating. Thanks so much for sharing your experience. Swept sounds like a fun read.

Cheryl said...

What an interesting writing life you've had, Barb. I enjoyed reading about your time as a TV soap writer.