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The Death Of Daytime -- Part Six

Updated on April 8, 2011

Don't Know Much About History

A lot of the people working behind the scenes in soap operas don't take the time to learn their soap's history. History isn't something a soap opera can manufacture. It's something that happens on the show over time. Using a character's history makes a story more richer and deeper that in might otherwise be.

A former headwriter of One Life To Live used past history to pull off a shocking story that Viki Buchanan gave birth to twins, but one of the babies was stolen and given up for adoption. They even showed clips from the past to support this new plot twist they were doing and brought back past characters. This was an anomaly in the world of daytime, as most times shows try to manufacture history to sell some new plot twist, but rewriting the true history of the show.

It can also makes a character richer and deeper. Currently on General Hospital they have the character of Steve who is kind of blah. I was sitting there one day when it hit me. That's the infamous Steven Lars all grown up. His biggest connection on the show is written as his sister, Liz, a character we never even saw born on the show, and who just arrived to stay with her grandmother several years ago. From what I've seen the writers have used nothing of Steven Lars back story to make the Steve character richer and deeper and more complex than he is.

There was a scene when Steven Lars was a baby that happened in the seventies, I still remember it so clear, it's like it happened yesterday. Steven Lars mother, Heather, sold him on the black market when he was a baby, and Peter and Diana Taylor adopted him. When Heather discovered she couldn't have any more children, she decided she wanted her son back, but if her husband Jeff found out she'd sold her son on the black market, she'd lose him, forever. So she had a plan and laced Diana's tea with LSD and set them on a Lazy Susan. But when Heather had her back turned, little Steven Lars sent the glass to spinning and Heather got the LSD tea instead and spent several years in a sanitarium.

Years later, Heather came out of the effects the LSD had on her, and she thought she could get Jeff back, but found out he was sleeping with Diana. So she found a way to escape and set out to murder Diana, and have the perfect alibi of being locked up in a mental institution when she did it. After Diana's murder, Jeff found out Steven Lars was his son and took him and moved away, wanting Heather nowhere near their son. But several years after that he relented and allowed her to be a part of their son's life.

None of this rich history is written into the writing for Steve. He's been going easy on this doctor at the hospital named Lisa, who he slept with, who is just like his mother Heather, and to my knowledge no one has had a conversation with him suggestion his attraction to the woman is because she reminds him of his mother.  Instead Steve comes off as rather blah and priggish.

Over at One Life To Live, they're doing a bullying story, but they're not using any of the bully's history to explain why he's suddenly become a nasty little bully. And yesterday, the character of Destiny showed up to see the character of Matthew, because they're such close friends, only they're not. And this is pretty much typical writing for a show.

Characters who aren't friends suddenly are to serve a plot twist. A character's history isn't used to explain why he's suddenly acting totally out of character. Instead of knowing their shows history, they make it up to suit whatever story they're trying to tell. 

Of course, viewers who know the actual history are left yelling, "Totally bogus!" and labeling the crap these shows are trying to sell for what it is, crap.

Using the history of a character to tell a story is the difference between telling a great story and a mediocre one.


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    • susansisk profile image

      susansisk 6 years ago from Georgia, USA

      There is not much that is realistic about the soaps, but I love them! I have been watching "All My Children" since the beginning, and "One Life to Live" almost as long. Wish they didn't have to end.