My love for General Hospital is not really a secret, but it’s also not something I bring up in everyday conversation.
That’s partly because, let’s face it, it’s kind of a guilty pleasure. There’s a reason I watch soaps (ABC only please, thanks): I have vivid memories of my mom watching them while I’d be playing in the bedroom with my sisters; they would often gang up on me (ah, sisters) so I’d escape to the couch and curl up into my mom for some comfort. Then, in middle school, somehow All My Children became the show to watch (Tad was back, which was a big deal in the early 90s); I got into One Live to Live when Marty’s rape trial started in the mid-90s (thanks, mom-mom!); but by my high school years, it was all GH, all the time. Truly, talking about GH was a bonding routine for me and several of my friends and classmates. There was even some sort of long song/limerick that I *wish* someone had thought to keep.
I lost the thread sometime in college, when classes and clubs and life intervened; and then, working my first “real” job didn’t leave any time for soaps. (Also, this was pre-Tivo, so.) But then, magically, I got back into it a few years ago. It still makes up a solid 5% of conversations with my family, since we all watch.
Anyway, for a writer, watching soap operas can be infuriating. The plot meanders–some episodes are tight and enticing, others are redundant and boring, and still others simply make no sense in the context of the show’s history–and the dialogue can sometimes be so overbearing and silly. I mean, not on GH, but definitely on those other soaps
But being a close watcher of soaps has helped me with my writing, I would argue. It’s shown me that there are protocols any script must follow; that characterization, pacing, and plot are all equally important; and that mostly, the storylines and the sub-storylines need to fit into the larger concept of the show’s theme. General Hospital, for example, because of its name, can never get rid of its hospital scenes, which means some portion of the main characters must always be either a. working doctors or nurses or b. continually getting shot, afflicted with amnesia, or undergoing psychiatric evaluations.
Sometimes GH fails, spectacularly. But at least I’m always learning from it, even if it’s just what not to do.