Rule # 10 from Douglas Marland's "How Not to Wreck a Show:"
"Good soap opera is good storytelling. It's very simple."
First rule of creative writing:
"Show, don't tell."
Marland Rule # 6"
"Don't change a core character. You can certainly give them edges they didn't have before, or give them a logical reason to change their behavior. But when the audience says, ‘He would never do that,' then you have failed."(bold added)
There's so much more to say about why the Carly-Holden story has angered so many As the World Turns fans. But, the three items above really do explain everything that's gone wrong - not with the idea of the story of an illicit affair, which as my good friend, Marlena de la Croix points out, "are staples of soaps," - but with the how and why, and how fast, of this story.
Marlena went on to say, "I can't quite understand why there is such a huge fan outcry against this romance. She's right, adultery is to soaps what bread and milk are to housebounds in a blizzard. And I also can't disagree with the analysis of why the story should be working by Marlena's friend, "writer/producer who wishes to be known only as pjs." But, the problem I do have with pjs's analysis is that it sounds as though it was written from the perspective of a writer-producer - "here are all the reasons this will be a great story." It reads like a pitch, and on paper, I agree, this should have been a great story. And it could have been a great story. But it's not. And, pjs's analysis, while largely correct, is also intellectual and cerebral; fans respond emotionally to what they're seeing on the screen, or, in this case, not seeing. (This is not to say that fans don't apply their intellect to what they see; insulting viewers' intelligence really pisses us off, but that's a topic for another post.)
Why the story isn't working is not that complitcated (see the rules above). Patrick Erwin, who provided the point to pjs's counterpoint, got it exactly right when he said:
"(T)his story is chugging along at a very quick pace. That might work for a new romance, but when you have characters who are making changes in their lives as radical as what Holden and Carly are doing, it would have been smarter to show us their feelings over the course of a few more months. ATWT might be hitting all the beats, but before we've had time to get used to any of those beats, we're off to the next one."
All I've seen is one plot point after another. I took a look at the story synopses from the past few months: the earliest indication was in 29 April episode: "Holden comes to Carly's rescue." A couple of days later, 1 May, "Holden and Carly share sad stories." on 27 May, "Carly comforts Holden." On 5 June, "Carly and Holden share a moment." A week later, 12 June, "The chemistry between Carly and Holden continues to cause tension." On the 13th, "Carly and Holden give in to their feelings." 28 June: "Carly and Holden's relationship reaches a new level." On the 30th, "Carly and Holden plan a secret rendezvous." Neil (the ultimate plot point) shows up on 7 July, and today and tomorrow, 16 and 17 July, Holden tells, yup, there that word again, Lily he's having an affair. And, according to the previews, Lily goes bat shit crazy and points her car at Carly and hits the gas.
Not even three months. IT'S A SOAP OPERA! WHAT'S THE RUSH?
So what do fans think?
On Marlena's blog, several readers took exception to pjs's contention "that it is one of the most realistic looks at adultery that daytime has ever presented," In particular, "WT," who said, "I have to disagree that the viewers hate it because it is so believable. The problem is it ISN"T believable! Even Jon Hensley himself has said the pairing doesn't make sense because Holden has never liked Carly." And
From "Walter Curtain" posting on Media Domain:
"On Another World in its heyday, John Randolph had an affair. His wife, Pat, thought it was with her best friend. It was with another woman. But all the clues were there. They played that out first. Then Pat discovered the truth and it was brutal."
"This thing is a joke. If only Lily thought Holden was having an affair, and really started breaking down, confiding in Carly. And thinking the affair was with someone else. And using Carly as a sounding board. But this is written like it's high school. Not adults."
"Good Point! I am having trouble getting into this storyline. I guess it is a combination of poor writing as well as being too predictable.
The key phrase here, "I am having trouble getting into this storyline." That means that no matter how well a story may read on paper, if viewers are having trouble getting into it then the storytelling has failed. Doug Marland had it right: it really is that simple.
As for where the Carly-Holden story might lead down the road, here's part of what my friend, Sam Ford, wrote to me:
"If they play every end of this, the end could at least make the means more forgivable, especially if we see a lot unravel in the process. This will be Noelle's first chance to really shine as Lily, when the big affair reveal comes out. How will this affect Jack? If they don't have him really and truly react, that would be ridiculous. I'd love to see Brad involved, perhaps lashing out at cousin Holden, while Katie "comforts" Jack and makes us all wonder how much she's really over him...Perhaps we could see Emma's betrayal, that some of this was going on under her roof, defending granddaughter Lily no matter what her bone-headed son thinks he was doing. Lucinda finally has enough of Holden's treatment of Lily and really lets him have it, while Holden doesn't know what to do...Jack and Holden have it out, perhaps with a few barnyard punches thrown, and the name of Julia is conjured somewhere in the conversation, since this isn't the first time the two of them shared women..."
And the operative word there is, "could," as in coulda, woulda, shoulda... But will they?
© 2008 Lynn Liccardo
Causes lynn liccardo Supports