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Bridget Dobson: 'Writing By Committee Does Not Work'

Jerome & Bridget Dobson in 2008
The SANTA BARBARA Blog is currently running an interview with longtime soap opera writer Bridget Dobson, who wrote for GENERAL HOSPITAL, GUIDING LIGHT and AS THE WORLD TURNS before creating SANTA BARBARA (with her husband, Jerome). She had quite an interesting perspective on soaps.

There are so many scenes over a career that involved writing (and in many cases producing) more than 6000 scripts, that it seems excessive to go into detail about any one scene or dramatic sequence.

In general, as I have already written, the writer's passion must prevail in an on-going drama.

I don't want to comment on specific GL storylines. However, I can say that whatever the storyline, it was not conceived or written for the audience. We wrote to please ourselves. We were very selfish. We wrote what interested us. There is too much work to be accomplished. Time can't be spent gauging the audience's reaction. Also, I think hoping to please an audience distracts from the passion of the writer. "Group-think" does not work. Writing by committee does not work. The intensity of the writer's creative fervour can't be diluted. (The networks and the sponsors might disagree, but that doesn't change the ferocity with which I hold this conviction.)
Bridget Dobson is the daughter of GENERAL HOSPITAL creators Frank and Doris Hursley. She married Jerome in 1961.

4 comments:

  1. The Dobsons are among my all-time fave soap writers (along with Doug Marland, Bevan Lee, Henry Slesar, Bill Bell, Claire Labine, Pam Long, etc.) I wish they'd do an online soap. The Dobsons brought good things to each of the soaps they wrote and the show they created was awesome (SB).

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  2. The Dobsons as well as Agnes Nixon should either be teaching courses on Writing for the Soap Opera or they should be structuring courses/apprenticeships for instructors to teach. Although I enjoy some of the web soaps and I hope that the remaining ones on network TV can survive and eventually thrive again, I miss that caliber of writing that existed in classic daytime dramas and if I'm honest, I must admit that I feel as if it is sorely lacking now, in even the best of daytime drama today. I don't expect it with most web soaps as the way web soaps are structured (in shorter segments) is very different, at least to me, they are. I don't find myself being hooked to today's soaps the way I would have growing up in the 80s and 90s. There should be some writers with the talent, the potential and the desire to write for this genre doing apprenticeships under the Dobsons and Nixon as they are one of the few links left to that Golden Age. Sadly, Bill Bell, Doug Marland and the Queen Irna Phillips are gone but had they been alive, I would include them also.

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  3. agentprovocateur, I would love to know which web soaps you are watching, and if that includes any that are nominated for our Indie Soap Awards.

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  4. For a long time I've thought, along the lines of agentprovocateur's comment, that it would be great for someone to offer online web-soap writing courses. Probably not courses taught by the Dobsons or Agnes Nixon, because I doubt they'd be anywhere near affordable for people like me who have never been in the business and just want to give it a try.

    My grad degree is in English with media and communications and my goal is only to produce about 10 episodes a year at about 10 minutes in length. But, I'm just experimenting with a bit of the writing and I keep thinking, how can I tell a story that satisfies, but ends with a cliffhanger, in such short segments.

    I think web soaps biggest obstacle, however, is the level of media saturation our brains are "swimming in." So many TV shows, Streaming movies, so many people self-publishing books, trying to find time to read books in general, plus everyone has a blog and everyone's a critic, but usually without an understanding of the need for "serious criticism" that shares insight and informs rather than "thumbs up" or "thumbs down," then dismisses and moves on.

    I suppose the most valuable lesson I got from clicking through and reading the interview is that writing is better when you are writing for yourself. Than would be my approach if I do get to the point of producing an independent web soap, not looking for a large audience or expanding to cable, just making something I can be proud of and enjoy doing with my friends.

    Still, it seems that most web soaps are always in need of funds. It seems like some of their writer/creators could raise money by offering reasonably priced online courses. I'd be interested.

    As for the Dobsons, I wish they could know that I've always thought "Santa Barbara," when written by them was brilliant. "Mason" putting his family "on trial" at the dining room table over perceived offenses against his mother and "Eden" taking the show full circle and shooting "Sophia" as symbolic revenge for "Channing's" murder-wow! I consider that Shakespearean.

    I'm glad We Love Soaps posted this link. I was unfamiliar with the "Santa Barbara Blog."

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