Monday, May 2, 2011

About Fan Fiction and Original Shows

By Steve Ungrey

When I was just about six years old in February 1974, I had my first taste with a soap opera being canceled. That was the month CBS axed the long-running show THE SECRET STORM following a 20-year run.

Over 35 years have passed and you can’t count on two hands how many beloved soaps have bitten the dust. SOMERSET. LOVE OF LIFE. THE DOCTORS. TEXAS. SEARCH FOR TOMORROW. RYAN’S HOPE. SANTA BARBARA. And who can forget the demise of my all-time favorite show, the long-running mystery thriller THE EDGE OF NIGHT?

I have seen far too many shows get canceled over the years. I’ve also seen a rise in popularity of so-called “fan fiction”, where budding or established writers put their own spin on the soap genre. I don't even want to call this fan fiction and deride the genre, because some of this is actually excellent to read.

With the recent deaths of AS THE WORLD TURNS and GUIDING LIGHT, plus the future passing of ALL MY CHILDREN and ONE LIFE TO LIVE, many soap fans who are eager to get their fix are turning to different locations to watch.

I’m not talking primetime TV. (How primetime has copied the serial format is a great subject best left for another column.) I’m talking about online. A lot of people laughed when Eden Riegel, with her husband, Andrew Miller, launched a web soap called IMAGINARY BITCHES. They’re not laughing now. Look at all of the shows that have debuted online in recent years. From EMPIRE to VENICE, THE BAY to STEAMBOAT, and everything in between, the web has become a place for soap lovers to see their favorite stars in new and somewhat surprising roles.

Then there is online writing. These aren’t the rantings of some obsessed fan who wants to write a story about how Josh and Reva reunited for the umpteenth time on GL or Luke and Laura somehow magically found their way back together on GENERAL HOSPITAL. These are writings that range from revised versions of shows currently on the air to new and original soaps that have a small, but intensely loyal, fan following.

Two places have sprouted in recent years where writers can craft their talents creating great stories for the public to see. When I decided to get into writing online soaps, I didn’t want to go the route of everyone else and write the millionth redo of DAYS OF OUR LIVES. I also made up my mind not to remake EDGE in my liking, mainly because Henry Slesar was such a brilliant and gifted mind that no one can top him.

Instead, I took the old soap SOMERSET and reimagined it to today’s audience, premiering it first at MYSON (Soap Opera Network’s writing site) before moving it over to Daytime Royalty TV (DRTV) in the summer of 2008. Sam and Lahoma Lucas’ grown daughter, Susannah, returned to Somerset to find work and settle roots on her own in the hometown that gave her parents so many problems back in the early 1970s. Aside from Sam and Lahoma making occasional appearances and a few appearances by other Somerset characters, this is essentially an all-new show with new characters and new stories. The response has been positive.

I have made friends with and gotten to know many talented writers in three years at DRTV. And the shows… wow. Not only do we have reimagined versions of ALL MY CHILDREN, DAYS, LOVING and ONE TREE HILL, among others, over at DRTV, there is also original work. After 500 episodes, a show chronicling the lives of the residents of Harpers Falls, Massachusetts (HARPERS FALLS) is going off the web as of May 10. Albie Gray, the writer for HF, and I have coordinated crossovers with our shows and will again when he ramps up his new drama, SMYTHEWOOD, at DRTV. The drama has premiered already, but Albie will devote plenty of attention to it when he finishes up HF.

Then there are steamy serials like TEMPTATION (JacquesP’s creation), TEMPTED (written by Erik Bard, who also writes AMC the Next Generation) and a daring drama written by David Evan Smith called BEYOND THE HORIZON.

While MYSON isn’t as populated as DRTV, you can still find quality shows like POINT PALACE, STEAM and THE HERITAGE OF HOPE at that site.

The big appeal of these shows? You can read them online at your convenience. Each show’s script ranges from a few pages to as many as 15 depending on how elaborate the day’s program is. We set our own casts. It’s like playing fantasy baseball or football with actors. We choose the actors we’d like to play these roles, even if it’s in our imaginations.

The best thing? No interference.

We don’t have an executive producer or a network suit tapping us on our shoulder saying “You’re over budget. Cut six characters.” We write in and write out who we wish. Our scenes can be as romantic or as dramatic as we want them, without someone sending back a note saying “uhhh, does he have to swallow her whole mouth when they’re kissing?” (That hasn’t happened at DRTV or MYSON, but I can’t help imagining a network exec saying that to somebody.)

We can also be as spoiler-free or spoiler-rich as possible. I come from the old school. You have to watch my show if you want to see what happens. There are others who feel the same way. But others are willing to share a few tidbits here and there.

It is my fervent belief that, as we lose the established soaps one by one, this is the wave of our future. New online soaps, video productions or written blogs, will be something to look at.

I invite all of you to check us out sometime. Tell your friends. If they’re lamenting the loss of one of their favorite shows, they can relive the magic here. Maybe they’ll find a new friend or two when they’re watching.

I believe in soaps. I believe in good writing. We’ve got plenty of it here. Networks, check us out. My fellow established writers, if you’re able to do so without getting in trouble with the guild, look us over. We aspire to be just like you. We are your soap lovers. We won’t let you down.

I can’t say the same about ABC, CBS or NBC.

Check out these links:
- My SON
- Daytime Royalty TV

EDITOR'S NOTE: Even P&G jumped on the scripted soap bandwagon with their updated version of ANOTHER WORLD, titled ANOTHER WORLD TODAY.


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  2. A group of us fan writers, once 'Guiding Light' went off the air, started the Otalia Virtual Season. S1 had 17 eps, S2 had 10, and we're gearing up this summer to start another likely 10ep season 3. We have an excellent group of writers, editors, artists, executive producers. The episodes are written in prose format (as opposed to script format), and can range between 30ish pages to near 70ish pages per episode.

    For more about the OVS: "What It Is & How It's Coming Along" -

    OVS S1:
    OVS S2:

  3. Great column! Thank you for recognizing the fan fiction genre as worthwhile reading. Here is where I post my fan fiction:

  4. Clarification: we will be doing the planning and writing of OVS S3 eps thi summer and fall and will start 'airing' them starting Jan 2012.

  5. I have also seen fan fiction gain popularity. Readers seem to love it. We have a lot of fiction by kpatch at MyHourglass, as well as other great authors.

  6. I can not say how proud I am to know such an intelligent and talented young man who is, truly, committed to the continuation of the soap opera genre.

    Bravo Steve! From your biggest fan!

  7. I can't say that I'm a fan of "fan fiction" only because most of the shows I had watched hold a very special place in my heart and when I see people writing their versions, it just turns me off. However I do like the idea of the people creating their own "shows". I've been writing my own shows since I was in 6th grade. (nothing i would ever publish on the web) It's great to see that there is a world of other people who do the same thing.

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  9. "Avery in the City" is a narrative drama following the story of a recently dumped Guppie who—with the help of his a therapist, best friend and a Xanax prescription—rediscovers how to live out loud.

    Although inspired by a true incident, names have been changed to protect the guilty.

  10. I write fan fiction about General hospital and mostly about Skye and Jax and the quartermaine I love how Gh was in the good old days were they were about family and romance and nurse ball. if anyone is a Sax fan you would love my story! if you want a link my e-mail is [email protected] I will sent you a link to my site!