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William J Bell Style of Writing

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Hello I recently started to see soap operas and would like to get to know the genre better. I like the soaps of William J Bell and would like to know how his writing style was in all the soaps he worked on. Thank you very much
 

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Singular.  He did not have a huge writing team.

 

He wrote what he wanted, and watched the show to see what was working.  He made adjustments with the talent, instead of writing the characters the same if a recast wasn’t working or was bringing something different to light.

 

There is a pretty great interview with Claire Labine and Bill where we learn he did not write bibles for the network.  They trusted him (and he had the power and clout) to not let them be involved in creation.

 

As a viewer, I often found his shows more cerebral and sometimes emotionally colder than other shows.  Labine’s work being all heart, Bell was all mind to me.  Which is not to say he didn’t elicit emotion.

 

He usually had a character or set of them that was less polished, fighting for a better life, and or a social climber type.  Jill, Nina, Sharon, Drucilla, Nikki amongst others on Y&R, Brooke on B&B, Susan on DAYS.  He loved those characters.

 

His stories and motivations played out over a long period of time.  Sometimes a very long period.

 

He repeated himself, such as the photo affair storylines on Y&R- (first Jack/Jill, then Lauren/Brad).  

 

Lauren is a great example of a character that under him never lost her edge even if he did allow her to mature.

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I have had the honor and the privilege of meeting and talking at great length with his protege, Kay Alden.

Kay mentioned a few things:

They tried using an outline during the 1st season years when the show was half-hour long. Bill gave up.

Literally, they wrote the show a script at a time. 10 hours, she said, for each of them alone to work on a script. That increased to 30 hours to complete one script.

She mentioned that she shadowed his work on Days very early on. Again, this was shadowing. He did write bibles with Days.

He got away with not on CBS because of his clout (although they continued to demand bibles)

Bibles, by the way, in this case, is synonymous with 'Long Term Outline'.

 

When the show expanded to an hour they did use Bibles. I've gathered that it was to keep track. But, the day-by-day atmosphere still held up--that is why during his tenure, and hers, the show felt like 'bubbles'. Rather, that is why certain characters didn't meet up. That is why everyone was in their own orbit.

That was the nature of his style.

 

Bell loved hearing from other writers. He hired Kay because she was a good critic. They worked on the show and he would have her tell him if it was 'good'. She gave constructive criticism.

She functioned the same way when they added the other writers.

 

Further, during the first 7 years, Kay and Bill mostly alternated between scenes.  Like, "Kay, you write acts 2 and 4.  I'll do the others".  That is why Kay mirrors his writing style so much.

 

Another tidbit is that Bill hated confrontation. He'd bottle it up then...yeah.  Or, he would just have others deal with it. I 'think' she said that was in part because of Irna Phillips, his mentor.  Irna was confrontational. Her confrontations were bad. He was afraid to confront, in fear, he'd act like "

 

Kay mentioned he was successful during his years as an Ad Man. He brought in what he learned from that experience (Using sexual psychology and color-study) to craft his storytelling.

It seems, to me, he was aiming for the 'Pulp fiction covers' of the 40s/50s.

 

Bill gave credit. She mentioned a time when they were eating and Agnes Nixon walked by. He maid a POINT to say to Aggie "This is my protege, Kay Alden."

 

He seemed to be weary of certain things. They tried to do a homosexual story with Katherine. As soon as it was mentioned, the study (in mid episode) was flooded with hate mail. The ratings that day dropped considerable and it was traced to that moment.

After the controverse was a horror story. It was hell. Cosntantly, they were bombarded by hateful people. He made it CLEAR he didn't want to try that again, purley, out of fear of another outcry.  He convinced himself that incident didn't happen as a way to cope with the memories.

On that note, the chaos surrounding the hour explansion was Hell. She still has legit nightmares about that transition.

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