General Hospital · If I Wrote The Show

If I Wrote GH 1: Nelle Gaslights Carly

Originally posted June 6, 2018

Note: This is the inaugural entry in my new series: If I Wrote GH. I write fanfiction as almost a third job, haha, and I’m always thinking about what I would do differently. Even when GH was really good (my favorite years in the 1990s and the mid 2000s), I still think about that. I don’t have the time to write the fanfiction, they’re not hiring me to write GH, so here we are).

Let’s assume that my story assignment was the following:

Nelle gaslights Carly into thinking Morgan might be alive, making her appear to be unstable and fragile to those closest to her. This culminates in Nelle throwing herself down the stairs, framing Carly for her assault, and Carly being sent to Ferncliffe after being found not guilty due to insanity. 

As a writer, I would break the story down first. So if the ultimate goal of this storyline is to put Carly into Ferncliffe, I would immediately go and re-watch the scenes from when Carly had her breakdown in 2005. Jennifer Bransford never usually gets mentioned for her short-term role as Carly during this period, but she did amazing work during the breakdown story.  I’d want to think about those beats.  I’d also go back twenty years, during Carly’s first stint in the mental institution after shooting Tony. She faked her way into that one. I’d look at how the characters around her reacted — who’s still in her life? How did they handle it? What were the circumstances? Can I bring any of those parallels into this story?

I’d look at Nelle as the villain. What are her motivations? How far is she willing to go? What is her ultimate goal? Is it just to get Michael? What does she want with Michael? Doe she imagine she can manipulate him forever? That’s where Nelle is blurry for me because I don’t really understand her ultimate goal here. But let’s assume I’m in total control of the story direction.

You make a list of all the people who might be affected by this story. Carly’s kids: Michael and Joss. Sonny, her husband. Bobbie, her mother. Jason, her best friend. These are the immediate people who need to be involved in this story. What’s going on in their lives? Sonny is actively thinking about mental illness these days, with his own history, his father’s, and knowledge of Carly’s past. Jason knows Carly has penchant for getting herself in trouble by trying to do good. He should be distracted by his own issues — a complicated relationship with his ex-wife, Sam, building relationships with his kids, complete disgust that Franco is in this world, and trying to find out what happened to him for five years. He should want to help Carly because that’s who he is. But both Carly’s normal allies should be distracted. Bobbie should be an ally, but she knows Carly. She absolutely knows the lengths Carly might go to.

There should absolutely be doubt in these characters’ minds about whether Carly might do something to Nelle in the heat of the moment. Carly has a long history of doing awful things for reasons she thinks make complete sense. I don’t think Jason or Sonny should doubt her long, and Joss shouldn’t at all. Joss doesn’t know her mother’s history the way these other characters do.

So how would the story unfold?

Nelle has an uphill battling in convincing Carly Morgan is still alive, but thanks to her relationship with Michael and being around at the time of Morgan’s death, she’s had an entrance to this family. She quickly decides not to make Carly think Morgan is alive, but rather that she’s being haunted by Morgan’s spirit. Carly should be tormented by the idea that Morgan blames her for his death — for being with Sonny, for going back to him — that Morgan’s death was punishment for Carly’s sins.

Nelle should enlist Ava’s help in this almost immediately. They should be working together. Ava has no qualms about this obviously. She knows it will make Griffin upset, but Avery is the goal. With Ava’s money behind her, Nelle can invest in a couple of things that might help. She is able to hack Carly’s security feed that prevents it from seeing her plant some sort of electronic device in Carly’s office and also uses Michael to get something planted at the Corinthos house — bedroom, living room.

She could use these devices to play recordings of Morgan’s voice. There is a lot of technology — you can get a sample of Morgan’s voice and make it say whatever you want. She could plant cameras that allow her to only do it when Carly is alone.

This should be done randomly for about a month and then ramp up. At the same time, Nelle should be doing what she can to make amends with Michael. Being more open with him. Making herself vulnerable in ways she didn’t at first. Her lies are defense, she wants to be better for their child. She knows they’re over, etc. Michael should be slightly taken in by this. He wants to believe in the mother of his child, after all.

Carly, believing she’s haunted, will be less likely to tell anyone what’s going on. She’ll start to withdraw, to blame herself. To start thinking about all the horrible things she’s done. There should be moments when she hears Morgan’s voice and it’s not Nelle. This should absolutely bring her to the brink. How is anything she’s done different from Nelle? Why is Carly better? Didn’t Carly do worse?

Jason and Sonny won’t notice at first. Bobbie will worry about Carly, but Carly will brush her off. She’s thinking about Morgan, and Bobbie understands how the grief comes in waves–they can even talk about BJ. Carly and Bobbie could even talk about Bobbie’s past. Maybe Carly could even come close to really confiding in her mother about feeling guilty — and Bobbie can relate since she’s been known to do some rough things. Carly could almost want to confide completely in her but always keeping it back.

As we get into May sweeps, we have Carly on the brink, Nelle becoming less and less of a villain to people in Michael’s life. Sonny is distracted by Mike, Jason is (and should be) with Sam or his children, trying to get to the bottom of what happened to him. Should be trying to find Heinrich or whatever is going on with Peter at this moment.

And then Monica throws the baby shower. Carly is going to give Nelle a chance because she’s been doing all of this thinking about her own situation. Maybe she has been too hard on her, she knows what it’s like to always be the bad guy. She could even reach out to Nelle, offering advice. Trying to do better. Maybe Morgan will be at peace if Carly tries to do better.

And Nelle shows Carly the nursery upstairs with the mobile that looks like Morgan’s. With the baby blanket that looks like Morgan’s. And then Carly hears Morgan’s voice talking about how his childhood wasn’t that happy, that his parents were always fighting, and busy with themselves. Too selfish to notice him. Sent him away. And Carly could start crying–and then Nelle does that smile.

And Carly knows. She can’t explain it. She doesn’t understand it, but she knows it’s not Morgan. It’s Nelle. And she flips out. She starts screaming at her. Nelle runs from the room.

Downstairs, they can hear the yelling, and it takes them a minute but by the time they get to the foyer, Nelle is already falling, and Carly is standing at the top of the stairs, horrified. Crying. Nelle at the bottom of the floor.

Sonny is there — he can flash back to the Carly falling scene from 2000.

That’s how I would have written the gaslighting story. Is this something anyone is interested in me continuing? It’s almost like fanfiction — this is actually how I write my plot sketches. I can write the trial and where I would have taken the story from here. I can also do other stories.

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