Optimism is NOT Arrogance

Arrogance is the belief that you are BETTER than others. Optimism is the belief that you have the same CHANCE as others. We all have the chance to achieve our dreams. Don't ever let anyone tell you differently.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Lost: Sacrificing Story for Theme

SPOILER ALERT!  I stayed up all night to watch the friggin' last episode and I'm gonna blog about it, dammit!

Ok, here's a great example of something that authors can run the risk of but should avoid at all cost:  when the story gets too complicated and there are too many threads.  If this happens you run the risk of throwing up your hands and saying "so everyone be nice to each other so there will be peace!"  But resolving nothing.

Resolution is the NUMBER 1 REASON people turn a page or tune in next week.  The HOPE of resolution is what drives us to continue.  As someone once said regarding films, "if you show a knife on the mantle in the first act you damn well better have it used in the third act."  Meaning?  If you open up a can of worms at any point you damn well better use them.

Lost failed in that regard.  Big time.

Now, I'll admit I was a LOSTIE, like a TREKKIE only without the gadgets.  I didn't start in 2004, I started a year ago and watched all the episodes in sequence.  Like millions of others, after the first one, I was hooked.  And why were we hooked?  Because we had to see how it all fit together!

Now, to the writers' credit, Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, they did answer some questions.  But all along I got the feeling that they had dug themselves in such a whole trying to be clever that they would never be able to make them all resolve.  And what did they do to wrap it all up?  They made some fabricated heaven where all the characters met like a Lost - The Christmas Special episode.

And they're all dead.

Cuz we all die sometime.

Yeah, no kidding!  We know that, we all know that, but we just spent six years waiting to see what the purpose of the island is.  Why does it need to be guarded?  Especially after the Man in Black died?  What are you protecting it from?

Here's the bottom line.  The main character of the story, whether the writers intended it or not, was the island.  Not Jack, not Kate, not anyone else.  It was the island.  They even started us off with that concept:  "The island's not done with you yet".  

But they ended without telling us who the island is!

So here's the lesson I'll leave you with before I get back to revising:  Don't ever EVER lead your readers down a path that you don't intend on having them complete.  Don't try to be tricky with so many twists and turns and surprises that you can't resolve them.  The writers of Lost will never have to worry about working again.  If they did this in a novel, however, it'd be the last book they sold.

By the way, why were they successful with such a horrible process?  Because they held the ending close to their chest and controlled how people "read" their book.  Imagine if it was a novel - and someone read it all the way through before you did.  Would they hand it to you and say "read this!  You'll never believe the ending!"  I don't think so.

They'd say "don't waste your time.  It's not a bad story, but it's confusing, complicated, and doesn't resolve itself."

Don't make the same mistake.

Ok, off to editing.  Gotta get the revised script to Special Agent CB this week!

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