Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Learning from LOST


I’ve recently been hooked by the TV series LOST. Over Thanksgiving weekend, my daughters were doing marathon viewing sessions of the first two seasons, and I made the mistake of wandering in to sit by them for a while. I had meant to work on my Christmas cards. Instead, I found my eyes straying more and more to the TV screen, until I finally gave up all pretenses of working on the cards.

I’m not much of a TV person. I watch a few episodes of WITHOUT A TRACE a year, and that’s about it. Of course, the nice thing about watching a TV program the way we did is that you’re not annoyed by commercials (for which I have no patience). But I think I would have been impressed by the program even without that luxury. Not only are the episodes well written and well acted, but I think the series has much to teach storytellers in any medium about characterization, pacing, tension, and suspense.

One of the things I found the most fascinating about the series was the way the writers handled the characters. When I analyzed what sucked me into the program, I decided it was the characters—the desire to know more about them, to understand them better, to see what happened to him. The show is a brilliant study in effective characterization.

These are fully rounded, multi-dimensional characters. Like all of us, none of the characters are all good or all bad. All have their virtues, all have their failings. Most TV characters are simply characterizations—villains with few or no redeeming features, heroes who are always noble, always self-sacrificing, always calm and courageous, always PERFECT. The characters on LOST are far from perfect. In fact, a member of my Monday night writing group doesn’t like the show for that reason—he likes to have a good, old-fashioned hero. And I must admit, I found myself wishing for just one calm, level-headed “hero” I could rely upon. But then I realized a hero would have ruined the show. These characters need to fumble their way forward, with all their flaws. They need to work their own problems out; if they had a “hero” to organize things for them, think for them, control them, the story would be ruined.

When I’m reading, I find I’ll often put a book down if I don’t like the main character to the extent that I don’t care what happens to them. Of course, in LOST, there is no “main” character; it’s an ensemble cast. So while it’s good to be reminded that characters can have flaws and still be attractive and compelling, I’m not sure a cast of such flawed characters would work in a book. What do you think?

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think it would be difficult to make it work in a "genre" book, although it might work in a literary novel.

cs harris said...

Yes, literary novelists have much more freedom than genre writers. Genre writers need to conform to reader expectations. It's the price we pay for (typically) having a wider audience.

midi haytham said...

شركة كشف تسربات المياه بالرياض
شركة كشف تسربات المياه بالرياض
شركة كشف تسربات المياه بالرياض
شركة كشف تسربات المياه بالرياض
شركة كشف تسربات المياه بالرياض
شركة كشف تسربات المياه بالرياض
شركة كشف تسربات المياه بالرياض
شركة كشف تسربات المياه بالرياض
شركة كشف تسربات المياه بالرياض
شركة كشف تسربات المياه بالرياض
شركة كشف تسربات المياه بالرياض
شركة كشف تسربات المياه بالرياض
شركة كشف تسربات المياه بالرياض
شركة كشف تسربات المياه بالرياض
شركة كشف تسربات المياه بالرياض
شركة كشف تسربات المياه بالرياض
شركة كشف تسربات المياه بالرياض
شركة كشف تسربات المياه بالرياض
شركة كشف تسربات المياه بالرياض
شركة كشف تسربات المياه بالرياض
شركة كشف تسربات المياه بالرياض
شركة كشف تسربات المياه بالرياض
شركة كشف تسربات المياه بالرياض
شركة كشف تسربات المياه بالرياض
شركة كشف تسربات المياه بالرياض
شركة كشف تسربات المياه بالرياض
شركة كشف تسربات المياه بالرياض
شركة كشف تسربات المياه بالرياض
شركة كشف تسربات المياه بالرياض
شركة كشف تسربات المياه بالرياض