Thursday, February 15, 2007

Why I'm Done With Lost

Like you I am tired of being dragged along as writers try to milk this show for a few seasons more than it should be. But as a writer, I am frustrated with some particular techniques the show employs.

You know that sound that announces a flashback, that sort of rush of wind, sphincter-closing sound? That friggin sound produces this Pavlovian response in me now--I hear it and I get really angry, like somebody just insulted me. The flashback is a sort of insult. It says "Hey's some filler for you to chew on."

Look, every decent writer knows that the flashback is a hackneyed technique used mostly by lazy writers who want to give background information. It's almost as lazy as a novelist having a character look into a mirror so a description of the character can be given. Some writers use the flashback well, and the technique was employed well for the first few episodes. But flashbacks are for EXPOSITION (introducing character and conflict).

Like you, I am done with exposition. I know what I need to know about the characters. I understand the conflict. I want to see the characters in the PRESENT work through their friggin conflicts. THIS IS WHAT YOU LEARN IN YOUR UNDERGRAD CREATIVE WRITING CLASS! I watched the season opener in which Jack helps Kate and Sawyer escape. It was a good episode, although I must admit I was hesitant to let myself fall back in love with the characters again. Why? Well, the answer came in the next episode in which we get the story of Desmond. I like his character, I like the conflict of him knowing Charlie is going to die. Do I care? No. I am done. An hour long show giving me exposition I don't need and cutting the momentum of the previous episode--it's everything Stephen King's THE STAND is not.

Suppossedly, these writers all have a copy of King's book in hand as they write. They need to read more carefully. King builds characters in a few pages, giving you just enough background information so you can get a feel for each of them. Then he puts them in motion. He flits back and forth between characters, true, but he keeps you in the character's present. And you always have the sense of building to some meaningful end. LOST has the feel of the X-FILES in which writers have some vague end in sight but, ultimately, even they know the end will be unsatisfying. Does anybody really care anymore whether these folks get off the island? Do we really want to see Kate cry anymore? Even Locke, who was the single most interesting character on television at one time, is looking more and more like a cliche. The charisma of the Scully/Mulder relationship is still present with Jack/Kate/Sawyer but we spend so little time with them it's hard to care--and we resent the time spent with characters we used to like.

At least with the X-Files, we enjoyed the journey if not the destination.


At 4:43 PM, Anonymous elan! said...

keep faith, mr. donohoe. It's only going to get better. Flashforwards = very cool.


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