Friday, October 19, 2012

Writing Lessons from LOST

Okay, so I've been on a bit of an extended writing break. During this time, I've been finding my feet as I start school again, figure out how to make dinner every night and get the kidlets where they need to go, and...watching Lost.


All 6 seasons. All 120 episodes. In like, 3 weeks. Maybe 4.

Now, I'm not saying it's good or bad, but I did liken some things from it to writing. See, even when I'm not writing, I'm still thinking about writing.

And what I learned from Lost is that a character's backstory can make them a rounder, richer person. Their past can explain their present behavior. Their experience can make them into a hero.

I liked that part about Lost. I liked seeing the backstory of the individual characters. It makes me like them more, empathize with them, and helps me understand their choices in the present.

It's something we can do with our characters too. I've realized that I need to fully form the background of my characters in a more meaningful and complete way than I have before.

So there you go. Writing lessons from Lost.

Have you ever had a writing brainwave from something non-writing related? 

24 comments:

Jessica Bell said...

Absolutely. And yes, it's usually from TV shows. I've also learned not to take rules so seriously. They should be used as a guide, not gospel.

Dianne K. Salerni said...

Last spring break, I caught up on both seasons of The Walking Dead. And I just happened to be starting out a new WIP at the same time.

I was most struck by the character Daryl, because the writers set a low expectation of him from the start. (Mostly by making his brother, whom we meet first, a complete whack job.) Then, when we discover Daryl is basically a decent person despite his rough edges, it's a wonderful surprise.

I applied this to an important character in my WIP, setting up low expectations for him from the opening chapters. Then, as we learn more about him, the reader and the MC are surprised to find out he's not who we thought he was. (At least I hope that's what readers think ...)

Stina Lindenblatt said...

OMG!!! I'm doing the same thing for the same reason. I've never seen the show before, but I bought the DVDs for the first season to watch and analyze, especially to see how backstory was handled. By the end of the first show, I was hooked. I'm hoping Walmart still has them cheap because I'm going to pick up more seasons today. I'm totally hooked!!!!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Sure! And usually from watching a show or movie.
Character backstory was THE motivating factor in my first book.
I've never watched the show, but I plan to watch all of the seasons in much the same way you did.

Donna K. Weaver said...

Who knew, right? But you're absolutely dead on in this. Sometimes I think we'd be nicer to people in real life if we could get their backstory like we do characters in books.

Teresa Coltrin@Journaling Woman said...

Yes, and it's not when I read a book BUT when I'm aimlessly watching a movie or TV shows.

T

Natalie Aguirre said...

Okay, you and Stina are making me want to watch Lost. I don't watch TV, but try to learn from the drama of it all in a relatively short period of time. I'm thinking of watching Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and mapping out the 3 act story. I've heard that's a good one for doing that.

storyqueen said...

My writing lesson from Lost:

If you put a polar bear on a tropical island, but then you never really talk about the polar bear on the tropical island, at the end of the book people are going to ask, "Why did you put a polar bear on a tropical island?"

<3 LOST, random polar bears and all!

Shelley

Angela Brown said...

The thing to also bear in mind is that the writers of various shows have to apply the many writing craft related things that novel writers use and stuff them into 30 minute or 60 minute segments, making sure to weave arcs throughout the shows to give them longevity but still make each individual episode pack enough punch to keep the viewers watching.

I don't know if this is a good thing or a bad thing, but it is hard for me to do much of anything without relating back to writing. Even my Chipmunk's birthday party...I couldn't help considering how each little thing playing out could have a lesson learned in it about interactions, action and reaction, how to drive the party to a rising crescendo so the kids had a ball and let it slowly fall to a good stop so the kids could leave having had a good time...the same way I'd want to write a story so my readers can experience that same enjoyment ride.

i'm erin. said...

K, so I was a Lost Junkie, and I actually remember thinking the same thing as I wrote the show. I think backstory is huge.

But on a side note, I wanted to kick that show in the crotch when the last episode rolled around. Talk about taking a wrong turn. Urg.

Jenny S. Morris said...

I stopped watching Lost after season 2. I loved the back story but you can only yank someone's chain for so long. And when I heard about the ending I was glad I stopped watching.

That being said. I have done the same thing that you did with Lost with Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And I've learned a lot about writing from watching that too. And back story really does make a character well rounded and helps you understand them. I think even if you don't actually write it in the book, writing it out for yourself can really help.

Christine Tyler said...

Love Lost. And yes, I think backstory is important in fleshing out characters. I would just be careful, as dear old JJ should have been careful, about fulfilling all of the promises you make in the story.

Every thread you open has to be neatly tied up by the end of your book. So while Lost keep us reaching for threads, it also dropped us off a cliff. Make sure you're ready to fully handle every story you introduce.

A really good example of backstory + wrap-up is The Princess Bride, the book. In the movie, there could only be so many backstories handled, but make sure to check out the book, because Humperdink and Fezzik have lovely, round stories as well.

Miranda Hardy said...

I watched all the seasons and I understand what you mean by the backstory. I'm glad I waited to watch them all together and didn't have to wait. Lol

L. Diane Wolfe said...

That's one of the first things I do - create a detailed background for my characters.

Brenna Braaten said...

I have never seen Lost, but I've heard really good and terrible things about it. It's on my list of things to give a try.

As far as what you gained, I love that about stories. I am fully for knowing everyone's backstories to explain their current behavior. And it's something that I try to constantly think about with my own writing. I like having full characters.

And I totally relate everything I do to writing! Haha. I'm terrible at always approaching everything I do as a writer.

Julie Daines said...

Too bad we don't have 120 hours of air time to establish our characters' backgrounds. The trick is getting all their pasts stuffed into 80k words!

Jemi Fraser said...

I loved that about Lost too - especially in the first few seasons. Sadly, I also learned to not write a crumby ending from that show. Those loose ends need to make sense at the end!

Kathryn Purdie said...

I'm one who loved the ending of Lost, and I loved that series as a whole. You're right; it was such a great study on backstory. And I get "writing brainwaves" from TV and movies all the time!

Nick Wilford said...

I didn't watch Lost til the end (more like series 2 or 3), but I get what you mean. Like Angela, I pretty much apply any situation to my writing, too. Seems it's impossible for us to switch off!

Rebecca Taylor said...

I loved watching LOST when it was on. I miss looking forward to that crazy ass show every week.

Deirdre said...

Totes- and sometimes it is for the authors eyes only...others it works in the story...and funny thing that lost, it lost me. Oh well...

New reader/follower.

Cheers!

Nicole said...

Oh yes, I get writing brainwaves from non-writing things all the time. It's fun to see how Lost inspired you.

Tammy Theriault said...

i could be doing housework and get inspirations for story ideas. great blog!


new follower, nice to meet you!!

Liesel K Hill said...

I always thought LOST was the ultimate example of synechtochy. They make the larger story (the island) parallel the smaller story (whichever character they're focusing on) and it makes both storylines deeper and richer and better. They were SO good at this. I miss LOST! (What did you think of the ending?)

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