Monday, June 1, 2009

Fiction Lessons From Lost or WWJJD?

Not everything applies. Video has the distinct advantage of when people are super hot they can say whatever they want. I could never have a character pontificate to huddled castaways — “If we can't live together, we're gonna die alone.” (insert organ chord here.) This same line, given a glimpse of burly chest and a square jaw, works great.

Despite the fiction writer's different medium, there is much to learn from Lost. During my MFA, when I read for fiction workshops, often having to prod myself along to the end, I wished my colleagues had spent more time watching Lost.


  • Two sides to every story.
  • When characters interact, the reader should know backstory that impacts the interaction that the characters don’t.
  • The Run Into the Jungle Screaming Rule OR when in doubt have someone freak out to get the plot moving.
  • Forge strange alliances.
  • Break them.
  • Keep all characters on the verge of mental breakdown.
  • Have story elements that make no sense. This makes people tense and they will complain vehemently but they love it.
  • Once in a while toss in a random goodie, like a candy bar or a baby. Or a jumpsuit!
  • The Hurley “Dudes, this is stupid. Can’t we just…” Rule OR Have a character who speaks for the common man. This gives voice to the impotent reader. But...
  • ...under no circumstance shall characters listen to reasonable suggestions.
  • Have a super awesome unique setting that is crucial to the plot.
  • Enclose people in tight enclosed spaces and force them to interact.
  • Fight! Fight! Fight!

The scary part is I could keep going and going. But I’m out of coffee and I’m going to stop here. Please feel free to add your lesson from Lost below.


Travis Fortney said...

The funny thing here is that Jane always told me my stories reminded her of Lost, and not always in the best way, and then little Pete told me the story I read at Second Wind reminded him of Lost, and then Nick's mom told the story I read for my thesis was like Lost, and then I got drunk and complained to Canty that everyone was telling me I wrote like Lost, and he looked at me very seriously and said, 'That's not a bad thing, maybe you have a chance to actually make money. You should go to LA and write for TV.' I was of course crushed, but looking at this list, I can see the similarities...

Kelly Kathleen Ferguson said...

I know. We were all waiting for the moment when Canty turned to us and said our work reminded him of Tolstoy.

Nick"s Mom told me my work was reminiscent of Dilbert.

It's all good. When people say we remind them of Full House, that's when toss our laptops in Lake Pontchartrain.

Anna said...

Another lesson from Lost:
-No perfunctory kisses allowed; all kisses must be hungry and full of sex.