Rarely has there been a program on television as innovative and creative as Lost. As a writer, it was a smorgasbord of inspiration that captivated me each and every week. Still, it’s hard to believe that a show where an island is the main character; where polar bears, smoke monsters, and a whole host of dead folks, all exist alongside a group of chosen castaways, wasn’t laughed off the air after one episode. But the key to Lost’s success wasn’t the oddities that garnered most of the attention; its success was due in large part to a staff of talented writers, who took all of those wild ideas and turned them into an adventure that lasted for 6 seasons.
Here is the opening scene of the series premiere of Lost on September 22, 2004: A close up of a fluttering eyelid. The lid pops open suddenly as the camera pans out and you see a man dressed in a suit and tie, lying in the middle of some kind of jungle. He’s panicked and looks around, suddenly a white dog comes out of the brush and runs past him —weird huh? He gets up with some discomfort, because he’s wounded; but how and why, we don’t know. He starts running, the only sounds you here are his footsteps and his labored breathing. The man winds up on a pristine beach surrounded by complete and utter silence —is he the only person there? Well no. Slowly, the sound of a woman’s scream begins to grow in volume. The man in the suit runs toward the screaming, and comes upon the carnage of a plane wreck. He walks through it, trying to make sense of it all. Something in him awakens and he begins helping the injured passengers. When he sees a pregnant woman in need of help, he asks another survivor to watch her while he goes to help others. This second survivor asks, “Hey, what’s your name?” The man turns and says, “Jack!” And with that, Lost begins.
This was an elaborate show; where the episodes connected one to the next, and previous seasons could come back into play in later ones. It was the type of show you could not watch sporadically, or join midway through. Lost was an investment —an all or nothing venture that required a commitment to the very end. It takes spectacular writing to keep audiences coming back week after week to a show that revealed its mysteries in puzzle pieces, where the whole image wasn’t shown until the final episode of the final season. Because of the care the writers took in developing this world and the people who inhabited it, Lost is a series that is destined to stand the test of time, when other programs will be tossed on the ash heap with thousands of other forgettable shows.
As a writer, I often come back to Lost when my creative juices have taken a vacation. I study it, hoping to understand what makes it so fascinating, so that I too can craft stories that grab hold of you and never let go.
Lost is a living lesson on how to tell a story to an audience without ever talking down to them, or taking them for granted. The creators never took shortcuts, or assumed we wouldn’t get the gist of the narrative they wanted to tell. They jumped in head first, left it all out there, and gave it everything; so that when all was said and done, they had no regrets —and neither did we.
Lost is a writer’s workshop for all of us who want to do this thing for a living. It’s a Master’s course in what can happen when you don’t hamper creativity, but allow it to flourish freely in any direction, just to see what happens.
~This is the initial installment of what I hope to be a monthly look at the art of creative writing from all kinds of mediums: Books, music, movies, television, and anything else I can think of. If you have any ideas please feel free to offer them in the comments below. I hope you find it helpful as well as entertaining ~AN