Thursday, May 11, 2006

Getting lost in 'Lost'

I admit to being a huge fan of the TV show "Lost". I picked it up at about the fourth episode last year, and haven't let it down since. The characterization and the backstories grabbed me first, and then I started to learn all the levels of mystery on the island.

I also admit to enjoying stories about the art of storytelling. The writer in me is always attracted to the nuts and bolts, even when it's not the media I'm working in. USA Today had a good article this week called "Lost in 'Lost'" that looked at some of the storytelling in "Lost".

Everything about Lost is designed for analysis, says Joyce Millman, who wrote one of the Getting Lost essays. She credits the writers with "a rich variety of references: scientific, biblical, pop-cultural, literary, historical, philosophical."

Millman, whose essay is called Game Theory, sees Lost's structure attracting fans via familiarity: She thinks it works like an interactive video game. "The story line and the action develop on multiple levels. There are hidden clues that function like the Easter eggs in gaming," Millman says. "Lost is a big game, and the act of watching it forces you to play along."
The book mentioned in the article, Getting Lost, is edited by author Orson Scott Card. He has some interesting insights in the show and the nature of suspense stories.

Card enjoyed the first season more and says he's not certain Lost is revealing answers quickly enough. Its future success depends on providing enough answers and making them complicated enough to be worth the fans' commitment.

"Real suspense comes from answers, not questions. Suspense comes not from wondering what's going on but from wondering what happens next," he says. "If you withhold answers, it becomes impossible to satisfy."

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