Friday, March 9, 2012

A Six-Season Story

By Susan

I talk a lot about not watching television.

I don't watch it because it takes up all my time.

I don't watch because there's nothing worth watching.

I don't watch because it sucks my brain out of my head and before I know it, I've become a TV zombie.

Case in point: In January, my sweet hubby decided that it made far more sense for us to have a hulu+ subscription than to pay extra for "more television." I agreed—sure! Every now and then it wouldn't hurt for me to watch a show on my laptop, or iPad, or even my iPhone, for that matter. I don't really watch television, after all. So it really wouldn't change anything, would it?


Ever heard of a little ABC series called LOST?

On hulu+, you can watch all six seasons. Start to finish. Without waiting a week or so between each forty-two minute episode. I only had to watch a few episodes and I was hooked. I sat and did the math like a junkie: I could watch all one hundred and thirty-eight episodes in less than one hundred hours!

Dot…dot…dot… and fast forward…

I finished the finale last night after two and a half months of binge-watching. I admit it. I've been swooning over Doctor Jack, dissecting Hurley's character arc, and hearing Desmond's Scottish brogue narrate my dreams. I've overdosed on the unfolding drama about a little island and the people that crashed there, fighting to save themselves, fighting to save the world.

I remember why I don't watch television and it's because I lose myself—not because there is nothing worth watching. And I remember the things I love—especially about a television series like LOST.

LOST had a huge ensemble cast that got me thinking about character development and motivations—both for our heroes and our villains. In six seasons, we watched the good guys become bad guys and the bad guys become good. I loved characters like Mr. Echo—who had both a great heart and a history of horrific deeds. We watched how critical the back story of every minor character became to the development of the plot. We realized, after everything, that they were all looking for love, and acceptance, and purpose. Just like us.

It's all about the story, and I love stories. It's about character development, and suspense, and entertainment. All the things we try to create when we write. Sometimes, especially in a long series like LOST, the plot derails—a bit like our own plots can sometimes do— sending the viewer in a totally different direction, before finding its place and making sense again. Yet sometimes, it sheds some light on how we live and love and think. It gives us insight into how we are and how we want to be.

It made me love television again, even if it does take up my time. And it brought me back to my own writing and my own motivations for writing. As writers, we need to know the greatest desire of every character to grace our pages. What motivates a character like John Locke? What moves Kate Austen to tears? If you're going to create them, KNOW them. That's the way to make your readers care.


  1. My husband and I just finished the series a few weeks ago- we were addicted just like yoi describe. And I completely agree about the storytelling- the writers did a great job of creating characters we can care about (and those we love to hate, like Ben) with thick backstory, complex plots (though they definitely meandered), and an incredibly unique setting. I definitely watched the show for entertainment, there were certainly some great writing lessons there.

  2. I agree! Now, I'm afraid to start Downton Abbey. It can't be good for my time-management, but could be great for learning more about character development...I'm afraid to start!

  3. Watch Downton Abbey, Susan! Trust me! Yes, it will take time, but the writing is out of this world.

  4. That's funny you mention Downton Abbey, I just finished catching up on it-- it's another well written show that you will definitely become addicted to! Fantastic character development, successful incorporation of historical events (without overwhelming the viewer with facts), and the dialogue is incredible (especially for the character Mary, in my opinion). I agree with Kim- so worth it.


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