Once upon a time a plane crashed on a tropical island, not just a small prop plane, a big jet flying from Sydney to L.A. The crash was so horrific the plane split in half. There were no survivors, however many of the passengers spent six years in purgatory struggling to come to terms with what happened to them. They even meet other island residents who have been struggling for much longer. It is not until the very foundation they’ve come to depend lets loose that they are able to one-by-one, ‘move on.’
I imagine if the pilot of LOST was pitched like that, it would have a 50/50 chance of getting put on the air. I’ll say right now, I have no idea how it was pitched and I have ultimate respect for the show’s creator and original writer the uber-talented J. J. Abrams. However, I do recall when the 1st season took off like a bad robot rocket ship, there was some sort of interview where the show’s creators actually admitted they had no idea what they were going to do to write a compelling story beyond the pilot season.
What’s this have to do with the 1st 10 pages? Ha-o-plenty…
Before the island disappeared (which incidentally is when I went on a 2-season hiatus), before Claire became overweight (I assume she went on an eating binge after visiting Meg Ryan’s plastic surgeon) and also before overweight Meg, Claire, became Jack’s sister, and more trashed modes of transportation popped up than in a Florida trailer park, and yes before old Ben/Linus became a follower…
There were Polar Bears, a twisted little boy and his runaway lab, a mysterious evil gang called the Others, a hatch and inside the hatch, a clock that had to be reset every 180 seconds, or minutes — whatever — if it wasn’t done the island would, what disappear? There was Jack and he fixed himself with travel booze and thread (a much better performance than Rambo) and a snooty bitch and her brother and yes there was Locke, the wheelchair bound bald man who could walk as a result of this devastating crash. And the phenom was found. These elements in the 1st episodes were so intriguing, everyone tuned in week after week to see if Gilligan and Mary Anne, Jack and Kate would get off the Island. Now that I think about it the pilot pitch probably went more like, it’s Gilligan’s Island but with a plane, and what it lacks in humor it makes up for with surreal bizarre-ittude!
Locke (with his walking) was my first clue, as to how it would end. I distinctly recall telling some colleagues in an office chat, that they were in some sort of purgatory, but hey the writers don’t know what’s coming next season, so I could be wrong, I’ll bite and watch. And sure enough, before the 1st commercial break of the series finale´that moment came rushing back (I admit I lost the idea, but mainly because I tuned out of the series somewhere between act 2 and 3) In fact the season finale was so predictable I almost didn’t sit through the whole thing, but I really wanted to see how they handled their snowglobe moment.
But don’t feel bad J.J., I also knew who Rosebud was and that Bruce Willis was dead, but being seen, all in the 1st 10.
Let’s face it, LOST is a network coup, where they strung audiences along for 6 years of their lives with very clever mechanisms, pop-ups a la VH1 and flashbacks and flashforwards and flashthoughts, all which serve to explain and justify for the lack of story beyond the 1st 10, I’m not bashing LOST, it’s a great concept that changed the face of television, I just wish they gave me a little more in my confirmation of purgatory bookends. For instance did they ALL deserve to go to the light, couldn’t some have been forced to hold a ball of fire rather than a ball of fluff? I love rollercoasters but I think storytellers let the audience down when the bar lifts up and the pimple-faced kid tells you to watch your step and you get out right where you began, just as you hoped and expected.
So here’s what this little rant has to do with writing a good story beyond the 1st 10 pages. The 1st 10 pages of your story set it in motion, hook the audience with compelling characters and circumstances making them fasten their seatbelt for a thrilling rollercoaster ride, the challenge is it HAS to be one where they don’t know where it leads. By all means, make your end a mirror image of the beginning, but please make the image in the mirror the UNEXPECTED opposite of the image we see in the beginning and you will have found your success.