Last Week’s WW: What’s It About?
I loved the show Lost. In my opinion, it was one of the best shows ever written. Well, until last ten minutes or so. But as much as I enjoyed the series, they broke a lot of rules.
They started story lines that abruptly ended for no reason. Like Walt being psychic, the others being after children, the others being wild crazy people, Jack died in the original pilot, Ben was supposed to be a one or so episode character…
But the worst offense they made was introducing so many things and not resolving them.
There’s a rule in writing called Chekhov’s gun. It states that if you’re going to put a loaded gun on stage, then you’d better use it. Otherwise, it’s like breaking a promise. People will feel deceived or confused. And that won’t make them like you very much.
If you’ve got a character who always carries a switchblade, you have to tell us why, and/or show him using it. He can’t just have it cause it’s quirky.
One thing that does amuse me about Lost. Of all the questions they raised, there was an understated one that they answered. In the first season, Shannon lost her inhaler. We never learned what happened to it. Until the last season, when they finally found it.
Chekhov’s gun also helps us write with purpose.
Stories are large beasts. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, words are what we paint our pictures with. And a thousand words would be a whole lot of description for any given scene. If you read my flash fiction, then you know that I tell entire stories in a thousand words. Imagine, if there was something that long and you hadn’t even gotten to the story yet?
If you remember the gun, you can remind yourself to only include what is important and necessary to the story. Anything else is extraneous.
Questions are great. Details and props are great. But you have to have an answer for them. A purpose for asking or introducing a thing. If you don’t, then leave it out.