The Adlerian made a comment on my “Sweet Romance” Battlestar Galactica post which he ended by saying “Generally though, the show is a bit like Lost and X Files in that I doubt the writers ever had a point, thus it’s sort of a waste to watch.”
This is an interesting point; over at i09.com they have as part of their “Morning Spoilers” today a discussion of the first two episodes of the coming season of Lost. I’m a big Lost fan, but I think most of us will agree that there was a point somewhere in there where we would have totally agreed that the writers were just making shit up as they went, without any overall plan. Which is horrifying, since shows like this are structured around revelations and mysteries and the idea that there is no well-planned ultimate point kind of stabs me in the liver. I was a big X-Files fan too, at least for a while, until it became painfully clear they had no overall plan. Bastards.
Lost feels like, if they didn’t have a plan to begin with, they’ve actually regrouped and made one. Which I hope turns out to be true. Even if the ending is a let down (which of course it will have to be), at least if it ties things together and feels like an organic ending to a real story, I’ll be happy.
I sympathize, though. When creating stories, it’s foolish, sometimes, to assume that you’re going to get the opportunity to tell a long, complex story. You can’t always assume you’re going to get a 12-book deal to tell your epic cycle, and TV producers must have it worse because even if your show gets picked up, there’s no guarantee you’ll get the 5 seasons or whatever to tell your story. Sometimes you just focus on the great idea, the beginning, the 2/3s of the overall story you can see in a flash of inspiration, and you just coast along hoping to have a second flash before you have to write that last act.
Heck, if I have 2/3s of a great idea for a series of books and someone wants to publish it, I’m not going to worry about coming up with the actual ending until I have to, y’know?
With Avery Cates, it was a bit different; The Electric Church was conceived as a standalone story, but the nature of the character and the universe left it very naturally open to sequels; Avery’s a guy who, you can easily imagine, has an exciting life and there are a lot of stories to tell. The universe itself I always saw as changing, evolving (or devolving), and that’s going to increasingly be part of the story – but I didn’t have to have that mapped out back in 2005 when I originally sold the book.
I don’t like to write that way; If I map everything out, I get bored with actually writing it. I prefer to start with a spark and see where it leads me. I usually have a vague idea of where I’m going, but I prefer to rely on instinct. Of course, my schedules for writing books are a little more leisurely than coming up with entire seasons of TV shows, and the budgets involved are lower. Lost probably costs multiple millions per episode when you factor in everything from Craft Services to Post-production to Marketing, whereas my budget for writing Cates novels is basically liquor costs. Which are considerable, but still an order of magnitude lower.