I have not watched The Event. Nor do I ever plan to. I can’t offer any criticism on the actual show, but I can say that its promo material is a perfect example of how NOT to intrigue your audience.
Here’s just a general tip from a semi-famous novelologist. You don’t hook your audience by telling them they are going to be hooked. You don’t keep people interested by telling them something interesting is happening (or will happen possibly at some point in the future). You don’t tell people that, if they just stick with you long enough, they’ll be rewarded at some point with a few measly plot points and maybe some character development. Because nobody cares. If you don’t keep them interested with an interesting story told in interesting ways than you’re just a gimmick, and people don’t generally like gimmicks. Especially uninspired gimmicks.
I was not a fan of Lost. It’s just not my thing to sit and ponder mysteries that I’ll never get the answer to or that will inevitably lead to endings I probably won’t find worthwhile. But if you put that aside, Lost was a well-executed show. While I might have considered it gimmicky, it wasn’t written nor promoted like that. The show was built on mysteries, on a cult-like devotion to unfolding questions leading to more questions leading to more questions. But the show knew better than to lean on that to keep the viewer interested. Instead, Lost was an adventure into the unknown, a thrilling fight for survival with characters that intrigued the audience.
The Event falls spectacularly short on this front. Even as a mystery, it fails. Though a mystery, Lost could be summarized easily. Some people are stranded on an island. Weird stuff happens. It’s an intriguing premise or at least an easily explained one.
But I defy someone to tell me what The Event is. Heck, even the promos don’t want to tell us. This is not The Event. That is not The Event. Have you ever tried to explain a story to someone by telling them what it’s not about? Good luck on that. The Event is about . . . something mysterious. Terribly mysterious, in fact. But a mystery is not a story. Not by itself.
And then, even more annoying, the show continues to tell us how it will hook us. “If you watch this episode, by the end, you’ll be hooked!”
One of the things I’ve learned at my writer’s group is that bad writers expect the audience to sit through a bunch of boring crap. At the DFWWW, we read our work aloud. We’re allowed 15 minutes, but I find 10 works well. If you read something aloud for 10 minutes and your audience is bored, then you’re doing something wrong. Good writers realize this. Bad writers always wish they had another 5 minutes to get to the good parts.
Every part should be the good part. Every scene should help the audience want to move forward. Telling a story isn’t complicated or tricky. What I do, on the surface, is easy. Make some interesting characters. Have something interesting happen to them. Give them a problem to solve. Then have them work on solving that problem. The end. That’s it. And maybe if you’re writing “literature” (i.e. pretentious stuff that is intentionally written awkwardly to make it seem intelligent) then you can get away with breaking that rule. But if you’re writing “genre” (i.e. good stories with a plot that makes sense and offers a satisfying resolution) then you need to just build on the basics.
Who is going to tune into a show, week after week, with absolutely no idea what it’s about? Lost might have been confusing, intentionally so, but they were still given problems to solve and for the most part, they solved them.
Yet The Event is a show so vague, so mysterious that I don’t know why I should give a damn. It’s intentionally confusing, but not in the “How Mysterious” way, but in the “I’m going to make this really hard to follow” way. That’s not good storytelling. That’s clumsy at best, cheating at worst. And it seems to me there’s no better way to annoy and / or anger your audience than to continually taunt them and telling them that they really, really need to watch your show for a long time before they’ll be able to understand any of it.
Maybe that crap flew with Twin Peaks, but even that didn’t last long. Plus, Twin Peaks was at least unique for its time. What’s unique about The Event except that it’s just another overlong mystery told in overlong fashion that takes forever to get anywhere and will inevitably implode from all the plot threads its trying to keep dangling.
I could be wrong. Maybe The Event will be huge. Maybe people will be willing to give it five or eight or eleven episodes to catch their attention. But that seems awfully optimistic in a world with increasing choices of entertainment media.
I would like to plug No Ordinary Family. The first episode showed promise, and unlike The Event a lot actually happened in it. The family gets superpowers. Characters are given moments to shine and develop personal relationships. And they even managed to throw in a brief superfight between a superstrong character and a teleporting villain. It was creative, fun, and everything Heroes should have been if it hadn’t been so jaw-droppingly full of itself. It’s nice to see a show where superpowers aren’t automatically assumed to be negative and where a family can have problems without getting absurdly angsty about it. Thumbs up from this lowly novelologist.
Fighting the good fight, Writing the good write,