Poor Frank Lapidus! One of Lost’s more likable (and sadly under-developed) characters has been subjected to some bad writing lately. I often look to TV shows for lessons on my regular writing. Lost has floored me with its creativity and skillful use of rule-breaking narrative devices like flashforwards and flash-sideways.
I’ve also been floored lately by some truly grimace-worthy one liners.
On the April 20th episode (slight spoilers if you read ahead), Frank is tagging along with the group as usual, looking all ragged and, to quote Sawyer, like “some guy who stepped off the set of a Burt Reynold’s movie.” At some point, the writers must have figured that, hey, Frank needs to talk or it’ll seem like we kept him alive and tagging along just to fill out the cast poster.
So, when the Losties are on the sailboat cruising to Hydra Island, the writers think ohmygod, we need to clear everyone off deck so Jack and Sawyer can have a private fight.
Cue Frank. Frank says (approximately) “Hey, I think there are some cans of food down below. I’m going to go get some.” And then everyone promptly follows him, orderly as a line of elementary school kids filing out the door for recess.
But the best one liner, the moment where the actor playing Frank must have cringed, came at the end of the episode, during Sun and Jin’s long-awaited reunion. Some background: Sun had previously lost her ability to speak English following an accident. Obviously, she gets this ability back while the emotional music soars and she embraces Jin. She says she loves Jin or something like that.
Cue Frank. The camera pans to him and he says, with a twinkle in his blue eyes, “Looks like Sun finally got her voice back.”
Groan. Yeah Frank. Yeah. I like hearing your husky voice and all, but that just made me crack up on the spot.
So, Lost has taught me that:
1. The misplaced one-liner is even worse in many cases than the dreaded infodump.
2. Show, not tell.
3. Don’t assume readers/viewers are stupid, especially in a show that caters to the obsessive wiki-creating crowd.
4. Make use of a potentially awesome character like Frank. Leaving him to languish is a shame, but inserting him in scenes as an unnecessary element is even worse. It’s like Chekov’s writing advice–if there’s a gun on the wall in Act 1, it should be fired during Act 3. The gun shouldn’t be used to scratch someone’s back though, it should be fired.
Check out this forum on Game Faqs though for some re-imagination of Lost. What if Frank Lapidus had been inserted into every key, heart-wrenching scene? It’d be pretty hilarious.