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When discussions of genre arise, it seems readers (or reader-writers at least) are very particular about which genres they will read.  Assuming the general reading audience (those that read but do not write) are equally as particular, could something like the TV series "LOST" be pulled off in a book series?

LOST started out as a drama with some supernatural overtones, largely being the "smoke monster."  Other things, such as the polar bear, could be explained through more standard means.  But the focus was more on the drama and character development.  The first season was mostly the characters trying to survive on the island.

At the end of the first season, they found the hatch, which was further explored in the second season.

If I recall, it's not until the end of the fourth season that some scifi or fantasy elements show up, when the island is "moved" and disappears.  Then, in the fifth season, the move resulted in some of the survivors being thrown into the past.

In the final season, and the finale especially, it becomes a jumbled mess of supernatural, scifi, fantasy, religion and who knows what else.

But, throughout, apart from possibly the final episode, everything flowed and maintained internal logical consistency (more or less).  Essentially, they pulled off a masterful genre-bender by taking baby steps from "something's a little bit unusual here" to "what the frak just happened?"

So, could that be done in a book series?  Could you start out with your hero battling street thugs and drug lords and end up with the hero duking it out with werewolves and vampires in the last book of the series?  Granted, LOST lost about 1/3 of its audience from the first season to the last (or 2/5 of the audience if you go by the third season, which was the highest rated) but, on the flip side, that means it maintained 2/3 (or 3/5) of its audience, which doesn't seem too bad.

If so, how would you classify the first book?  By what the first book is or by what the last book in the series will be?
 

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Really good questions. Genre is such an interesting topic right now. On the one hand, it feels as if everything is calcifying; the advice you get is a rigid sort of blurb, a rigid sort of cover, a precise and easy to define genre. On the other, so many walls between genres, even genre and literary fiction, seem to be coming down. There are so many hard-to-classify books, it seems.

At heart, though, LOST, which I loved from beginning to end, is action-adventure, and that's where I'd put a similar series at least to start.
 

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Do you mean "pull off" as in "write" or "sell" . . .

Because the first is a yes, and the second is a "you won't know until you try" . . .

My personal standpoint on a series is that you know what's going on. (Or, if you're the LOST writers, you wing it an make a confusing mess of it all, disappointing millions.)

But because YOU know what's going on, you classify your books that way.

If science is behind things, sci-fi. If it's ghosties or other such paranormal stuff, it's paranormal. Magic and it becomes fantasy.

You can classify it as mystery or thriller, or whatever else makes sense as well.
 

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One of the downsides is that you may make the series hard for new readers to pick up. My girlfriend watched Lost but I never bothered because I had no interest in going through it all from the start to figure out what the hell it was about, and what I did see seemed so disjointed that they appeared to be making it up as they went along with little hope of a decent ending.

With a more conventional series all the books are often similar enough that you don't need to read the early ones to enjoy the latest one.
 

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Bob Mayer's Area 51 series does this quite well. Starts off with aliens and grows from there.
 

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I would call it science fiction or fantasy depending on how weird it gets.  I don't pretend to be JJAbrams but I attempted some pretty twisty ideas in my trilogy that had me scratching my head several times if I was going to be able to pull it off.  As the reader advances from book one to two and finally three, the story is linear as one would expect.  By the end of book three, things take a twist and the story continues in book two, yup, that book they already read and continues on through book three again where the linear progression of one of the characters takes them back to the beginning in book one before where the story truly ends.

The hardest part was wrapping up book three that satisfied my readers if they chose not to go back and re-read them with the knowledge they had gained.  I do know this.  It was a blast to write it and I think I pulled it off.
 

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Let's do some maths here: for me, a 30-minute show can be done in 12K words. Each episode of Lost is, at most, double that. 24K words. A standard 22-episode* season is 528K words, probably about the same amount as The Lord of the Rings. Let's take out the useless fluff episodes and anything that doesn't really add to the season. In my estimation, that's a novel of ~200K words. (Am I being too generous?) That's about the same as a longer Harry Potter book.

Six seasons: six books. Very doable. Provided people like the first book enough to buy its sequels!

And I would classify Lost's genre as science-fantasy. :)

(* Lost's first seasons were longer but later seasons were shorter - yet those later seasons were more arc-based so probably work out to be the same novel-length.)
 

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See, here's my thing on that.

LOST, in terms of its storytelling, was television. As such, it was able to do things in a visual storytelling way that, while possible, would have to be executed quite differently in print.

As for the genre of the show, ABC suits labeled it (quite broadly, in my opinion) as science fiction, which seems to have become in the last decade or so a catchall term for anything from horror to fantasy to speculative fiction and a whole lot in between. (Heck, some folks even classify superhero movies as "science fiction.")

LOST was definitely a pastiche of influences, but personally I think I would classify it as an urban fantasy-thriller or something along that lines. Hard to say, and I'm sure others have their own ideas on where it falls... but that's my take.

In terms of trying to duplicate something like LOST, though, as a writer I have no interest in that. I have my own ideas for a number of stories in different genres and enjoy pulling those off. Trying to duplicate something doesn't interest me that much, and although certain aspects of how LOST used flashbacks to explain why a person was making the choices they were making right NOW was an interesting storytelling tool to add to my toolbox, it's not a show that particularly influenced me or inspired me in my own writing.

If I had to name shows (instead of BOOKS) that have influenced my writing, I could cite a fairly long list before ever reaching LOST, though.

Among shows that have influenced me, though?

1. Buffy the Vampire Slayer (taught me a lot about story arcs that play out over the course of several stories, plus how to blend genres without doing violence to them.)

2. Doctor Who (Both the old version and the new version... though the new version only reinforces stuff I learned from Joss Whedon, watching BUFFY for seven seasons)

3. Dexter (The Showtime show has, somewhat oddly, influenced me more than Lindsay's books, which tend to be a bit more uneven than the TV show.)

That's a smattering of my influences from TV. But honestly, my book-writing influences come more heavily from books than TV shows, because it's more of an apples-to-apples comparison, storytelling-wise.

Finally, I need to say this:

LOST was good while J.J. Abrams was directly involved.

Once he got distracted with other projects, like rebooting the Star Trek movie franchise, that's when the show started losing focus and a sense that the writers knew what they were doing.

Abrams is a brilliant writer, though I clearly prefer Joss Whedon.

So, that said... I don't think LOST losing/retaining audience over its run can be purely pegged on the fact that it blended genres.

Having it go from survivalist action-adventure to fantasy to sci-fi to whatever isn't what turned most people off.

What turned most people off was the drop in quality, linked directly to Abrams becoming a whole lot less hands-on with the show after season three.

(He was heavily involved in season 1; in season 2, Abrams only supervised but was not given any writing or directing credits; he came back for an episode or two in season 3, and then never directly contributed to the series after that. Most of the series was the Carleton Cuse/Damon Lindlehoff show, not a J.J. Abrams show...)

I think the "jump the shark" moment arrived in ... what was it, season 3? ... when they tried to blend in two characters (Nikki and Paulo) as though they'd always been there, but they hadn't been, and they show up for this weird episode that has them both ending up dead at the end of it, buried alive. It was episode 14 of season 3, called "Expose," and it was an early indicator that things were going off-track.

But to sum up, the problem with LOST and how it lost audience viewership had little to do with genre-blending and quite a bit to do with the show lacking the direct involvement of its genius creator, J.J. Abrams.

I mean... that's part of why Joss Whedon is my preferred TV writer. Whedon never abandoned Buffy or Angel or Firefly or even Dollhouse. He works with a group of writers he trusts as much as Abrams probably trusted Cuse and Lindlehoff... but Whedon NEVER disengaged from any of his shows, and he ensured quality by making sure he sat in on all writer's sessions, and had the final pass on all scripts before they were approved.

Whether Whedon will be able to do this with the forthcoming SHIELD show on ABC remains to be seen. He's now a movie and TV guy, and far busier with working on the next AVENGERS movie, so whether he'll have time to do the quality control on SHIELD, now that he's Hollywood's It-Boy director, remains to be seen.

But will Whedon completely disengage from SHIELD, the way Abrams did from LOST?

I doubt it. He may not have time to do a final pass on every script, but I imagine he'll be as involved as he possibly can be. It's the kind of guy he is.
 

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I believe a series of books like LOST would be classified as sci fi mystery/thriller

The thing that kept me watching that stupid show was finding out what the heck was going on.

It felt like I had no idea what was going on every episode and for some reason I could not stop watching.

If an author was writing a series like that I would want to know that he/she had an underlying story that was developing and they were not 'winging' it like the writers of Lost.
 

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I've seen the novelization of LOST.

After watching every single episode like an obsessed fanboy, I do admit that I may still interpret it the way that some might not agree. LOST's UPS has always been its characters--to me, the plot is secondary, mainly used to pose more questions. I've grown to like the characters, and therefore, I'll say that yes, LOST, as a series, would work. Because it has got good characters, and a series need good characters!
 

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LOST is totally about the characters -- their backstories, their relationships with each other... I think that aspect could definitely be pulled off in book form. Stephen King often does things like that, writing about huge casts of characters and jumping between them and fleshing them out as he explores their conflicts and relationships with each other. The Stand, Needful Things and Under The Dome are all about a bunch of characters all thrown together into a hostile situation. I'd recommend checking them out if you need inspiration.

Coincidentally, J J Abrams cited Stephen King as one of his influences while writing LOST.
 

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In a way this is what I am doing with my confessions serial

Episode 1 is Political
Episode 2 is Romance-Adult
Episode 3 is Romance-General
Episode 4 is planned to stay in Romance
Episode 5 might be Comedy the way I have it outlined
Later episodes are Drama etc.

They are meant to be specific and I want to try to make sense for people who download a later episode first (second episode had twenty times the downloads the first did lol)

As for a series, I have one that might go from one primary genre to the next
 

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Gaia Revane said:
LOST is totally about the characters -- their backstories, their relationships with each other...
Yep. And for that reason I would put it in the drama genre. It's a soap opera.
 

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I'd say that Stephen King already did it with The Dark Tower (which the writers of Lost cited as a major influence). Consider if each book was a season of a television show.
Book One: The Gunslinger - western/revenge
Book Two: Drawing of the Two - slipstream/urban action
Book Three: The Waste Lands - sci fi/fantasy
Book Four: Wizard and Glass - flashback/ medieval fantasy
Book Five: Wolves of the Calla - a take off of Seven Samurai/western/sci-fi
Book Six: Song of Susannah - modern/urban fantasy with vampires
Book Seven: The Dark Tower - fantasy
The series is linked together by the plot (man looking for a tower), but each book has a totally different feel. I was blown away going from book one to book two and experiencing the complete, total change of direction. Loved it. But I also loved Lost in its entirety. It went from castaway dram to sci-fi to time travel to wtf spirituality. I thought they did a great job at keeping it cohesive, yet constantly blowing people's minds.
 

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In terms of ramping up the craziness, I think you could absolutely pull it off. While the direction of Lost changed quite a bit, you always knew something a little creepy and a little crazy and a little supernatural was going on even from the first episode, so it wasn't as though it suddenly changed genres at any point without giving the viewer plenty of warning.

I don't think the lagging viewing figures had much to do with how crazy Lost went, it was probably more to do with them shifting the focus away from personal, relatable character stories and getting carried away with the technicalities of the plot.
 

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I think that changing genres is a series is done at great risk. The very point of a series is continuity, with the reader expecting -- quite reasonably, IMO -- for one book to be very similar to the others.

I wouldn't look at Lost as a great paradigm for anything. I bailed in the third season, though my wife hung in there much longer, possibly to the end. I don't know if she's more optimistic than I am that a show will pull out of a tailspin, more loyal, or what. I'm quick to bail, relative to her, though I thought I gave Lost a more-than-decent amount of time to find itself.
 

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Hugh Howey said:
But then it wouldn't be the same thing as LOST! ;D
As I started reading Third Shift at 2AM this morning (thanks BTW for allowing me to cut short my revision all-nighter), I had a similar thought about Wool. Does Hugh Howey have some master flowchart on his wall describing where everything is going? Or does he make it up as he goes along? I'm curious how much you knew of the entire story arc as you wrote the first two novelettes...
 

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Not sure readers would like this. They pick a genre to read for a purpose. If you tell them it's mystery then a few books later throw in sff elements, you might lose some readers.

For my first indie effort I eased the reader into the sff world, but it was still obvious that it was there from the get go. I think lost was the same- the crashing thing in the jungle and jack's father appearing mysteriously were meant to clue the viewer that there was something more to the show than drama. But still, when the series ended, people didn't like the way it was wrapped up.
 
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