JJ Abrams, creator of Alias and Lost, has great record so far for taking B-Movie plots and elevating them to another level. I thought this quote about his influences was actually very revealing. I think knowing your influences, and moving past them, is one key to creativity. No matter what you might think of him, he seems very clear about who he is and what he’s doing.
WN: You’ve listed Twilight Zone’s Rod Serling and Aristotle as major inspirations. You told The New York Times last year that anything Rod Serling couldn’t do Aristotle had covered. The influences of both are really evident in Lost. What do you take from each of them?
Abrams: Obviously, Aristotle (is) the structure, the paradigm of storytelling — you know, the beginning, middle and end. The most fundamental rules. . . . You can color it and decorate it and complicate it and talk about it . . . but it comes down to What is your story? What is the beginning? Where are you going?
Rod Serling, for me, is the inspiration for a number of reasons but, fundamentally, he understood that amazing combination of pure pulp and deep character. And the respect he had for character and the audience was enormous. He would write about things that mattered to him in allegory and tell tales about aliens and monsters, but they were almost always about subjects that mattered to him — whether it was the terror of the Russians, whether it was the mystery and fear and hunger for space travel, whether it was racism or politics, or whatever it was he was always grappling with.