Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Mystery is the Catalyst for Imagination

"Stories are nothing but mystery boxes." 
J.J. Abrams

J..J. Abrams, the brains behind Lost, Alias, and the new Star Trek 1 & 2 (and Alcatraz you can read about how I feel about that here), could be the consummate master of both the TV show premise and serial suspense. He gave a great TED talk years ago called "The Mystery Box"(video above). Serious Abrams fans will have already seen it, but I think it's worth another visit.

Abrams talks about how he loves boxes... loves to take them apart and loves to make them. He says that   mystery is actually an unopened box and it becomes uninteresting as soon as you open it.

"In whatever it is that I do, I find myself drawn to infinite possibility, that sense of potential.”  
J.J. Abrams

He brings out a box he bought decades ago marked, "Tannen's Magic Mystery Box." He's never opened the box because "It represents infinite possibility. It's represents hope. It represents potential." Once you open the box, it's just not as much fun. 

He also shows a clip from Jaws where there is no action and almost no dialogue. He said people wanted to repeat the success of Jaws so they ripped off the shark, but when you look at this scene you realize they ripped off the wrong thing. 

"There may be times when mystery is more important than knowledge." 
J.J. Abrams

It may indeed be true that sometimes mystery is more important than knowledge, but only in fiction. I love the concept of the mystery box. But at some point, I like to open the box even if you just find another little mystery box inside. 


  1. Deborah,

    Thanks for posting this. A friend of mine had suggested I take a look because I am so fascinated by great stories with creative sub-stories and JJ Abrams has got to be the best at this.

    I was scanning your blog and felt that you might be equally as excited with my newest passion, an interactive web series called Guidestones. It falls into so many categories that you write about. Technology, mystery, storytelling... please give it a look and if you love it too will you share it with your audience by honouring it w/ a blog post.



  2. Thank you for your comment Steph. I will check out Guidestones.

  3. Did you check it out? What did you think? I'd love to hear your thoughts and a point to your favorite blog post in the last few weeks, because sharing things we love is fun.