Seven Season Wrap Up!

Seven Season Wrap Up!

The seven seasons are all done. For convenience sake, we’ve put the entire structure in one place for easy reference.

Let’s get started!

Season 1

Dramatic Structure:

“Connection” expressed as ‘Identity’

  • Old vs. New Identities
  • Character Roles

“Positive” expressed as ‘New World’

  • New Circumstances/Location
  • Fresh Start

“Origins” expressed as ‘Old World’

  • Old Circumstances/Location
  • World Change

Dramatic Pace:

‘Establish Core Conflict’ and ‘Full Circle’

Dramatic Evolution:

‘Thesis’ and ‘Beginning of First Era’

Season 2

Dramatic Structure:

“Separation” expressed as ‘Stress Tests’

  • Romances
  • Friendships

“Negative” expressed as ‘Meaningful Death’

  • Family or Friend
  • Foe

“Deviation” expressed as ‘Contradiction’

  • Role Reversals
  • Authority Figures

Dramatic Pace:

‘New Blood’ for your roster of characters and ‘Dragonslay’

Dramatic Evolution:

‘Antithesis’ and ‘First Era Continued’

Season 3

Dramatic Structure:

“Connection” expressed as ‘Power’

  • Loss/Gain
  • Sexual Violence

“Positive” expressed as ‘Creation’

  • Newborns
  • Resurrections

“Origins” expressed as ‘Repercussions’

  • Debts
  • Revenge

Dramatic Pace:

‘Fallout’ and ‘Point of No Return: Circumstantially’

Dramatic Evolution:

‘Synthesis/Thesis’ and ‘End of First Era’

Season 4

Dramatic Structure:

“Separation” expressed as ‘Disbandments’

  • Partnerships
  • Marriages

“Negative” expressed as ‘Weirdness’

  • Invasive
  • Otherworldly

“Deviation” expressed as ‘Shake Up’

  • Change of Circumstances
  • Up the Ante

Dramatic Pace:

‘Even trade’ for your roster of characters and ‘Promotion’

Dramatic Evolution:

‘Antithesis’ and ‘Beginning of Second Era’

Season 5

Dramatic Structure:

“Connection” expressed as ‘Family’

  • Loss/Gain
  • Sacrifice

“Positive” expressed as ‘Salvation’

  • Protection
  • Redemption

“Origins” expressed as ‘Formation’

  • Relationships
  • Organizations

Dramatic Pace:

‘Impossible Decision’ and ‘Point of No Return: Emotionally’

Dramatic Evolution:

‘Synthesis/Thesis’ and ‘End of Second Era’

Season 6

Dramatic Structure:

“Separation” expressed as ‘Role Challenge’

  • Circumstantial
  • Emotional

“Negative” expressed as ‘Bummer’

  • Death
  • Trauma

“Deviation” expressed as ‘Destruction’

  • Mistakes
  • Decisions

Dramatic Pace:

‘Deficit’ for your roster of characters and ‘Test/Trial’

Dramatic Evolution:

‘Antithesis’ and ‘Beginning of Third Era’

Season 7

Dramatic Structure:

“Connection” expressed as ‘Legacy’

  • Descending
  • Ancestral

“Positive” expressed as ‘Individuality’

  • Loss/Gain
  • Mentorship

“Origins” expressed as ‘The Beginning’

  • Story
  • Show

Dramatic Pace:

‘Resolution of Core Conflict’ and ‘Point of No Return: Geographically’

Dramatic Evolution:

‘Synthesis’ and ‘End of Third Era/Series’

That’s it, Animals!



Season 8 – Like a New Season 1

Season 8

We spoke about long form storytelling in the sense of it being a seven season structure. Seven seasons to tell your story, and then you’re done.

But what happens when you go beyond season seven? Plenty of shows do it. What then?

When you go past season 7, the whole seven season cycle starts over again.

So…

Season 8, is just a new season 1.

You’ll deal with all the attributes of season 1 again:

Identity

  • Establish Old Identities vs. New Identities
  • Establish Character Roles

New World

  • New Circumstances/Location
  • Fresh Start

Old World

  • Old Circumstances/Location
  • World Change

Establish (new) Core Conflict

Full Circle

Thesis

Beginning of 1st Era

Then, as you move forward:

If you’re getting crazy and you go past season 14, then the cycle repeats again. Season 15 would be a new season 1, etc etc etc…

So what exactly do we mean by “a new season 1?”

We mean that you’re going to take a look at all of the things a normal season 1 does, and do those things again here in season 8. But notice, what you’re establishing in this season 8, should be done in stark contrast to what’s come before – in the season 1-7 cycle of the show.

If season 8 is truly a new season 1, then you’ll have to have a world change, a fresh start, a new world, etc. And this new world should be markedly different from the world of seasons 1-7. As different from them as season 1 was from the “old world” that existed before the show started.

So season 8 is in a strange position.

It is, essentially, two things at once:

  • A separation/negative/deviation season, when looked at in the context of the show from season 1 onward.
  • A connection/positive/origin season when seen in the context of the new cycle of the show being established (seasons 8-14).

This season serves two masters.

In a perfect world, every season 8 you see would play out this structure and serve as a new season 1.

But the world is rarely perfect, so you’re gonna see a bunch of shows that do something a bit different.

Typically, when a season 8 isn’t a new season 1, then showrunners make it a generic separation/negative/deviation season.

They’re continuing to pulse the seasons between connection/positive/origin and separation/negative/deviation in an effort to keep the narrative alive.

They treat their season 8 like a new, different, version of season 2, 4, or 6. In place of any specific traits for their season 8 (identity, new world, old world, core conflict, etc.), they just do thematically relevant stuff that would fit in any season 2, 4, or 6.

Is this a great idea? No.

By definition it makes for a pretty generic season. There’s no real change or development. The narrative is now spinning its wheels, pumping out a new season without building toward anything.

Let’s look at some examples:

House, season 8!

At the end of season 7, we saw House drive his car into Cuddy’s living room. Season 8 picks up with House in jail. Foreman gets him out on conditional release and back working at the hospital. Foreman’s actually taken over Cuddy’s position as Dean of Medicine, because she’s split town. Back at the hospital now, House is starting over – putting together a new team. Including new characters Park and Adams, and reuniting with Chase and Taub.

So there’s “separation” – in that Cuddy is gone and House has empty seats to fill on his new team. There’s “negative” – in that House is heartbroken and on probation, one screw-up away from going back to jail. And there’s “deviation” – in that these circumstances deviate from previous seasons.

With all of these things in play, it’s definitely a new era. And it should be. The season 6/7 era is over, so it’s time for a new one.

But!

This is not a new story. It’s not a new season 1. Notice, we’re not starting over. House is still doing his differential diagnosis work at the same hospital with a cobbled together team. The world and location haven’t changed. The core conflict hasn’t changed. We did some character swapping but those who’ve stayed have pretty much the same identities as they did before. Things have changed (in an “era” sort of way) but this is definitely not a new season 1. They’re just squeakin’ out one more year before taking their bow. Squeakin’ out one more season.

Let’s take a look at another example:

Smallville ran for 10 seasons. They did treat season 8 as a new season 1.

We’ve got the new world/location: Clark moved from his home town of Smallville, to working and spending most of his time in Metropolis.

We’ve got the new core conflict: Clark spent the first seven seasons hiding his alien origins and his abilities. In season 8, the core conflict is now all about using those powers, but actively hiding his identity as “The Blur.”

  • “Will they discover that Clark is an alien with super powers?”

becomes

  • “Will they discover Clark Kent is the super powered ‘Blur?'”

It’s a subtle change, but significant.

Our characters get a roster change: Lex, Lionel, Martha, and Kara are all out (for the most part). Oliver Queen, Tess Mercer, and Davis Bloome (aka Doomsday) are all in.

And we’ve also got new identities for those characters stickin’ around:

Clark is now a reporter at the Daily Planet and masquerading as “The Blur.” When we see Lana Lang again she’s used Lex’s Prometheus technology to gain super-powers. She’s a hero of her own now.

Not everyone gets a new identity, but thematically, the season has plenty of focus on this (new) season 1 “identity” idea.

Structurally, Smallville’s season 8 is really solid.

So when building your season 8, go for a whole new season 1.

Start a whole new cycle of your show. You can squeeze out another mediocre year if you want, but really, that’s the bland, boring, way to go.

If you’re gonna go for season 8, really go for season 8. Do it right.



Season 6 (part 3) – Destruction

Season 6

Dramatic Structure:

Season 6 has 3 areas of concern:

What’s up with that:

Deviation

Season 2 expressed its deviation theme through “contradiction.”
Season 4 expressed its deviation theme through “shake up.”

And now season 6’s deviation theme is expressed through:

“Destruction”

In season 6, you want to destroy as many things as you can. Places, lives, ideas. Tear down as much as your story can handle.

You’ll commonly find two different flavors of destruction:

  • Mistakes
  • Decisions

Mistakes

This is a kind of unintentional destruction.

We see a lot of this in season 6 of Sons of Anarchy.

At the end of season 5, Otto killed a nurse. Turns out that was a big mistake. Her brother, a former U.S. Marshal, has the influence to make Otto pay for his mistake. He spends the season tearing Otto down, and eventually ending his life.

Or we’ve got the biggest “mistake” in all of S.O.A.: Gemma kills Tara. Because she thought the doctor had flipped on the club. She hadn’t.

That’s a huge mistake.

Decisions

This is a kind of intentional destruction.

Let’s take a look at season 6 of The Shield.

At the very end of season 5, Shane killed Lem in a desperate attempt to protect the Strike Team. He destroyed part of the team, to save it. Season 6 plays out the ramifications of this decision. Mackey is on a warpath to find Lem’s killer, leaving a trail of destruction in his wake. And with every lie that Shane tells to keep Mackey from the truth, more destruction piles up.

Shane chose to kill Lem, he chose to hide the truth, and now it’s causing nothing but massive, reckless, destruction.

So when putting season 6 together, be sure to investigate your deviation theme via destruction. That’ll usually take the form of intentional or unintentional destruction. Or to look at it another way: mistakes and decisions.



Season 4 (part 3) – Shake Up

Season 4

Dramatic Structure:

Has 3 areas of concern:

Time for that…

Deviation

Season 4 deals with its deviation theme via:

“Shake Up”

How can one shake things up?

Two main ways:

  • Changing the Circumstances
  • Upping the Ante

Changing the Circumstances

It’s exactly what it sounds like.

The first era, seasons 1, 2, and 3, had a shared circumstance. In season 4, you need to change that circumstance – shake it up.

This is what we see on The O.C.

Season 4 sees our main characters having graduated from high school, and now living their post-high-school-lives. Summer’s across the country at college. Seth is waiting to hear from RISD for his late admission. And Ryan’s working and living in a bar, knee-deep in a depressive spiral. Season 4 also plays out how everyone is dealing with Marissa’s death, which occurred at the end of season 3. This isn’t just the new “post-high-school” circumstance, it’s the new “post-Marissa” circumstance.

There’s a bunch of ways to shake things up. Let’s look at a seemingly similar, but very different, way to do it:

The Vampire Diaries is essentially a high school show. But they didn’t want to leave the high school setting behind quite yet, so they changed the circumstance in a different way. In season 4, our main character Elena becomes a vampire. She spent the first three seasons as a human. She also spent the first three seasons romantically involved with Stefan. Come season 4 – she’s no longer human, and her romance with Damon is in full swing. Leaving high school seems like an obvious choice to shake things up, but by digging a little deeper, The Vampire Diaries was able to significantly shake things up, while still keeping their practical setting.

Upping the Ante

By this, we mean to make the stakes of the story that much more dire, that much bigger, that much harder and more intense. From a character point of view, they’ve gotta invest more, they’ve gotta have more to lose.

This means different things for different stories.

In Grey’s Anatomy season 4, our characters went from being surgical interns, to full-blown residents – in charge of their own interns. They moved up a level, and now things are that much harder and challenging.

When a story is based around careers, it’s very straight forward to up the ante in this way. But what about a different kind of story?

Supernatural season 4 ups the ante by introducing angels to the story. For the first era, it was humans fighting demons and monsters. By introducing angels to the story you have greatly expanded the mythos – significantly upping the ante. Especially considering that these angels have tasked the Winchesters with preventing the escape of the devil himself. This is huge for a couple of monster hunters. The stakes just jumped up a couple of levels as they go from two brothers hunting down urban legends, to straight up super heroes trying to save the world.

However you do it, whichever way is best for your story – you have to shake things up. This is usually done by changing the circumstances and upping the ante.