Season 2 (part 3) – Contradiction

Season 2

Dramatic Structure:

Time to talk about:

Deviation

Season 2 expresses this deviation theme via:

“Contradiction”

Season 2 contradicts what you did in season 1.

Everything you did in season 1, if it can be contradicted, do it. Friends are enemies. Lovers are broken up. Mainstay locations are rarely visited, if at all, etc.

The two most common ways you see this “contradiction” idea employed are:

  • Role Reversals
  • Authority Figures

Role Reversals

In season 1, we established roles for our roster of characters.
In season 2, we want to take those roles, and flip ’em.

  • The best friend becomes a rival.
  • The rival becomes a friend.
  • The teacher becomes a student, etc.

If your roster of characters wasn’t that strongly defined, then you could take a more subtle approach:

In season 2:

  • The smart guy is pretty dumb.
  • The meek guy shows a lot of courage.
  • The tough guy shows his sensitive side, etc.

Let’s look at some concrete examples:

As we discussed with “stress tests” – early in season 2 of Nip/Tuck, Sean discovers his son Matt is not his biological son. This gave us a great stress test. But it also gives us a role reversal.

As Sean goes into a grief spiral, he starts acting more like Christian usually does: irresponsible, self-destructive, he’s drinking more, and having sex with Kimber – Christian’s ex-girlfriend. The responsible, conservative, Sean, has become the self-destructive loose-cannon. This also causes Christian, to behave more like Sean typically would. With Sean going into a tailspin, Christian’s holding things together at the office, being the responsible one, the stable one. A complete contraction to the Christian of season 1.

These two guys, these polar opposites, switch places. They reverse roles.

We see something similar on The O.C.

In season 1 of The O.C. we see Ryan constantly getting into trouble. Wrapped up in drama with Marissa, struggling in school, punching people when he thinks he needs to. Seth, on the other hand spends season 1 being the nice kid. Doing well in school, not drinking, always in before curfew.

But when season 2 hits, both of these guys pull a switch.

Ryan is specifically focusing on school and staying out of trouble. He’s staying away from Marissa and her drama, and he’s dating a nice girl Lindsay. While Seth is staying out late, dating the bad-girl Alex, coming home drunk, and constantly getting grounded.

Their roles in season 2, are a contradiction of their roles in season 1. But they didn’t just reverse roles with their former selves, they also reversed roles with each other.

Nip/Tuck and The O.C. would seem to have very little in common, but in this regard – they’re exactly the same.

Authority Figures

In season 2, you commonly see this contradiction theme expressed in the context of authority figures.

A character who didn’t have authority before, becomes an authority figure now. Or an established authority figure loses that authority in season 2.

In season 1 of Roswell, Sheriff Valenti is seen as an enemy, trying to expose and catch our main character aliens.

In season 2, he’s embraced as a trusted friend and ally. He even goes so far as to lose his badge protecting them and their secret.

In season 1, he was the Bad-Guy sheriff authority figure out to get them. In season 2, he’s the the Good-Guy sheriff who loses his authority in his quest to help them.

In Prison Break season 1, Warden Pope is a constant presence, ruling over the prison. In season 2, the inmates escape, leaving the warden and his authority behind them.

While other supporting characters continued to appear on the show, the Warden and his authority appear only once in the very beginning of season 2 and then he’s gone from the narrative all together. His authority was all over season 1, and then very very absent in season 2.

When applying this contradiction concept to your story, you can reverse established roles, reverse your authority figures, or find any other way to contradict what’s come before.

Just make sure you do some contradictin’!



The Seven Seasons

Now that we’ve covered the method for structuring short form stories, aka “cubbies,” – let’s get down to the big daddy of storytelling:

The Seven Seasons

This is the method for structuring long form stories.

You ready!?

The “seven seasons” refer to the seven distinct chunks that comprise a multi-part story. We’re talking about a T.V. series, a book series, a series of films, you name it.

You’ve got seasons 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7.

We’re using the term “season” here in a similar way to the use of the term “act” in a film’s structure.

An “act” is a specific chunk of story with certain narrative elements. The same holds true for these “seasons.” They are chunks of story defined by their specific concerns. Their particular needs and traits, unique from the concerns of other seasons.

What these specific needs are, will be our main focus when we take a look at each season individually. But when they all come together, the seasons create a large sprawling narrative, greater than the sum of its parts.

Let’s take a look at this seven season beast:

When you really look at it, from a top-down view, your entire long form story can be broken up into three overall…

Eras

The first, second, and third eras of your series.

  • Seasons 1, 2, 3 = 1st Era.

  • Seasons 4, 5 = 2nd Era.

  • Seasons 6, 7 = 3rd & final Era.

We’ll get into more detail later about the specific qualities of these “eras.” But for now, just know that they’re there. They’re an important part of the larger structure of your series.

Movin’ on!

Each season, in the grand structure of your series, has three levels to consider.

Three layers:

  • Dramatic Structure

  • Dramatic Pace

  • Dramatic Evolution

“Dramatic Structure” itself, has three different areas of concern:

Dramatic Structure

  • Connection/Separation

  • Positive/Negative

  • Origin/Deviation

These three areas of concern alternate between the seasons, as your story progresses.

Seasons 1, 3, 5, and 7 are of the first type:

  • “Connection,” “Positive,” and “Origin” focused.

Seasons 2, 4, and 6 are all of the second type:

  • “Separation,” “Negative,” and “Deviation” focused.

This alternation creates the pulse of the drama in your long form story.

You can’t mess with this pulse. It’s the heartbeat, the rhythm of your series. You lose that, it’s hard to recover from. It pulses this way for each of the three “dramatic structure” areas of concern:

Connection/Separation:

  • Season 1: Connection.
  • Season 2: Separation.
  • Season 3: Connection.
  • Season 4: Separation.
  • Season 5: Connection.
  • Season 6: Separation.
  • Season 7: Connection.

Positive/Negative:

  • Season 1: Positive.
  • Season 2: Negative.
  • Season 3: Positive.
  • Season 4: Negative.
  • Season 5: Positive.
  • Season 6: Negative.
  • Season 7: Positive.

Origin/Deviation:

  • Season 1: Origin.
  • Season 2: Deviation.
  • Season 3: Origin.
  • Season 4: Deviation.
  • Season 5: Origin.
  • Season 6: Deviation.
  • Season 7: Origin.

We’ll get all up in the specifics of this pulsing when we discuss each season in turn. Each season has its own unique expression of these three areas and their ideas.

Dramatic Pace

This deals with the pacing of your story, how the seasons flow from one to the next, and how they relate.

Our discussion of “eras” will become important when talking about the “dramatic pace.” Again, we’ll get more into the details when we approach each season in turn.

Dramatic Evolution

This is all about how your story evolves over time.

The things you need to do to change and grow your story organically as time progresses. Again, we’ll dig into the deets, as we discuss each season individually.