Season 3 (part 4) – Fallout & Point of No Return: Circumstantially

Season 3

Dramatic Pace

Season 3 has two traits:

  • Fallout
  • Point of No Return; Circumstantially

Fallout

The events that take place in season 3 as a natural and direct result of the events that occurred in season 2.

You don’t just start all new material in season 3. Instead, you want to dig into the fallout, the repercussions, the effects of all that occurred in season 2. If you did season 2 right, then you did a lot of major stuff: your “meaningful death,” “dragonslay,” etc. The “fallout” of these events are played out in season 3.

At the end of Supernatural season 2, Azazel, aka Yellow-Eyes, succeeded in opening a Devil’s Gate right before Dean shot him. When the Devil’s Gate opened, a whole bunch of demons escaped. Season 3 is then spent trying to take out these newly escaped demons. The Winchesters spend season 3 trying to clean up the “fallout.”

But it doesn’t end there, the end of season 2 also saw Sam getting killed, and Dean made a deal with a crossroads demon to bring him back. Dean has one year until that debt is collected and the hellhounds come for him. Season 3 is spent trying to get Dean out of this deal. More “fallout.”

Breaking Bad has an interesting amount of fallout in season 3.

Season 2 culminates with the death of Jesse’s girlfriend, Jane. Her distraught father is an air traffic controller, and his grief causes him to crash two planes into each other. Season 3 plays out the aftermath of this plane crash as pieces of the wreckage literally fall out of the sky. We’ve got some literal, and metaphorical: “fallout.”

Jesse checks himself into rehab trying to deal with his grief and his part in her death. That’s more “fallout.” Walt deals with his part in what happened. He could have saved Jane, but deliberately chose not to. While he does seem to be struggling with that choice (fallout), he’s doesn’t feel any real guilt. Maybe just a debt to Jesse.

The biggest form of “fallout” we see is with the Salamancas. In season 2, Hank killed Tuco the crazy drug dealer. In season 3, Tuco’s cousins come looking for Hank, to settle the score. That’s some big time “fallout.”

You get the idea.

Point of No Return – Circumstantially

Season 3 is the end of the season 1, 2, 3 era. And at the end of an era, you’ll always see a “point of no return.”

The moment that closes out the era.

A way of defining what’s come before, from what comes next.

For season 3, this “point of no return” is specifically about “circumstance.”

The first 3 seasons have some kind of unifying circumstance. At the end of season 3 you need to close out this era by leaving that circumstance behind. Like graduating high school or quitting a job.

At the end of House season 3, Dr. House fires his diagnostic team: Foreman, Cameron, and Chase. Up until this point, it had been the four of them solving medical mysteries. Their partnership had defined the first era. But now that House has fired them, he’s changed everything. It’s a circumstantial “point of no return” for the show.

At the end of LOST season 3, we see a flash to the future, and learn that some of the survivors eventually make it off the island. This is a big deal for the story. The show’s narrative then transitions from the flashbacks of the first 3 seasons, to flashforwards that will be used for the next era. For the show, it’s a “point of no return” in not just the events of the plot, but also the storytelling narrative itself. Impressive work.

So when pacing your story, make sure season 3 deals with the “fallout” of what’s come before, and lands on a solid “point of no return; circumstantially” in the end.



Season 2 (part 5) – Antithesis & 1st Era Continued

Season 2

Season 2’s “Dramatic Evolution” has two main elements:

  • Antithesis
  • First Era Continued

Antithesis

Season 2 is an “antithesis” of season 1’s thesis. This antithesis is felt primarily through the expression of the core concept, and the different contradictions employed throughout the season.

In season 2’s dramatic structure, we already saw that you should be contradicting what you established in season 1. If you’re doing this, then your season 2 will already feel a lot like an “antithesis” of season 1. But let’s take it a step further.

It’s important to also have a statement. A theme in season 2, that is the “antithesis” of your statement for season 1.

Let’s go back to our Spider-Man example:

Our core concept was “power,” and we’d crafted a thesis statement for season 1:

Season 1 thesis statement:

“With great power, comes great responsibility.”

In season 2, the antithesis could be:

“With great power, comes great freedom.”

As we explore this theme in season 2, we demonstrate how freedom comes from having no responsibility. In a way, that’s what freedom is – the antithesis of responsibility.

  • Season 1: With great power, comes great responsibility.
  • Season 2: With great power, comes no responsibility.

That’s a solid antithesis.

So, in season 2 you want your storytelling to lean into that “antithesis” statement. But make it dynamic. The season 2 statement isn’t actually “with great power comes no responsibility.” It’s “with great power comes great freedom.” This is a statement grounded in the fact that it’s an antithesis of season 1’s statement, but it is not wholly defined by it. Explore what this theme has to offer. Dig deep.

First Era Continued

Season 2 is the middle of your “first era.” Therefore, it’s got to continue along that season 1, 2, 3 era. That chunk.

This is usually done by maintaining the first era’s circumstances.

Let’s continue our examination of Prison Break:

  • In season 1, they were in prison.
  • In season 2, they’re out of prison.

And actively, trying very hard to stay out.

As we said previously, the season 1, 2, 3 era is all about prison.

And even though they spend most of season 2 out of prison, the season still revolves around the idea. The circumstance. They are fugitives on the run from the law, the threat of incarceration constantly hanging over their heads. This preserves the first era’s general circumstantial concern: prison.

So, in season 2, you want to do what you can to lean into its “antithesis” statement, while still making the season feel like a cohesive part of the season 1, 2, 3 – first era.



Season 1 (part 5) – Thesis & Beginning of 1st Era

As stated previously, every season has its:

  • Dramatic Structure
  • Dramatic Pace
  • Dramatic Evolution

Now’s the time to turn our attention to its…

Dramatic Evolution

Before we get into the specific traits of season 1’s dramatic evolution, let’s talk a little about dramatic evolution as a general concept:

“Dramatic Evolution” really has two different meanings:

  • It’s the way in which you successfully execute the different concerns of your “Dramatic Structure” and “Dramatic Pace.”
  • It’s all about your story’s CORE CONCEPT and the specific way it evolves, season to season.

Let’s look at the first meaning:

“The way in which you successfully execute the different concerns of your ‘Dramatic Structure’ and ‘Dramatic Pace.'”

What this means, is that how you handle your dramatic structure and dramatic pace elements, creates a narrative evolution from season to season. It has to. As the story progresses, it will necessarily evolve.

For season 1 specifically, this type of evolution necessitates that you establish all the basics of your story:

  • Your main characters.
  • The central dynamics between your characters.
  • The thematic ideas of your story.
  • The basic plot.

And anything else that needs to be established.

Season 1 is the original chunk of your story. The one that everything else will either subvert or reinforce, moving forward. So you need to make those original things clear here in season 1, in order to develop them as you move forward.

Meaning number two for “Dramatic Evolution:”

“It’s all about your CORE CONCEPT and the specific way it evolves, season to season.”

What’s a “core concept?”

It’s what your long form story is all about. The meaning of your story. The reason it is being told. The point. At its heart, it is an idea which every other element in your story is meant to help dramatize.

For demonstration purposes let’s put together a hypothetical show about Spider-Man.

Your show’s “core concept” could be all about: “Power.”

Fundamentally the point of the show is this idea of “power” and what it means.

This power concept is not the plot of the show, it’s not the character’s arc, it’s not the core conflict, it is a separate, underlining idea: the “core concept.”

The core concept can be tightly related to any one of these other aspects, but it still needs to be a separate idea unto itself. They can be closely related, but not the same.

Once you have your core concept, there’s the evolutionary process your core concept goes through as your story progresses. This “evolution” process is why there are 7 seasons in your long form story and why they are split up into 3 eras.

How’s that?

Essentially, the structure of your story, pulses.

Each season does what it does, in response to what’s come before it. This is true both of the general dramatic concerns, as well as with the core concept.

The pulsing nature of your story’s dramatic evolution looks like this:

  • Season 1, establishes a THESIS.

  • Season 2, is then an ANTITHESIS of season 1.

  • Season 3, is then a SYNTHESIS of seasons 1 and 2.

Each era follows this “thesis,” “antithesis,” “synthesis” pattern.

When moving from one era into the next (ex: season 3 moving into season 4) the synthesis of the previous era acts as the thesis for the new era.

So…

  • Season 1: Thesis
  • Season 2: Antithesis
  • Season 3: Synthesis

Season 3 is also, simultaneously, the thesis for the new era.

  • That makes season 4 an antithesis of season 3.

And season 5 is a synthesis of seasons 3 and 4.

  • Season 5 is also, simultaneously, the new thesis.
  • Season 6 is an antithesis
  • Season 7 is the final synthesis.

To string it all together:

  • Season 1: Thesis
  • Season 2: Antithesis
  • Season 3: Synthesis/Thesis
  • Season 4: Antithesis
  • Season 5: Synthesis/Thesis
  • Season 6: Antithesis
  • Season 7: Synthesis

This is the dramatic evolution of any story, being fueled by different expressions of a core concept.

So what does this mean for season 1 specifically?

There are two elements to season 1’s “Dramatic Evolution:”

  • Thesis
  • Beginning of Your 1st Era

Thesis

Here you’re establishing your story’s thesis. Its establishing statement.

For our Spider-Man show, let’s say season 1 is all about:

“With great power, comes great responsibility.”

That’s your establishing theme, your “thesis” statement – as far as your core concept “power” is concerned.

Simple enough, eh?

You just take a look at your core concept, and decide what your establishing thesis is going to be, with regards to that concept. Here we went with the classic Spider-Man line. It’s all about responsibility.

Beginning of Your 1st Era

Season 1 is the beginning of your first era. The first piece in the season 1, 2, 3 block.

You need to pay specific attention to the developments you’re looking to deal with in your first era.

Your first era will have a continuity in circumstance, theme, character, etc. Season 1 is where you begin these things. Season 1 is where you establish these things.

Let’s take a look at the show Prison Break.

In the beginning of season 1, we learn that Lincoln Burrows has been convicted of a crime he did not commit. That lays the foundation for the entire series. It establishes their core concept:

“Injustice.”

Lincoln being falsely imprisoned is the initial injustice, and catalyst for all the events that follow.

Season 1 also establishes the general theme for the first era:

“Prison.”

Season 1 is all about Michael Scofield planning and executing his escape from prison with his brother. It takes all season. But this prison theme is not restricted to just season 1. It’s the theme for the entire first era.

So in addressing this “Beginning of Your 1st Era” element, season 1 first establishes the overall core concept for the show – injustice. But then it also establishes the theme for the first era, specifically – “prison.” Setting it up for seasons 2 and 3 to partake in their version of this “prison” idea/theme moving forward.



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.