Season 4 (part 2) – Weirdness

Season 4

Dramatic Structure:

Has 3 areas of concern:

Let’s talk about that…

Negative

For season 4, it’s all about:

“Weirdness”

You can get weird in many different ways but…

The two you’ll see most often are:

  • Invasive
  • Otherworldly

Invasive Weirdness

“Invasive” weirdness, is weirdness that invades the lives of your characters.

We see this on Smallville. In season 4, Lana is repeatedly possessed by a 17th century witch. While possessed, the Countess Margaret Isobel Thoreaux is walking around in Lana’s body, using magic and hunting down the “Stones of Power.” Not only is that weird, but her body is literally being invaded and controlled by someone else. That’s as invasive as it gets.

We also see invasive weirdness in Angel season 4. When Angel’s son Connor knocked boots with Cordelia? She became pregnant. That’s a little weird. When she gives birth to a full-grown woman deity from a higher dimension, bent on enslaving this world through mindless devotion and love? Things get super weird. This deity, Jasmine, used Cordelia’s womb to birth herself into this world. That’s specifically, invasively, weird.

Otherworldly Weirdness

Now, in the examples above, there are some definite “otherworldly” elements:

  • Witchcraft from the 17th century.
  • A god from a higher dimension.

But let’s take a look at some other examples:

Weeds:
At the end of season 3, the “Agrestic” suburb burnt down to the ground. At the beginning of season 4, The Botwin clan have moved to “Ren Mar,” a town near the Mexico border. Nancy gets herself tied up in Mexican drugs, guns, and human trafficking. She’s traded the suburbs, for this whole other world of hardcore crime in Mexico. That’s some “otherworldly” weirdness, for a show about selling weed.

True Blood:
In season 4, Sookie finds herself in the alternate dimension of “Faerie World.” Season 4 then plays out the ramifications of her brief visit. We also see, in this season, the first inclusion of witches. Even for a show like True Blood, this inclusion of faerie business and straight forward magic is pretty weird, and definitely otherworldly.

So when crafting season 4, be sure to address your negative theme by getting into some weirdness. If you’re looking for ideas, go with invasive and otherworldly.



Season 2 (part 2) – Meaningful Death

Season 2

Dramatic Structure:

Time to address the:

Negative

Season 2 expresses this negative theme via:

“Meaningful Death”

Someone’s going to die. And it has to matter, in big and important ways.

Ideally, it will be a close friend or a family member of a major character. But you have a few other choices if you want to get more subtle. You could kill off a major enemy, or even kill off an important dream of one of your main characters. Get creative.

Friend

In Roswell season 2, we see the death of Alex. A close friend to our main players, and a regular cast member on the show. Killing Alex was a huge deal, for both the characters on the show and the audience. It was undoubtedly meaningful.

Family

In Rescue Me season 2, we see the death of Tommy’s young son Connor. In a world where firefighters are constantly in danger, where it is accepted as “just part of the job,” this death hit the hardest. So unexpected and tragic. It was the most meaningful death in Tommy Gavin’s life.

Enemy

In Dexter season 2, we see the death of Doakes. The man who always saw through Dexter’s facade and spent season 2 trying to catch him. He was a regular on the show, he’d been a major part of the story since day one, and he dies. Even in a show where people die in nearly every episode, you’ve got your meaningful death.

Stranger

The character who dies doesn’t always have to be someone we know well. It could be a stranger.

Maybe one of your main characters hits a stranger with their car and peels off. It’s a hit and run! Season 2 could then play out the ramifications of this event. We see this very thing happen in season 2 of the new 90210 – (2008-2013).

Or you could do something like what Friday Night Lights did.

Towards the end of season 1, Tyra got attacked by a guy in a parking lot. A few months later, in season 2, the attacker returns. But this time her buddy Landry comes to her aid and hits the stalker with a pipe, killing him. Instead of going to the cops, they freak out and dump the body off a bridge. Season 2 then sees them struggling to keep what they did a secret and hold themselves together, as they deal with the gravity of what they’ve done.

These are examples of a different way to exploit the meaningful death. The meaningful part is played out in the repercussions of the killing or the death.

Let’s keep digging.

What else could we do for a meaningful death?

Maybe you wanna go big and do what Prison Break did. In their season 2 we see a unique and extreme application of this meaningful death idea.

Throughout season 2, we see FBI Agent Mahone tracking down and killing many of the show’s supporting cast of characters. There isn’t just one meaningful death, there are a bunch, in the escalating chase to catch the escaped convicts Scofield and Burrows. The death is meaningful partly because characters we know are dying, but mostly because of how many are dying. The meaning is being underscored by the quantity of the death.

In choosing your meaningful death, you’ve got a lot of options to play with. But someone is going down. Ideally it’ll be someone very close to your main characters – to pack the most dramatic punch.

So when writing your season 2 you’ve gotta decide:

Who’s gonna die?



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.