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!



Seven Seasons – Variations

Variations

A while back, we defined “seasons” as a particular chunk of story with particular attributes. Much like an “act” in a movie. We then took you through all the different attributes of each season.

The seasons are defined by these attributes, it’s what makes a particular season different from the rest. This is an important distinction to understand when “variations” come into play.

Here at Story Shamans we make a clear distinction between a show’s “season”, based on structural content, and a show’s “year” based on the schedule in which it was released to an audience.

Ideally, your “seasons” and your “years” would line up perfectly.

Like we see with:

  • The Shield
  • The West Wing
  • The Wire
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
  • Sons of Anarchy

But, a “year” of a show and a “season” of a show won’t always be the same thing.

When this happens, it’s called a “variation.”

These variations come in many forms:

  • Continued Season
  • Season Jump
  • Mislabeled Season
  • Mash-up Season

Continued Season

When a season of content keeps on going into the next year.

The content should shift from one year to the next, moving the story forward from one season to the next. But with the “continued season” variation – it doesn’t.

It just keeps the same season content, across two (or more) years.

Dexter did this with its last year. Their season 8 is really just season 7 continued. Their season 7 started in year 7, and continued on through to year 8. It was just a big two parter.

One Tree Hill did the same thing for its fourth year. Year 4 wasn’t season 4, it was season 3 continued. Everybody is still in high school, playing out the events of their senior year, dragging out that first era.

Season Jump

When you jump to the next season, mid year.

Maybe you’re in season 4 and it turns out you’re getting cancelled. You don’t want to end your story on all the weirdness and shake up of season 4. So half-way through the year, you jump to season 5 content, to close out the era and the show.

This is exactly what The O.C. did. Year 4 starts out with our main characters living their post-high school lives. Scattered and grieving the loss of Marissa. That’s “change of circumstances,” “disbandments,” and “beginning of new era.” All season 4 stuff.

Then at the midpoint of the year, they resolve all of this stuff and jump straight into season 5 content:

Ryan’s Dad Frank comes to town to patch things up with his son – “family” and “salvation.” Ryan finds emotional solace in his new relationship with Taylor – more “salvation.” Sandy and Kirsten are going to have another baby – more “family.” Julie is dating both Bullit and Frank and has to choose between them. Will she marry for money or love? – “impossible decision.”

The show clearly transitions from season 4, straight into season 5. All in one year.

Prison Break did the exact same thing in their fourth year. Halfway through, they resolve the season 4 content, and move full-on into season 5 content.

Mislabeled Season

Imagine your favorite show is truckin’ along.

  • Year 1 = season 1
  • Year 2 = season 2
  • Year 3 = season 3
  • Year 4 = season 4
  • Year 5 = season 5

And then suddenly, the coming episodes are being advertised as “season 6 part 1,” and then “season 6 part 2” after that.

This variation is just a quirk of labeling.

It typically has nothing to do with the actual content and “seasons” of the show.

We see this happen with:

  • The Sopranos
  • Entourage
  • Nip/Tuck
  • Rescue Me
  • Mad Men
  • Breaking Bad
  • Teen Wolf
  • The Walking Dead

For The Sopranos, their seasons matched their years, all the way up until the end – when suddenly they had “season 6 part 1” and “season 6 part 2.” That’s what the marketing team called them anyway. But really, content-wise, it was just season 6 and season 7.

With Entourage, their season 3 was supposedly broken up into “season 3 part 1” and “season 3 part 2.” But structurally, it was really just season 3 and season 4.

These distinctions are usually business decisions, not creative ones.

Mash-Up Season

With the “season jump” variation, we saw clear examples of shows blowing through two seasons worth of content, over the span of one year. And they did it sequentially. Year 4 of The O.C. first spent time on season 4 material, then moved on to season 5 material.

The “mash-up” is different. Instead of doing two seasons sequentially…

You’re doing two seasons simultaneously.

We see this in:

  • Veronica Mars
  • Alias
  • Battlestar Galactica (2004-2009)

Veronica Mars:

At the beginning of their third year, we see elements of both season 3 and season 4. Veronica is working a new case, chasing down a serial rapist. That’s “power,” “sexual violence,” – exactly what you would expect in a season 3. But she’s also starting college. That’s “shake up,” “even trade of characters,” – exactly what you would expect in a season 4. It’s both seasons, at the same time. Structurally, you would expect one more year of high school playing out season 3 elements. But they’re jumping the gun and incorporating season 4 ideas as well. This is a classic “mash-up.”

When looking at different shows, you’re going to see all kinds of variations. And quite often, you’ll see more than one type of variation during a show’s run.

Veronica Mars had a crazy third year.

Year 3 started as a mash-up of seasons 3, and 4. Then it jumped fully into season 4 territory. Then briefly jumped to season 5, right at the end there. That’s 3 seasons, all in one year.

Alias had a couple of variations as well.

Over the course of the show they had…

  • A “jump” variation: Year 2 = season 2, then season 3.
  • A “mash-up” variation: Year 5 was simultaneously seasons 6 and 7.

Take a look at the new Battlestar Galactica (2004-2009).

It’s nuts. Once you think you’ve got a firm grasp on the seven seasons, go ahead and watch Battlestar Galactica‘s 4 year run and see if you can piece together just how many seasons they cover.

I’ll give you a hint: It’s all 7.

There are all kinds of combinations and permutations of the seven seasons and how they work across the years a show is on the air. It works best when each year corresponds to each season of a story. But some times, as a matter of necessity, variations are needed.



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 2 (part 4) – New Blood & Dragonslay

Season 2

Dramatic Pace

It has two traits:

  • New Blood
  • Dragonslay

New Blood

“New blood” refers to your roster of characters.

In season 2, you want to introduce new characters.

Add some new blood.

Usually, you’ll see these characters acting as agents of the different season 2 themes. Characters are brought into the story to supply a stress test, or a meaningful death, or any other form of contradiction.

Say there’s a death in the family – maybe an authority figure. Say a main character’s father. Upon his death, Uncle So-and-So comes to town and plans on sticking around. Here you have one character satisfying several different needs for season 2.

Or maybe two of your main characters break up at the end of season 1, and in season 2 they both have new love interests. These new love interests, would typically be your “new blood.”

Let’s look at some examples:

In LOST season 2, we finally get that hatch open and find Desmond inside. He’s some definite new blood, that will be sticking around for the rest of the story. We also meet the “Tailies” – specifically Ana Lucia, Libby, Bernard, and Mr. Eko. Not to mention the mysterious “Henry Gale” aka Ben Linus, who’s pretty much the leader of “The Others.” All new blood – some sticking around longer than others.

LOST has a lot of characters already, but in season 2 they add a half dozen new ones. That’s a lot of new blood.

In season 2 of Grey’s Anatomy we see the addition of Addison – Derek’s wife, Derek’s best friend Mark “McSteamy” Sloan – the guy Addison cheated with, and towards the end of season 2, we see the addition of Callie Torres, a love interest for George. All significant characters that remain on the show for many years to come.

New Blood. Add new characters in season 2. You get the idea.

Dragonslay

What’s a “dragon?”

Anything that wasn’t resolved in season 1, and specifically wasn’t contradicted in season 2.

It just stayed the same, playing itself out throughout seasons 1 and 2. That’s a dragon. And it should be slayed, and resolved, by the end of season 2.

Why call it a “dragon?” It’s the beast that’s remained. The beast that keeps growing and thriving until your kill it.

What does this look like in practice?

A Bad Guy your main characters have been fighting since season 1. Maybe you didn’t take him out in season 1. He’s still here in season 2. He’s a dragon. And you better slay him by the end of season 2, or you’re dragging it out too long.

“Dramatic pace” is all about the pace of your story. If something has persisted through season 1 and season 2 and hasn’t really changed, then it’s time to finish it.

How about a different example of a dragon:

You could have a couple who’re engaged in season 1. In season 2 you didn’t contradict it, they are still engaged. By the end of season 2, you should hit that wedding. Or the end of the engagement. If you don’t, you’re dragging that piece of story out too long.

How about some real examples:

In Supernatural, your dragon is the all-powerful demon “Yellow-Eyes” aka “Azazel.” He’s been the big Bad-Guy the Winchester’s have been chasing since day one. And in the season 2 finale, Dean puts a magic bullet in his chest, killing him for good.

Not too long, not too short – that’s a solid pace.

In Alias season 2, we see SD-6 finally get raided and shut down by the real CIA. SD-6 was the dragon, and in season 2 we see it slayed.

So whatever dragons you have lingering around in season 2 – slay ’em.