Season 6 (part 4) – Character Roster Deficit & Test/Trial

Season 6

Dramatic Pace

Two traits:

  • Deficit, for your roster of characters
  • Test or Trial

Deficit

You lose some characters, and you don’t replace ’em.

In season 2, we had an influx of “new blood.” You added characters to the roster. In season 4, we had an “even trade.” You lost some characters, but you replaced them with about an even number of new people. Here in season 6, you lose some characters, and you leave ’em gone. You don’t replace them, you let the audience feel their absence.

We see this in season 6 of Weeds.

The Botwin clan has to get out of town quick, so they hit the road – leaving behind a bunch of regular characters: Celia, her husband Dean, her daughter Isabelle, and Nancy’s new husband Esteban. They all get left behind, and the show doesn’t replace them. Moving forward, the character roster is full of nothing but: the Botwins and Doug.

Test or Trial

Here you really challenge your characters.

Physically, spiritually, emotionally, literally, whatever works best for your story.

We see this in season 6 of Smallville. At the very end of season 5, Clark is thrown into the “Phantom Zone.” A desolate prison for intergalactic criminals. He spends months surviving without his powers.

That’s a serious test.

When he eventually does get back to Earth – his release brings a bunch of space criminals along with him. These “Zoners” then go about terrorizing the planet and it’s all Clark’s fault. He then spends all of season 6 trying to return these escapees back to the Phantom Zone.

That’s a pretty big trial.

When you get down to it, the “test or trial” can be anything. Get creative. Find what works best for your story. Just make sure it’s hard. Make sure you really drag your characters through the mud.

When putting together your season 6, be sure to lose some characters and keep them gone. And be sure to put your characters through some real heat. Put ’em through a test, a trial.



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 6 (part 2) – Bummer

Season 6

Dramatic Structure:

Season 6 has 3 areas of concern:

Let’s put our peepers on that…

Negative

Season 2 expressed its negative theme via “meaningful death.”
Season 4 expressed its negative theme via “weirdness.”

So what do’we got for season 6? Its negative theme is:

“Bummer”

Creating a bummer is pretty easy. Any disappointment, setback, or bad luck can cause a bummer. However, the deeper you go – the better.

The two most common ways of creating a “bummer” are:

  • Death
  • Trauma

Death

It’s pretty straight forward. Someone dies and it sends a shockwave of grief through your characters.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, season 6.

The main “bummer” of season 6 comes from Buffy’s death at the very end of season 5. When season 6 begins, we catch up with our characters to see that they’re grieving hard, lost, and directionless. They’re deep in the bummer. And then, when they do bring Buffy back to life, it’s her turn to be bummed out and almost clinically depressed about having been brought back. She’s sad that her friends saved her life. That’s a unique and unusual expression of this idea.

Trauma

Here the bummer is caused by trauma.

We see a great example in season 6 of The Sopranos. At the top of the season, Tony gets shot in the gut by his mentally unstable Uncle Junior. It’s a hell of a trauma. Tony’s in the hospital clinging to life. He pulls through, but he’s never really the same. Physically or emotionally. His near-death experience has actually made him care less about his life, not more. He starts spiraling deeper into darkness, deeper into the bummer.

So be sure to express season 6’s negative theme through a bummer. Typically, you’ll get that bummer through a death, or trauma.



Season 6 (part 1) – Role Challenge

Season 6

Dramatic Structure:

Season 6 has 3 areas of concern:

Let’s take a look at season 6’s…

Separation

In season 2, the separation theme was expressed with “stress tests.”
In season 4, the separation theme was expressed with “disbandments.”

How does season 6 do it?

“Role Challenge”

When we say “role challenge” we mean that you take a character’s role in the story, and you challenge that role. You present a genuine difficulty to the part they play in the bigger picture. Who they typically are, or the function the typically serve in the group, is going to be challenged.

When challenging a character’s role…

There are two main ways to go about it:

  • Circumstantial
  • Emotional

Circumstantial

A “circumstantial” role challenge, is what we see in season 6 of Rescue Me.

Throughout season 6, the city is actively trying to shut down the firehouse, leaving our crew out of a job. Their roles as firemen are being directly challenged by the circumstances around them. If you take their jobs, they literally can’t be firemen.

This is a really clear-cut example. They identify heavily with being firemen, and you have circumstances threaten to take that away from them. But that’s not the only way you can have circumstances challenge your character’s roles. You could give them an injury, utilize a location change, force them into a new job, or transform the character into a different way of being.

Emotional

An “emotional” role challenge is a little different.

For a good example of this, let’s look at season 6 of Supernatural.

Coming off of the events of season 5, Sam has lost his soul. Without his soul, he has no conscience. He’s brutal and emotionless. This directly challenges his role as a hunter. It makes him brash and reckless. And almost more importantly, it directly challenges his role as the compassionate side of the Sam/Dean duo. Sam isn’t himself without his soul. Its absence directly challenges his normal role, and his life.

In a general sense, you’ll typically see shows utilize an emotional role challenge as the result of grief. When a character is bummed out, it disrupts everything in their life. They can’t do what they normally do and they can’t be who they normally are. Grief has a way of changing people.

So in season 6, make sure to service the separation theme through some role challenges. Typically, you’ll do this via circumstantial challenges and emotional challenges.