- Act 1
- Act 2
- Act 3
- Act 4
- All Videos In Release Order
- Dramatic Evolution
- Dramatic Pace
- Dramatic Structure
- Season 1
- Season 2
- Season 3
- Season 4
- Season 5
- Season 6
- Season 7
- Season 8
- Seven Seasons
- story shamans podcast
As stated previously, every season has its:
- Dramatic Structure
- Dramatic Pace
- Dramatic Evolution
Now’s the time to turn our attention to its…
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.”
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.
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.
- 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:”
- Beginning of Your 1st Era
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:
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:
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.
CUBBY WRAP UP!
Let’s take a look at what we’ve covered:
It’s the beginning of your story. A “what if” fantasy that will be explored through four distinct phases:
- Neutral (you’re just establishing that “what if” fantasy)
These four phases will directly coincide with the four acts of your story.
- Act 1 = neutral, established, fantasy.
- Act 2 = positive aspects of your fantasy.
- Act 3 = negative aspects of your fantasy.
- Act 4 = resolve the fantasy.
Your main character, and your major supporting characters, should all have a collection of traits:
- Individual flaw – a weakness that affects just the character.
- Moral flaw – a weakness that affects other characters.
- Arc – the character changes over time, from one thing to another.
- Ghost – something from the character’s past that still haunts them.
- Passion – something the character really cares about.
- Identity – how the world sees the character.
- Essence – who the character really is, under the surface.
- Emphasized cubby – a part of the story that is being exemplified by the character(s).
- Character web – all the characters will share a common trait, connecting them in a web.
The world of your story has four concerns:
- Location (with a metaphor)
- Time Period
Where’s it take place?
What’s the reality of this place like?
What’re the limitations the time period puts on it?
How long does the story span?
When making a moral argument you have three different methods:
- Four Point Alternation
Pro/Con – you argue the positive, and the negative, of one particular idea.
The death penalty’s bad.
The death penalty’s good.
Inverse – you argue one statement and its opposite.
Guns should be universally banned.
No they shouldn’t.
Four Point Alternation – you basically argue one idea vs another.
You do this by focusing on a particular statement for idea 1, as well as its opposite. And a particular statement for idea 2, and its opposite.
Marriage is the natural state for humans.
No it isn’t.
Bachelorhood is the natural state for humans.
No it isn’t.
One main primal desire, that is then broken up into sub-desires.
One sub-desire for each act of your story. These sub-desires act as stepping stones on the path to the main desire.
There are four different categories of conflict:
- Man vs. Man
- Man vs. Self
- Man vs. Nature
- Man vs. Society
You should have one main overall conflict:
Say: “Man vs. Man.”
Then sub-conflicts that incorporate the other three categories. One sub-conflict per act.
Main conflict: Man vs. Man
- Act 1 = Man vs. Self emphasized.
- Act 2 = Man vs. Nature emphasized.
- Act 3 = Man vs. Society emphasized.
- Act 4 = Man vs. Man emphasized.
There are three different methods of revelation:
“Question and Answer” Method:
A specific question is raised, with a limited number a possible answers, and then that question is answered.
Will he take the job?
Eventually a decision is made.
“Mystery and Reveal” Method:
A mystery is established, with unlimited possible answers, and then that mystery is solved when the answer is revealed.
Who is the killer?
- Billy Bob
- Etc, etc, etc.
Eventually the killer is revealed.
“Unknown Surprise” Method:
Shocking information is revealed, without any previous indication.
“I’m moving to France!”
Then there are many different types of revelation:
- Character revelation: a revelation is presented to a character.
- Audience revelation: a revelation is presented to just the audience.
- Self revelation: a character has a revelation about themselves, as part of their arc.
- Story twist revelation: a revelation that is so massive, it changes your entire perception of the story up until that point.
You should have one major revelation near the end of each act, ideally at the turning points.
“Story twist” revelations are usually saved for act four, but they can be moved if need be.
There are eight different genre tones:
- Comedy = happy
- Tragedy = sad
- Drama = serious
- Farce = silly
- Action = exciting
- Horror = scary
- Romance = idealistic
- Erotica = sexy
An emotional theme that is primal, yet complex.
You want to explore both the positive and negative sides of this emotional theme with sub-expressions. Smaller emotional ideas that are related to the overall theme.
One sub-expression for each act, while the main theme runs through the entire story.
An intellectual theme based in a stimulating and thought-provoking idea.
You then want to explore this theme through sub-expressions, one per act.
Most stories have an “A” plot with a smaller “B” plot. But you could also have a “C” or “D” plot.
What are the specifics of your narrative’s traits?
- linear or non-linear?
- If non-linear, then are you using any of the following:
- Co-Current Timelines?
- If so, then you want to use an anchor.
- If so, is it a narrator or an internal monologue?
- If a narrator, then is it in the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd person
- Is the narrator inside or outside of the story?
- Is it justified or unjustified?
- Is it speaking in the past tense or present tense?
- Is it verbal or text?
The particular way in which you execute the other cubbies of your story.
It gives your story its unique identity. A useful short hand is the “fill in the blank” method:
Your story is a:_____________.
25 steps total.
- Set up
- Inciting Incident
- Raise the Dramatic Question
- Debate and Decision
- Turning Point 1
- B Plot Introduction
- Commitment Confirmed
- Turning Point 2
- B Plot Convergence
- New Plan
- Point of Desperation
- Turning Point 3
- B Plot Resolution
- Final Plan
- Darkest Hour
- Self Reflection
- Race to Climax
- New Equilibrium
Symbols are when you use one thing to represent something else, or a constellation of other ideas.
There are three different types of symbols:
Visual symbols = something you see.
Ex: mailboxes representing home.
Auditory symbols = something your hear.
Ex: rushing water means impending danger.
Action symbols = something that happens.
Ex: the act of playing catch means two people are connected like family.
Moments create a sense of reality. Making your story feel real, instead of manufactured.
Two main ways of creating moments:
- Intentional Flaws
- Extraneous Beats
Intentional flaws = any imperfection on the part of a character that makes them seem more human.
Ex: bumping into a door or misspeaking.
Extraneous beats = a beat added to your story that isn’t absolutely necessary to the plot, but makes your characters feel more real.
Ex: having a character check to see if their gun is loaded three times, just to make sure.
You want to have one major moment that defines the soul of your story. It’s the moment in your story that captures the essence of what this entire tale has all been about.
Ex: father and son fishing on the lake at sunset.
That’s it Animals! All of the cubbies in one go!
The unique voice that you bring to your story.
It’s your specific way of expressing this story, your version of it.
What’s that look like in practice?
Well, style is a fairly loose, fluid, concept. But essentially, it breaks down to…
How you execute the other cubbies.
Those “how” choices dictate and express your story’s unique identity.
You have all this stuff you want to do in your story and your style is the way in which you do it.
For example: as part of your seed, you have a hook.
Your hook is the specific appeal and entertainment value of your story. That special something that grabs people.
This hook, is a direct expression of your style. You contribute to the style of your story by executing a solid hook in an original way. A way that is unique to you as a storyteller. As a creator. The originality you show here, is a large part of your style.
The style of your story is its cool factor.
Your unique expression that differentiates this story from all others.
The list of ways in which you can give your story its own style – is endless.
An interesting way to establish a style is to use the fill in the blank method.
Your story is a ________.
Say your story is a: drug trip.
The telling of your story will then exemplify the traits of a drug trip. You build that idea into the experience of the story. We see this in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
Or your story is a: philosophical treatise.
Then the telling of your story will harken to the conventions of a philosophical essay. Perhaps characters are dry and presented very logically. Emotional moments are surrounded by philosophical concerns and debates. The moments of the story transpire as if they were to take place in a metaphorical debate class, rather than the messy half-truths of real life.
That’s what having a style is all about, you give your story specific and identifiable modes of expression. A way of being, that makes it feel unique in the world.
What kind of traits could you give your story? What kind of unique specifics? What kind of particular expressions?
The list is potentially endless, but let’s take a look at a few:
- self aware or self referential
- exaggerated or over the top
This theme, this style, should pervade every aspect of your story.
It could be impressionistic like the stillness in Brokeback Mountain. Or it could be contextual – like a style that relies on pop culture references and sex jokes. Kevin Smith’s films for example.
Whatever the theme is, it’s expressed continuously throughout the story. Lean into it more or less at times, at your own discretion – but it’s always there. Expressing your style.