- 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
We spoke about long form storytelling in the sense of it being a seven season structure. Seven seasons to tell your story, and then you’re done.
But what happens when you go beyond season seven? Plenty of shows do it. What then?
When you go past season 7, the whole seven season cycle starts over again.
Season 8, is just a new season 1.
You’ll deal with all the attributes of season 1 again:
- Establish Old Identities vs. New Identities
- Establish Character Roles
- New Circumstances/Location
- Fresh Start
- Old Circumstances/Location
- World Change
Then, as you move forward:
- Season 9 is a new season 2.
- Season 10 is a new season 3.
- Season 11 is a new season 4.
- Season 12 is a new season 5.
- Season 13 is a new season 6.
- Season 14 is a new season 7.
If you’re getting crazy and you go past season 14, then the cycle repeats again. Season 15 would be a new season 1, etc etc etc…
So what exactly do we mean by “a new season 1?”
We mean that you’re going to take a look at all of the things a normal season 1 does, and do those things again here in season 8. But notice, what you’re establishing in this season 8, should be done in stark contrast to what’s come before – in the season 1-7 cycle of the show.
If season 8 is truly a new season 1, then you’ll have to have a world change, a fresh start, a new world, etc. And this new world should be markedly different from the world of seasons 1-7. As different from them as season 1 was from the “old world” that existed before the show started.
So season 8 is in a strange position.
It is, essentially, two things at once:
- A separation/negative/deviation season, when looked at in the context of the show from season 1 onward.
- A connection/positive/origin season when seen in the context of the new cycle of the show being established (seasons 8-14).
This season serves two masters.
In a perfect world, every season 8 you see would play out this structure and serve as a new season 1.
But the world is rarely perfect, so you’re gonna see a bunch of shows that do something a bit different.
Typically, when a season 8 isn’t a new season 1, then showrunners make it a generic separation/negative/deviation season.
They’re continuing to pulse the seasons between connection/positive/origin and separation/negative/deviation in an effort to keep the narrative alive.
They treat their season 8 like a new, different, version of season 2, 4, or 6. In place of any specific traits for their season 8 (identity, new world, old world, core conflict, etc.), they just do thematically relevant stuff that would fit in any season 2, 4, or 6.
Is this a great idea? No.
By definition it makes for a pretty generic season. There’s no real change or development. The narrative is now spinning its wheels, pumping out a new season without building toward anything.
Let’s look at some examples:
House, season 8!
At the end of season 7, we saw House drive his car into Cuddy’s living room. Season 8 picks up with House in jail. Foreman gets him out on conditional release and back working at the hospital. Foreman’s actually taken over Cuddy’s position as Dean of Medicine, because she’s split town. Back at the hospital now, House is starting over – putting together a new team. Including new characters Park and Adams, and reuniting with Chase and Taub.
So there’s “separation” – in that Cuddy is gone and House has empty seats to fill on his new team. There’s “negative” – in that House is heartbroken and on probation, one screw-up away from going back to jail. And there’s “deviation” – in that these circumstances deviate from previous seasons.
With all of these things in play, it’s definitely a new era. And it should be. The season 6/7 era is over, so it’s time for a new one.
This is not a new story. It’s not a new season 1. Notice, we’re not starting over. House is still doing his differential diagnosis work at the same hospital with a cobbled together team. The world and location haven’t changed. The core conflict hasn’t changed. We did some character swapping but those who’ve stayed have pretty much the same identities as they did before. Things have changed (in an “era” sort of way) but this is definitely not a new season 1. They’re just squeakin’ out one more year before taking their bow. Squeakin’ out one more season.
Let’s take a look at another example:
Smallville ran for 10 seasons. They did treat season 8 as a new season 1.
We’ve got the new world/location: Clark moved from his home town of Smallville, to working and spending most of his time in Metropolis.
We’ve got the new core conflict: Clark spent the first seven seasons hiding his alien origins and his abilities. In season 8, the core conflict is now all about using those powers, but actively hiding his identity as “The Blur.”
- “Will they discover that Clark is an alien with super powers?”
- “Will they discover Clark Kent is the super powered ‘Blur?'”
It’s a subtle change, but significant.
Our characters get a roster change: Lex, Lionel, Martha, and Kara are all out (for the most part). Oliver Queen, Tess Mercer, and Davis Bloome (aka Doomsday) are all in.
And we’ve also got new identities for those characters stickin’ around:
Clark is now a reporter at the Daily Planet and masquerading as “The Blur.” When we see Lana Lang again she’s used Lex’s Prometheus technology to gain super-powers. She’s a hero of her own now.
Not everyone gets a new identity, but thematically, the season has plenty of focus on this (new) season 1 “identity” idea.
Structurally, Smallville’s season 8 is really solid.
So when building your season 8, go for a whole new season 1.
Start a whole new cycle of your show. You can squeeze out another mediocre year if you want, but really, that’s the bland, boring, way to go.
If you’re gonna go for season 8, really go for season 8. Do it right.
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!
Symbols are complex, deep, and have many different aspects. But for our purposes…
A “symbol” is basically when you have one thing represent something else.
There are three main types of symbols used in stories:
- Visual symbols
- Auditory symbols
- Action symbols
Visual symbols are things you see.
Like an expensive flashy car representing wealth. Or a teddy bear representing childhood.
Auditory symbols are things you hear.
Like a police siren representing authority. Or a certain whistled tune could represent a specific time in a character’s life.
Action symbols are things a character does.
Like saying grace at the dinner table, representing a religious belief system or connection with community. Or a patriotic gesture like saluting someone – a specific movement of the arm and hand representing respect.
These are things seen, heard, or done, that carry more meaning than is obvious.
The surface image, sound, or action is connected to a web of associations that are related to their surface content, but simultaneously more complex, complicated, and hazily defined.
Though many will probably agree that a teddy bear can easily represent childhood, what “childhood” really means to one person or another is going to vary wildly. The teddy bear doesn’t specifically mean a particular set of things that are objectively defined as “childhood” in any scientific sense. Instead they trigger a unique set of associations in each individual audience member. This is what makes symbols special.
They pack a wide range of meanings, into a compact unit.
An image, a sound, an action – when experienced, sets off a whole chain of associations. They’re almost like a shorthand. A way to embed as much meaning as possible into the fabric of your story.
Ideally, when constructing your story, you want to craft a set of interconnected symbols. Different themes and ideas that are related in some way, and all circle around the central concept of your story. So no matter where you look, the symbolic experience keeps shedding new light on the central core of the story.
Your story will have major symbols, and minor symbols.
The only real difference between the two is the significance and frequency of their use in your story.
In Minority Report the visual symbol of eyes was used repeatedly throughout the film. Echoing the general thematic idea of the pre-cogs being able to “see” the future and the consequences of that fact. That’s a major symbol.
What’s a minor symbol look like?
In Batman Begins there is an auditory symbol that is used only twice in the entire film (two and a half if we’re being super specific).
Towards the beginning of the film, a young Bruce Wayne has been rescued after having fallen down a well in the backyard. Thomas Wayne says to a young Bruce:
“And why do we fall Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves up.”
Much later in the film, when Ducard/Ra’s Al Ghul has destroyed Wayne Manor – an adult Bruce muses that he wanted to save Gotham, and now he’s failed. Alfred tells him:
“Why do we fall, sir? So that we can learn to pick ourselves up.”
Though the words themselves seem to convey advice worth heeding, the fact that Alfred says this sentence to an adult Bruce Wayne in a time of trouble, is itself a symbol. He’s not just telling him that “we fall down to learn to pick ourselves up.” He’s also reminding him of the fact that he fell down that well once upon a time, and it seemed bad – but he survived. He’s reminding him of the strength of his father. Of the love he had for Bruce. Of the responsibility they both have to try and protect the legacy of the Wayne family. And the fact that Alfred is the one asking, symbolically positions him as Bruce’s father, which he essentially is. All of these meanings, and more, are embedded in the sentence, making it an excellent auditory symbol.
Also, the symbol is initially set up, and called back once. That’s it. That’s a fairly minor symbol. Though, given its emotional impact and connection to the characters, it almost feels like you could call it a major symbol.
When crafting your symbols, you should try and tie them to some of your other cubbies.
Which ones? That’s up to you. But this does give you a chance to convey some of the story work you’ve done with the different cubbies, in a non-conventional way. Each of your different cubbies has story information to express. See if you can use symbols to express them.
Another point of note:
Opening and closing images.
Your opening and closing images should be symbolic representations of the entire story. Different images, mind you, but both should represent the story in its entirety at the beginning and end.
You don’t have to do this, but it goes a long way to making your story feel like a complete unit. It makes the tale feel whole.
A kind of prelude, and summary, at the beginning and end.