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!



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.



Season 2 (part 3) – Contradiction

Season 2

Dramatic Structure:

Time to talk about:

Deviation

Season 2 expresses this deviation theme via:

“Contradiction”

Season 2 contradicts what you did in season 1.

Everything you did in season 1, if it can be contradicted, do it. Friends are enemies. Lovers are broken up. Mainstay locations are rarely visited, if at all, etc.

The two most common ways you see this “contradiction” idea employed are:

  • Role Reversals
  • Authority Figures

Role Reversals

In season 1, we established roles for our roster of characters.
In season 2, we want to take those roles, and flip ’em.

  • The best friend becomes a rival.
  • The rival becomes a friend.
  • The teacher becomes a student, etc.

If your roster of characters wasn’t that strongly defined, then you could take a more subtle approach:

In season 2:

  • The smart guy is pretty dumb.
  • The meek guy shows a lot of courage.
  • The tough guy shows his sensitive side, etc.

Let’s look at some concrete examples:

As we discussed with “stress tests” – early in season 2 of Nip/Tuck, Sean discovers his son Matt is not his biological son. This gave us a great stress test. But it also gives us a role reversal.

As Sean goes into a grief spiral, he starts acting more like Christian usually does: irresponsible, self-destructive, he’s drinking more, and having sex with Kimber – Christian’s ex-girlfriend. The responsible, conservative, Sean, has become the self-destructive loose-cannon. This also causes Christian, to behave more like Sean typically would. With Sean going into a tailspin, Christian’s holding things together at the office, being the responsible one, the stable one. A complete contraction to the Christian of season 1.

These two guys, these polar opposites, switch places. They reverse roles.

We see something similar on The O.C.

In season 1 of The O.C. we see Ryan constantly getting into trouble. Wrapped up in drama with Marissa, struggling in school, punching people when he thinks he needs to. Seth, on the other hand spends season 1 being the nice kid. Doing well in school, not drinking, always in before curfew.

But when season 2 hits, both of these guys pull a switch.

Ryan is specifically focusing on school and staying out of trouble. He’s staying away from Marissa and her drama, and he’s dating a nice girl Lindsay. While Seth is staying out late, dating the bad-girl Alex, coming home drunk, and constantly getting grounded.

Their roles in season 2, are a contradiction of their roles in season 1. But they didn’t just reverse roles with their former selves, they also reversed roles with each other.

Nip/Tuck and The O.C. would seem to have very little in common, but in this regard – they’re exactly the same.

Authority Figures

In season 2, you commonly see this contradiction theme expressed in the context of authority figures.

A character who didn’t have authority before, becomes an authority figure now. Or an established authority figure loses that authority in season 2.

In season 1 of Roswell, Sheriff Valenti is seen as an enemy, trying to expose and catch our main character aliens.

In season 2, he’s embraced as a trusted friend and ally. He even goes so far as to lose his badge protecting them and their secret.

In season 1, he was the Bad-Guy sheriff authority figure out to get them. In season 2, he’s the the Good-Guy sheriff who loses his authority in his quest to help them.

In Prison Break season 1, Warden Pope is a constant presence, ruling over the prison. In season 2, the inmates escape, leaving the warden and his authority behind them.

While other supporting characters continued to appear on the show, the Warden and his authority appear only once in the very beginning of season 2 and then he’s gone from the narrative all together. His authority was all over season 1, and then very very absent in season 2.

When applying this contradiction concept to your story, you can reverse established roles, reverse your authority figures, or find any other way to contradict what’s come before.

Just make sure you do some contradictin’!



Season 1 (part 1) – Identity

Season 1

Let’s take a look at its…

Dramatic Structure:

There are 3 areas of concern:

Here, we’ll be focusing on:

Connection

In season 1, there is a pervasive general theme of connection.

Seasons 3, 5, and 7 have it as well. Each with their own unique expression of this connection idea. But here in season 1, this connection theme is expressed through:

“Identity”

There are two common ways, in which long form stories tend to express this “identity” theme in the context of connection:

  • Establishing Your Character’s Old Identities vs. Their New Identities
  • Establishing Character Roles

Old Identities vs. New Identities

When we first begin a story we need to explore the differences and similarities between who a character was before the story began, and who they are now after the story has started.

By contrasting their new identity against their old, you’re establishing a stronger connection, for the audience, to this new person that they’ve become.

You have all of season 1 to demonstrate to your audience who a character is, and who they were. Take your time, let it all unravel until you have a dynamic, multi-layered, individual.

In Breaking Bad, we’re shown a kindly high school chemistry teacher. In the very first episode, he discovers he has cancer. He turns to cooking meth to afford his cancer treatment – to stay alive and provide for his family.

His actions with cooking and selling meth contrast highly with his everyday facade as a law-abiding husband and teacher. Who he was. This contrast connects us, as an audience, to the person Walt has become now that he’s dying of cancer. We connect to and follow this new identity – this man willing to cook meth to make ends meet.

Let’s put our peepers on Mad Men. They did something similar, but in a different way.

In Mad Men, we spend season 1 getting to know Don Draper. Establishing his identity as the stoic and talented advertising man.

At the same time, we are also exposed to flashbacks of Don’s history. His given name isn’t even Don Draper. It’s Dick Whitman. He grew up poor and has a half-brother named Adam. A brother Don now wants nothing to do with. All of this is a demonstration in contrasting the new identity that we primarily spend time with in season 1, with the old identity from before the show began. Don Draper vs. Dick Whitman.

These dueling identities will persist throughout the run of the show, so it has to be established right here at the beginning – in season 1.

Character Roles

Stories have a whole roster of characters.

When you’re first starting out and introducing all of these characters, it’s a great idea to establish for them a specific role they serve in the story. A role they play in the group dynamic. This role connects them in a unique way to the other characters.

Once you’ve established a character’s role, their “identity,” you can then play with that identity later on down the line in other seasons.

We see this clearly in Sons of Anarchy.

Each character has a specific role to play in the club. This role defines them in a lot of ways. These roles establish the dynamic within the organization.

In season 1:

  • Clay is the President.
  • Jax is the V.P.
  • Tig is the Sergeant-at-Arms.
  • Bobby is the treasurer.
  • Aspiring members are labeled “prospects.”
  • The real girlfriends and wives are called “old ladies,” while club groupies are called “crow eaters.”

In a story like this, we see very clear roles defined for the different characters. They’re slotted into those roles. Those identities.

In a less clear-cut way you see the same ideas at work in a show like Entourage.

In season 1:

  • Vincent Chase is the famous movie star.
  • E is his business manager.
  • Johnny Drama is his older brother/less successful fellow actor.
  • Turtle is his driver/hanger-on friend.

Within the group, everybody knows where they stand. And for the audience, it gives them a base-line understanding of these characters’ identities.

In season 1, you want to dive in and deal with your character’s identities.