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 8 – Like a New Season 1

Season 8

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.

So…

Season 8, is just a new season 1.

You’ll deal with all the attributes of season 1 again:

Identity

  • Establish Old Identities vs. New Identities
  • Establish Character Roles

New World

  • New Circumstances/Location
  • Fresh Start

Old World

  • Old Circumstances/Location
  • World Change

Establish (new) Core Conflict

Full Circle

Thesis

Beginning of 1st Era

Then, as you move forward:

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.

But!

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?”

becomes

  • “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.



Season 1 (part 3) – Old World

Season 1

Dramatic Structure:

There are 3 areas of concern:

Let’s turn our attention to:

Origin

When we say “origins” we’re talking about any events that occurred before the present day of your story. Anything from the past that you might call “history.”

This “origin” idea is something that seasons 1, 3, 5, and 7 all deal with in their own way.

Season’s 1’s origin theme is expressed as:

“Old World”

This means that season 1 will spend time establishing and exploring the old circumstances, the old locations, the old relationships of your characters, etc. Season 1 will incorporate elements from the events that occurred before the “new world” was entered into.

There are two common ways that long from stories tend to express this “old world” theme in the context of origins:

  • Old Circumstances and/or Old Location
  • World Change

Old Circumstances and/or Old Location

Here you show the audience what the old circumstances and old location were like.

At the very beginning of Battlestar Galactica – (2004-2009) our characters had to flee their home planet due to a Cylon attack. Through the course of season 1, we get an idea of what our character’s lives were like before that tragedy. We get enough information to understand what their old world was like. This is important, as it helps define who they are now, and what their new life is like, in contrast to how the world used to be.

We see something similar on Veronica Mars. Throughout season 1, we get an idea of what Veronica’s life was like back when she was part of the popular “09’er” crowd. Back before she was a P.I., before her friend Lilly was killed, and before she herself was sexually assaulted.

World Change

The “world change” is that moment when your “old world” fully kicks over into the “new world.”

It’s a defining moment in your story. It’s the moment the rest of your story will grow out of. The catalyst that sets everything in motion.

In The Walking Dead, this world change happened off screen while Rick was in a coma. The story didn’t dramatize the walkers overrunning the world. But it most definitely happened – kicking off the rest of the story.

In Alias, the world change was when Sydney’s fiancé was killed and she discovered the truth about SD-6 and her father. Her old world of believing she’s working for the real CIA is over, and she’s in the new world of working as a double agent to bring down SD-6.

Both solid world changes.



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.