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 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 2 (part 4) – New Blood & Dragonslay

Season 2

Dramatic Pace

It has two traits:

  • New Blood
  • Dragonslay

New Blood

“New blood” refers to your roster of characters.

In season 2, you want to introduce new characters.

Add some new blood.

Usually, you’ll see these characters acting as agents of the different season 2 themes. Characters are brought into the story to supply a stress test, or a meaningful death, or any other form of contradiction.

Say there’s a death in the family – maybe an authority figure. Say a main character’s father. Upon his death, Uncle So-and-So comes to town and plans on sticking around. Here you have one character satisfying several different needs for season 2.

Or maybe two of your main characters break up at the end of season 1, and in season 2 they both have new love interests. These new love interests, would typically be your “new blood.”

Let’s look at some examples:

In LOST season 2, we finally get that hatch open and find Desmond inside. He’s some definite new blood, that will be sticking around for the rest of the story. We also meet the “Tailies” – specifically Ana Lucia, Libby, Bernard, and Mr. Eko. Not to mention the mysterious “Henry Gale” aka Ben Linus, who’s pretty much the leader of “The Others.” All new blood – some sticking around longer than others.

LOST has a lot of characters already, but in season 2 they add a half dozen new ones. That’s a lot of new blood.

In season 2 of Grey’s Anatomy we see the addition of Addison – Derek’s wife, Derek’s best friend Mark “McSteamy” Sloan – the guy Addison cheated with, and towards the end of season 2, we see the addition of Callie Torres, a love interest for George. All significant characters that remain on the show for many years to come.

New Blood. Add new characters in season 2. You get the idea.

Dragonslay

What’s a “dragon?”

Anything that wasn’t resolved in season 1, and specifically wasn’t contradicted in season 2.

It just stayed the same, playing itself out throughout seasons 1 and 2. That’s a dragon. And it should be slayed, and resolved, by the end of season 2.

Why call it a “dragon?” It’s the beast that’s remained. The beast that keeps growing and thriving until your kill it.

What does this look like in practice?

A Bad Guy your main characters have been fighting since season 1. Maybe you didn’t take him out in season 1. He’s still here in season 2. He’s a dragon. And you better slay him by the end of season 2, or you’re dragging it out too long.

“Dramatic pace” is all about the pace of your story. If something has persisted through season 1 and season 2 and hasn’t really changed, then it’s time to finish it.

How about a different example of a dragon:

You could have a couple who’re engaged in season 1. In season 2 you didn’t contradict it, they are still engaged. By the end of season 2, you should hit that wedding. Or the end of the engagement. If you don’t, you’re dragging that piece of story out too long.

How about some real examples:

In Supernatural, your dragon is the all-powerful demon “Yellow-Eyes” aka “Azazel.” He’s been the big Bad-Guy the Winchester’s have been chasing since day one. And in the season 2 finale, Dean puts a magic bullet in his chest, killing him for good.

Not too long, not too short – that’s a solid pace.

In Alias season 2, we see SD-6 finally get raided and shut down by the real CIA. SD-6 was the dragon, and in season 2 we see it slayed.

So whatever dragons you have lingering around in season 2 – slay ’em.