Structuring A Series
What Would A Series Look Like?
In the early days, cast or setting bound series together. We watched episodes in any order because each episode stood on its own, and they weren’t connected. Summer reruns simply picked the best and showed them a second time
Recently, series have included over-arching season or series problems. Consider two examples. In Burn Notice, each episode contains a full arc, with several minutes devoted to struggling with a larger story issue. In each episode, we solve the weekly problem…and get a little closer to beating the season problem. With each installment, readers get a complete story…but writers must conjure with new plots for each episode. As to skipping episodes or watching out of order continuity problems might arise.
With Prison Break, each weekly problem stems directly from the season problem, and ends on a cliff-hanger. Try binge watching and episodes blur…and we gasp, constantly out of breath. To skip or watch out of order would leave readers lost. And that’s the danger with the readers…they may cry manipulation. But…writers need focus only on that overarching plot, no matter the details they need throw into an episode.
Structuring A Series
In my first WIP, Blake Snyder and Larry Brooks heavily influenced my story structure. From the start, I structured the WIP on their Story Beats, moving easily from one to the next. Better yet, intuition told me those beats held a real story.
Rather than list Story Beats definitions, something I’ve discussed in other posts, let’s rely on some simple concepts. When we list them, we find a typical Hero’s Journey. And a few minutes study of either Burn Notice and Prison Break reveals their episodes follow that pattern. And, their great writing and terrific plots hid the repetitious structure.
Could Story Beats guide a season structure? The arc divides easily enough. Want two episodes? Stop after the Mid Point False Victory. If we want four, make an episode out of each part. Or, as I’m thinking, dividing each part in half creates eight episodes.
Still, I foresee several criticisms. Because we spend a lot of time introducing characters doing uninteresting things, early episodes might drag. And, if we keep jumping off cliffs with the end of each episode, readers might protest.
Delicious. Another puzzle.