SG Showrunners 30: Ozark – Season 1 – Editor’s Six Core Questions & Analysis

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This week, the Story Grid Showrunners fell in love with the Netflix TV Series OZARK – a thrilling story about an unassuming man who is forced to run to the Ozarks to launder money to save his and his family’s life. He has to take his reluctant teenagers and a failing marriage. It’s a brilliant combination of a thriller with a marriage love story, underpinned with shades of an internal morality genre

Access the SG Showrunners’ Bonus foolscaps and Editor’s 6 Core questions for Killing Eve, Witcher, You, Umbrella Academy and Ozark here.

What’s the lowdown?

Randall: Pretty good, some nice surprises, overall the story worked.
Parul: High stakes, constantly moving. The story worked as a thriller.

What are the Editor’s Six Core Questions?

It’s a great way to analyse any story and figure out if it works. Here are the questions. We’ll touch on them in this podcast, but the full notes can be downloaded afterwards.

  1. What’s the genre?
  2. What are the conventions and obligatory scenes for that genre?
  3. What’s the Point of View?
  4. What are the objects of desire?
  5. What’s the controlling idea/theme?
  6. What is the Beginning Hook, the Middle Build, and Ending Payoff?
  7. What is the Beginning Hook, Middle Build and Ending Payoff?

What’s the beginning hook, middle build and end payoff?

We start with what appears to be a normal family: Marty is an accountant who appears to watch porn all the time. The kids are pretty normal, Charlotte is a normal teenager with attitude and Jonah seems to be pretty normal too. Then we find out that Marty knows his wife is cheating on him. All of this sets the stage for the viewers, we see the family at home, work and play and we have a good idea what they are all about.

BEGINNING HOOK

  • Inciting Incident: Marty’s partner has been skimming money from a Mexican Drug Cartel, Marty’s partner is killed in front of him. Marty is about to be killed
  • Turning Point Progressive Complication: Marty decides/ is forced to flee to the Ozarks with his family to wash $8 million dollars
  • Crisis: When the FBI approach him, does he trust them to look after his family or continue to work for Del?
  • Climax: He feigns ignorance and continues to search for way to launder Del’s money
  • Resolution: Marty realises that his job will be harder than he realised. He contemplates suicide but backs out and finds the Blue Cat Inn might be a great investment opportunity.

MIDDLE BUILD

  • Inciting Incident: Ruth Langamore steals Marty’s money putting him in danger.
  • Turning Point Progressive Complication: The Snells threaten to kill the Preacher’s baby when the Church continues to be built
  • Crisis: Should Marty give the Snells his money and save the Preacher’s family?
  • Climax: He bribes the Snells with money earmarked for the Cartel
  • Resolution: He saves himself but is now short of money and runs a scam to take Sam, the Realtor’s money.

END PAYOFF

  • Inciting Incident: Marty decides it’s not safe for his family to stay and send them away
  • Turning Point Progressive Complication: Garcia tries to stop them and Buddy kills him
  • Crisis: Will he confess to Garcia’s murder under torture?
  • Climax: He doesn’t confess, he explains a way for Del to work with Snell
  • Resolution: Marty persuades Del and Snell but Darlene kills Del in rage. Wendy & the children stay back

What’s the Genre?

Randall: Thriller is the Global Genre right? Life and death are the stakes in this story.

Parul: However, you can’t miss that Love as a genre is laced in here.

The Love subgenre is a Marriage/ intimacy story where a committed relationship is now at a crossroads. Something external provokes trust issues and challenges the lovers to recognize, accept, and love the authentic other person rather than the illusion the other displayed during the courtship phase. There is a paradoxical (win-but-lose, lose-but-win) ending. The Marriage Love story may be either prescriptive or cautionary.

Marty and Wendy Bryde are at a crossroads, but you’ll see that the thriller dominant genre add a special twist. Marty has been so wrapped up in his money laundering scheme that Wendy turned to someone else for comfort. After the inciting incident Marty has to take his family to the Ozarks – Wendy wants to leave him but is forced to stay with him on threat of death from Del. As the Season progresses, they make up, they have sex, but towards the end we see real intimacy between them. In the final scene, they are reunited and the love is real – they have remembered each other.

Morality is intertwined in this story in so far that we have a man who is using a moral code that is against the societal norm. He has chosen to take this path to help elevate his family’s security and status. However, he brings people around him down – Mason the preacher, his children. Their moral code also changes.

What are the Obligatory scenes & Conventions of the Global Genre?

Thriller (Global)
Inciting Incident of the villain – kills everyone and threatens Marty and his family
Speech in praise of the villain – FBI and Marty to his wife
Hero becomes the villain – Marty and his family are targeted from the beginning
Hero at the Mercy of the villain – yes, multiple times
False ending – yes


Morality (Internal Genre)
To illustrate the presence of morality in this story, look at the showdown. What’s the showdown for Morality?
The Showdown – protagonist actively sacrifices self in service of an individual, a group, or humanity (positive) or consciously chooses to remain selfish (negative) – We have Marty Bryd who is calmly negotiating with the biggest drug dealer and money launderer to create a situation for them to allow his family to live. He has told his family to create a life without him.

The protagonist faces literal or metaphorical death and either loses the battle but gains self-respect, meaning, and peace; or wins the battle but loses those things a great sacrifice. In all internal genres, there is a paradoxical ending. He doesn’t win the battle – Del is murdered, and he’s now dealing with the fickle and racist Snells – but he has his family back, they love him and come back to him.

What are the Conventions of the Global Genre
MacGuffin – Cartel wants its money washed
Red Herrings – we see multiple possible solutions fail for Marty (restaurant, church, strip club, inheritance investment)
Making it personal – the cartel sees the disappearance of its men as personal
Clock – Marty continues to get calls about his deadline to clean the money

The complete Editor’s Six Core Questions is available here.


Did the Series match the Trailer?
Yes!

Question: What were your favourite scenes?

Randall: The end – surprising and inevitable
Parul: Marty pouring over a map looking geeky while talking to the biggest most dangerous drug kings.

What’s the next Series?
Ozark 2

Downloads

Editor’s Six Core Questions for Ozark, Season 1

Foolscap for Ozark, Season 1

Download the Math of Storytelling Infographic

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About Parul Bavishi

Parul Bavishi started her publishing career in the editorial teams at Quercus and Random House and was later a Literary Scout for Eccles Fisher. She now edits Thriller  (Young Adult & Adult) and Non-Fiction books through Publishing Uncovered and co-hosts the London Writers' Salon, a creative writing hub in London where she runs events such as the Pitch an Agent Masterclass. At the Salon, she has interviewed award-winning writers, including poet Amal El-Mohtar, and the journalist and writer Luke Jennings, creator of the Killing Eve series. She believes in the long-game approach to creating work that matters and taking time to hone your craft. She has helped many writers create their best work and would love to help you.

About Melanie Naumann

Are you a songwriter or a musician? Melanie uses the craft of great storytelling to help musicians write powerful and meaningful lyrics. So that their songs resonate with their listeners, have the power to change lives, and to increase album sales. If you want to change lives and create meaning through the stories you tell and the songs you sing, visit storiesinsongs.com to book your free consultation call with Melanie.

About Randall Surles

Randy Surles is a Certified Story Grid Editor with over 5 years of experience who specializes in editing Thrillers (Military/Fantasy/Science Fiction) and military non-fiction. Randy retired from the U.S. Army after serving over 20 years as a Green Beret.
Story Grid 101: The Five First Principles of the Story Grid Methodology
by Shawn Coyne
What are the first principles in writing a story that works? At Story Grid, it’s easy to get distracted by the tools, spreadsheets, commandments, macro lense, micro lense, and on and on. However, all of this eventually comes back to five first principles. In Story Grid 101, Story Grid founder Shawn Coyne distills 30 years... Read more »
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