I’ve been watching a Netflix special called Ozark. It’s about an all American family that falls in with a drug cartel and find themselves blackmailed into laundering money using a host of illegal activity.
Each episode throws them deeper and deeper into an impossible situation.
They are unlikely heroes but manage to stay alive.
It’s a great show.
Season 2 maintains the same amount of ‘high’ drama as the first.
I’ve been watching and thinking about how they develop the story for each episode.
Carefully building narratives and story arcs that use a simple formula.
A formula that we could and should use when creating content.
Within the first 3–5 minutes, something happens. An incident, something unexpected and unexplained that shocks (not blatantly), but wakes us up to tell us this is important and requires our attention.
This event usually creates a question. Perhaps it challenges our established view of their world. It’s an open loop, which (if handled correctly) sits in the back of our mind waiting to be answered.
Copywriters through the ages have often used a similar construct called ‘the Zeigarnik effect’ a state where people remember uncompleted or interrupted tasks better than completed tasks.
The show visits other characters and storylines either expanding or resolving them. This smaller side dish satisfies our need for closure. But still doesn’t address the most significant questions set out earlier. It’s a snack designed to make us more hungry for the main course.
As each show closes out, it typically builds the drama, adding even deeper problems which usually lead to more unexpected events and questions.
This is usually designed to re-enforce the first ‘attention point’ and build yet another worldview of the characters.
Ultimately, this makes us want to watch another episode to resolve these questions.
Clever. So the roadmap is:
I’m sure they have a team who carefully plot out the twists and turns of each character.
It’s the reason why your audience spends on average 10 hours per week on Netflix..
There’s a lot to be learned here for content providers. Use the basics of storytelling to entertain and entice your audience. Wake them up from indifference and create content that fully engages.