Writing Wednesday: Analysis of story elements in Episode 1 of HBO’s ‘Gentleman Jack’

I am releasing this early because I want to publish the Episodes as I watch them to see if my predictions are correct and I’m a few episodes behind.

The 5 Commandments of Gentleman Jack: Episode 1

These are the 5 Commandments of Storytelling as outlined by Shawn Coyne in his book The Story Grid: What good Editors Know.

Inciting Incident:

Anne Lister’s lover, Vere Hobart, leaves her for a man

This specific incident frees Anne Lister to return to her ancestral home of Shibden where she takes over management. Though this is not revealed till 25 minutes into the episode (almost halfway), we see the breakup in a flashback, so this happens before she returns to Shibden.  It’s important to note that because I think this is a Love Story, the 5 Commandments should turn on the Love to Hate measuring stick.  This is love betrayed.

Progressive Complications:

There are a number of small Progressive complications that build over the episode:

  • The carriage driver has an accident and Anne must drive the carriage
  • The rent collector for her family is sick and can’t collect rent so Anne must do
  • Collecting rent is a man’s job and Anne causes a scandal by doing it
  • Anne finds out her family’s land is rich in coal

However, since I’ve decided that the Global Genre is a Love Story, the Progressive Complication needs to turn on Love – Hate, so I think the Progressive Complication for this episode is when Lister meets Ann Walker near the end.

Crisis:

Will Anne stay and pursue Ann Walker, or leave and pursue her love for travel

Climax:

Ann Lister decides to stay

Resolution:

Lister proclaims what she will try and make Ms. Walker her wife

Love Story Value Shift:

-/+ loveless to potential love interest
Lister has returned after a hard breakup in the beginning of the episode, and at the end she has her sights on making Walker her wife

Society Value Shift:

-/+ failure to success
At the beginning, the rents aren’t being collected and by the end Lister has collected rents and removed non-paying tenants. Also, she has discovered coal deposit on her property that other miners might be stealing, and she has hired someone to help her manage her coal interests.

Obligatory Scenes and Conventions for a Love Story

Lovers Meet – Lister and Walker meet for the first time
Opposing Forces – Society does not accept gay relationships; society does not accept women in financial power
External Need – Lister has a need to be financial and sexually free

Obligatory Scenes and Conventions for a Status Story

An inciting Opportunity or Challenge – Lister sees managing her families affairs as a challenge
Big Social Problem – society is not accepting of gays or powerful women

Spoiler Alert – Some Predictions

Given the current love story, I assume we’ll see some of the following things in the upcoming episodes:

a love triangle – there is the question of whether Lister might return to the arms of her previous lover at some time in the series, or a new lover if spurned by Walker. And, of course, Walker could also stray.
First intimate connection or kiss – I assume that will come in the next episode, though they may delay the kiss to increase anticipation of the watchers.
I assume the lovers will have a break up at some point – however, since this is based on a true story, if they were happy in real life, maybe this doesn’t happen.
It’s difficult to see who the helpers/ harmers are yet. Some of the servants, definitely Lister’s sister disapproves of Lister, the other women of status in the area.

Given the Current Status Story, I assume we’ll see some of the following things in the upcoming episodes:

More opposing forces, maybe at a local level, maybe in the form of other women or a group of women
At this point, Vere Hobart, Lister’s ex-lover, appears to be the sell out (fellow striver sells out) – we’ll see (selling out to gayhood by marrying a man)
Lister is making plans for managing the coal on her property, this seems like a good opportunity for her ‘initial strategy to fail’ and then she will have to change tactics.
Lister relies on old habits and humiliates herself – this could take the form of her strong arm tactics not working and she might have to ‘appear’ weak like a woman later to ultimately win

The Story Grid

For more information about the Story Grid, go to the Story Grid Webpage to find free videos and articles on how to implement the methodology.

Read these articles for more information about the 5 Commandments of Storytelling and the Editor’s 6 Core Questions from the book The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne.

For an example of how these techniques are used, read Jane Austin’s The Pride and the Prejudice with annotations by Shawn Coyne.

Story Grid Editing

If you are interested in having your manuscript reviewed by me, see my Editing Services.

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