Showrunners 016: The Witcher Introduction

Welcome back to Season 2 of the story grid showrunners podcast. In 2020 we’re focusing on action and thriller stories. Each month we will release 2 podcast episodes. First, we’ll discuss the expectations of the show from seeing the trailer and reading the series descriptions.  

After this we’ll give you 2 weeks to watch the series and the second monthly recording will cover the 6 core questions (genre, obligatory moments), to help you understand why the series was good/ bad/ innovative and how you can apply learning from this to your writing.

So if you’re writing an action or a thriller story or want to see how we analyse story, we invite you to watch these series with us, so that you too, can have a deeper understanding of how to make a better story . By the end of the year, we will have analysed 12 TV series in the Action/ thriller genre.

Let’s get started! This month the Story Grid Showrunners will dissect the hit Netflix television series The Witcher. 

Today we’re giving you an introduction to the Witcher.

Here is the Wikipedia Description

The Witcher is an American fantasy drama series produced by Lauren Schmidt Hissrich. It is based on the book series of the same name by Polish writer Andrzej Sapkowski. 

Set in a fictional world, on a landmass known as “the Continent” where the culture is styled in a mix of fantasy elements from the Middle Ages and Renaissance, The Witcher follows the story of solitary monster hunter Geralt of Rivia (Henry Cavill). Geralt of Rivia is a witcher, a mutant with special powers who kills monsters for money. The land is in a state of turmoil, due to the empire of Nilfgaard seeking to enlarge its territory. Among the refugees of this struggle is Cirilla, also known as Ciri, the Princess of Cintra, who is persecuted by Nilfgaard. She and Geralt are destined to each other. In his adventures, Geralt also meets Yennefer, a sorceress.

The first season is based on The Last Wish and Sword of Destiny, a collection of short stories that precede the main Witcher saga. It explores formative events that shaped the three lead characters, prior to their first encounters with each other.

Melanie: Before I talk about expectations, I just want to say that I think it’s unbelievable great what some short stories and novels about one central character can turn into.  The Witcher was a book series that turned into several comic books that were even adapted by Dark Horse. The stories have been made into a role-playing video game and a Netflix TV Series. So a big thank you to the mastermind behind the story of The Witcher Andrzej Sapkowski.

So what are my expectations?

This time I have not read the book or the comic books before. 

Has anyone of you have read the books, the comics or played the Video Game?

Parul: Coming at from an editor’s perspective, I always start to wonder what genre it is, and Society and Action are screaming out at me. I’m expecting bloodshed and rebellion to cause a change in society. Better still, we have Elves, Henry Cavill. 

Randall: I love Fantasy books, and I always have high expectations they will have a television series that will do the books justice, so I’m really excited about this series.  I haven’t played video games, but I plan on reading one of the books before I watch the TV series so I can get a good comparison. Anyway, from the description I expect some good fights and magic and I hope some good special effects monsters.  This series has a real chance to show the hero’s journey in a fantasy epic, so I hope they do. There seem to be a lot of world high expectations before the series came out, my son plays the game and he was really looking forward to it. I also like to give these new fantasy series the benefit of the doubt, but so far I’m always a little disappointed.  The Shannara Chronicles television series in 2016 comes to mind. But I’m hopeful.

Melanie: I’ve just ordered the first omnibus of the Witcher which I will read in the next two weeks as well as watching the first season of The Witcher on Netflix. So my expectations are based on what I’ve seen in the teaser and the main trailer for the show.

Basically, I’m expecting a great dark fantasy action story with a protagonist who has yet to grow into the role of a hero. There’s a lot of darkness surrounding him and his world, but there’s also hope portrayed by the Princess of Cintra. And I guess there will be lots of crisis moments that not only turn around the values of life and death, but also challenge the moral compass of the protagonist. 

Teaser Analysed

Melanie: “Is it true what they say?” That question right at the beginning shows there was a turning point in the protagonist’s life concerning his worldview. Asking someone if something is true refers to a huge revelation they’ve just experienced and still can’t believe that what they’ve believed so far was not the whole truth. So we know the beginning of the story, the inciting event, the thing that put everything in motion was a revelation to the protagonist.

And then we’re introduced to the world. We hear about different races and how men slaughtered elves. Slaughter is a very strong word and suggests there will be some kind of retaliation. Possibly a revenge theme? But much more obvious is the calm voice who clearly tries to grab hold of the story he’s been told. We dive deep into the question of what’s good and evil in this world and how to maintain your moral compass.

I love that they brought in chaos and order as the primary poles of what they’re trying to put back into balance. ‘But without control Chaos will kill you’. So that goes back to the elves’ mistakes that they taught humans how to turn Chaos into Magic. Not into order, but into something powerful that they can use for destruction.

Then the protagonist is questioned if his life is all about monsters and money, and he says it’s all it needs to be. Then there are a couple more scenes about an extraordinary child and another character, maybe a king, saying: “You can’t outrun destiny”. With that, we see clearly that the protagonist has so far avoided the hero’s call to adventure.

Trailer analysed

Parul: From a bird’s eye view of story, what do we see? We see a state of normal, an unjust society where Elves have been abused by humans. A society where there is a threat of rebellion. To be honest the trailer (assuming you know nothing about the story), isn’t that clear. But we see that there are a few key protagonists including Cavill, the Witcher and Princess Ciri – will they change the world they live in? In the trailer, we have hints of morality and society.

Melanie: In the main trailer, they introduce the protagonist as a mutant. Someone who was created by magic. Since I’ve seen the teaser before, I know that the witcher has the power of magic within him, but it’s his decision if he uses that power for destruction or creation. For putting things into chaos or trying to establish order. 

But quickly we learn that the Witcher just kills monsters for money. So he’s not doing anything for the greater good of humanity or the world. 

He’s killing monsters for selfish reasons. 

So we see morality is clearly established as the main internal genre because morality turns around the core value of selfishness and altruism.

But what gives us hope for this character is what we learn about him when this woman asks him: “People call you a monster too. Why not kill them?” 

And he answers: “Because then I am what they say.” 

Randall: that’s a great point Mel.  He has the power to be a monster and he chooses the honorable path.  We don’t know if that is because of the way he is made or his own choice.

Melanie: His answer shows us that he’s sophisticated enough to see the consequences of his actions. So that’s another hint that there’s a strong morality genre at play. Better still, it’s gonna be ‘Morality – Testing. 

This subgenre of the internal genre is according to the definition of the Story Grid about the following storyline: “When a protagonist of highly developed will and sophistication experiences a challenge and trial but maintains their inner moral compass and strength of will, they make a selfless choice and earn respect and admiration.“

It could also be a Status – Admiration internal genre: “When a sympathetic protagonist with the nobility of character and motive, along with a sophisticated worldview, encounters misfortune they will rise in spite of it.” That means the protagonist will be able to adapt his worldview with the new information that comes forth.

What makes the trailer so interesting or better, what hooks us next to all the fight and battle scenes, is that the established protagonist is told that this one woman, Princess Cirilla, is his destiny. But he refuses the call to adventure. Or when we look away from the stages of the hero’s journey and to the obligatory scene of the action genre, we have the ‘Hero sidesteps responsibility to take action’. 

And best of all, we as the viewer as well as the protagonist, are told what happens if he’s not following what he’s destined to do. 

We hear what’s at stake. 

And it’s not only life and death, as we’re used to from the action story, but it’s also unleashing the true calamity upon them all. Which is basically saying the end of the world as they know it. 

And if that happens, it will be the Witcher’s fault. So there’s the threat of damnation. Another hint for the morality genre.

It could not be made any clearer and once again, we think with everything that’s at stake and with a protagonist we value as someone who has the potential to be the hero, the last line of the trailer once again circles back to the question of morality. 

The Witcher says: ‘I’ll take that chance’ with which he expresses his inner darkness with an overt refusal of the Hero’s Journey call to change.” 

So this trailer is all about establishing the protagonist, the external and internal genres and what’s at stake. And it shows all that by focusing on the Heroic Journey’s stage of The Call to Adventure and its refusal.

Randall: Great analysis of the trailer Mel.

I see epic fantasy battles, great monster vs Witcher fights, attack magic, quests, prophecies – all the great things I love about fantasy series.

As you mentioned, they really did a great job setting the stage for the story – reluctant hero who must accept an unwanted quest or face damning the world.  

There also seems to be a lot of magic, though not from the Witcher, so the question remains is the magic good or bad in this series, or does it depend on the user.

Tune in next week when we use the 6 Core Questions from the Story Grid to analysis the whole Season!

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 this article for more information about 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. Also, check out my testimonials to see what other authors have said about my editing.


E09: Selling Girls in America – Community

Here’s the ninth episode of the Podcast: Selling Girls in America, which I host with Guardian Group. to learn more about this horrible crime and how to protect yourself and your loved ones, visit their website at www.guardiangroup.org.

To listen to the podcast, go here or subscribe at your favorite podcast platform.

Community

Training someone to recognize the indicators of trafficking is vital to stopping the crime. Think of it this way if someone robs your house, you recognize that the crime happened, you report it, action is taken. However, if you don’t recognize that the crime was committed you never know to report and and therefore action isn’t taken. By training the community we are providing opportunity for reports to be made and action to be taken.

Training Offered by Guardian Group

Hotel Training – Through our Guardian Seal® Recognition and Response Training we equip hotel staff with the indicators specific to their industry. This training is offered in-person, through an e-learning tool as well as a train-the-trainer model that is designed to equip upper management to provide the training to employees. Learn more about this training here.

Healthcare Training – 88% of victims report utilizing healthcare while 6% of healthcare providers report treating a victim of trafficking, meaning they are there we just are not identifying them as such. Currently our healthcare training is provided in-person, please email us if you are interested.

Law Enforcement – Our Pursuit Team offers specialized training for Law Enforcement communities across the nation. You can learn more about what customizable options we provide here.

We provide training in a variety of other sectors, please don’t hesitate to contact us if you would like training for your community or your business.

E08: Selling Girls in America – Aftercare

Here’s the eighth episode of the Podcast: Selling Girls in America, which I host with Guardian Group. to learn more about this horrible crime and how to protect yourself and your loved ones, visit their website at www.guardiangroup.org.

To listen to the podcast, go here or subscribe at your favorite podcast platform.

Aftercare

This episode covers the importance of the aftercare process. This is something Guardian Group does not provide directly, however, we have helped communities start a CSEC (Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children) Response Team to ensure their aftercare response is  victim-centered, trauma-informed and their resources are leveraged efficiently.

Definitions:

CSEC – a multi-disciplinary team made up often of law enforcement, victim advocates, nonprofit resources and district attorneys. If you are interested in what this may look like check out our local team. We helped set this team up and would be happy to consult with you best practices to establish a response team in your area, just email us here.

In an ideal situation a licensed and accredited victim advocate is called as soon as a victim is realized or before a sting is performed. The first 72 hours after recovery the focus should be on providing food, a safe place to sleep and clothes. If the victim is a minor CPS (Child Protective Services) should also be called.

In an aftercare situation an advocate works for the victim and will only provide the resources and support that the victim requests. This can be difficult for most to understand, however, we must remember the complex trauma the victim has experienced and understand that on average it will take 7 attempts for her to leave the trafficking situation. Victim Advocates are there to meet the victim where they are at and remain a resource even is she goes back to her trafficker. They are often the only person that has never lied to the victim and at some point in time may be the only person she trusts when she decides she is ready to leave.

One of the key aspects of aftercare is making sure you have the correct advocate present. Finding an advocate that is licensed and accredited as well as trained in trafficking is always ideal and will provide the best outcome for the victim. Unfortunately there are often well intentioned people that provide this type of service, however, without proper training they can do more damage than good. Contact us if you need assistance vetting an advocate resource in your area.

E07: Selling Girls in America – Recovery

Here’s the seventh episode of the Podcast: Selling Girls in America, which I host with Guardian Group. to learn more about this horrible crime and how to protect yourself and your loved ones, visit their website at www.guardiangroup.org.

To listen to the podcast, go here or subscribe at your favorite podcast platform.

Recovery

We are very careful when we talk about rescue vs. recovery. When you rescue someone you remove them from a dangerous situation, however, when you provide an opportunity for recovery you create a space that allows someone to return to a normal state of health and mind. Guardian Group simply exists to play a role in the overall recovery process. We believe the true heroes in this space are the law enforcement officers and aftercare providers.

Definitions:

Rescue Pimp – someone that thrives on being the rescuer, however, without the proper protocol in place to actually provide the necessary recovery elements. Results in an almost immediate re-exploitation of the victim

Laws – Sex trafficking is the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, obtaining, patronizing, or soliciting of a person for the purposes of a commercial sex act, in which the commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age [source].

If we are talking about a minor you do not need to prove force, fraud and coercion it is automatic trafficking. This makes for a much easier case to prosecute.

For more information on what we provide free to Law Enforcement check out our website.

E06: Selling Girls in America – Molly’s Story

Here’s the sixth episode of the Podcast: Selling Girls in America, which I host with Guardian Group. to learn more about this horrible crime and how to protect yourself and your loved ones, visit their website at www.guardiangroup.org.

To listen to the podcast, go here or subscribe at your favorite podcast platform.

Molly’s Story – On this episode you will meet Molly, the mother of a sex trafficking survivor. Her story takes bravery to share as we learn how this crime impacts all members of the family.

E05: Selling Girls in America – Traffickers

Here’s the fifth episode of the Podcast: Selling Girls in America, which I host with Guardian Group. to learn more about this horrible crime and how to protect yourself and your loved ones, visit their website at www.guardiangroup.org.

To listen to the podcast, go here or subscribe at your favorite podcast platform.

The Traffickers

Pimps or traffickers are responsible for running the supply aspect of the sex trafficking industry. Each uses their own tactics to recruit, manipulate and exploit the women and children involved. Selling people has become less risky and more rewarding than taking part in selling drugs or guns for two reasons: a person is a reusable product, they can be sold over and over. Second, a victim of trafficking experiences a lot of complex trauma and often times is too fearful to testify against their trafficker.

Statistics:
  • 70% of pimps/traffickers are brought into the industry from a previous generation, they are continuing on the family business [source].
  • 110 gangs in San Diego Country from a wide variety of neighborhoods and racial/ethnic backgrounds have members that are engaged in profiting from sex trafficking in San Diego. See the full study here.

There is some argument that due to inequality or lack of options we have “forced” people into making the choice to get into trafficking, however, does that make it right to exploit other humans? This is an argument we are going to leave to some else for now we will focus on helping law enforcement stop the violence associated with trafficking by placing these predators behind bars.

E04: Selling Girls in America – Buyers

Here’s the fourth episode of the Podcast: Selling Girls in America, which I host with Guardian Group. to learn more about this horrible crime and how to protect yourself and your loved ones, visit their website at www.guardiangroup.org.

To listen to the podcast, go here or subscribe at your favorite podcast platform.

The Buyers

Prostitution is not the oldest profession it is the oldest oppression.

Yes, there are outliers out there that make their living selling their body for sex, but as a country we must stop focusing on this small percentage and start focusing on the children being sold as products. In most cases of consensual sex work there is a history of abuse or trauma somewhere in her story or another form of oppression that lead the the belief that this is her only choice in life.

One of the number one contributors to who purchases sex is the fact that as a society we have created a culture where this is viewed as normal behavior, just “men being men.”  Those that purchase sex are purchasing a fantasy, unfortunately they often do not know that the pimp may very well be in the closet, under the bed or in the bathroom.

Two forms of combating this crime:

1. Educate the community on the actual victimization and oppression going on within the sex industry. Change the culture through education so that this is no longer viewed as acceptable or normal behavior, allow the peers of those purchasing sex to call out the behavior.

2. Raise the level of fear of being arrested — right now the punishment is often similar to a traffic ticket.

John Shaming – This tactic was successfully used by law enforcement for a time, publicly shaming those that purchase sex by printing their name and picture in newspapers or on billboards. However, this tactic is seldom used now because an unforeseen consequence resulted. The John’s family, wife and children, had to endure that form of shame as well.

For extensive and interesting research on who buys sex check out Demand Abolition.

E03: Selling Girls in America – Breaking

Here’s the third episode of the Podcast: Selling Girls in America, which I host with Guardian Group. to learn more about this horrible crime and how to protect yourself and your loved ones, visit their website at www.guardiangroup.org.

To listen to the podcast, go here or subscribe at your favorite podcast platform.

Breaking

The breaking phase occurs when a trafficker introduces his victim into “the life”. For some this can be very violent, including gang rapes, for others it may be giving an illicit massage to one of the predator’s friends.

Shame is often used to maintain power and control. Statements like: “You are just a whore now” “No one will believe you” “Your family won’t love you anymore” “You are the one committing a crime” may be used.

If recovery of a victim is not made prior to this breaking phase it becomes much more difficult.

Definitions:

Stable: the group of victims under the control of a pimp/trafficker. The average is 3-5.

The Life: what a victim refers to being trafficked as.

The Game: what a pimp/trafficker refers to trafficking as.

Statistics:
  • 25% of survivors report when sold online they saw an average of 10 buyers per day [source]. The number slowly goes down from there.
Complex Trauma:

In all trafficking situations complex trauma occurs that can be persistent and devastating. Trauma effects the body on every level, it removes the ability to self-regulate which then interferes with a victim’s perception and cognitive ability. Trauma is experienced not only from the interactions with their pimp/trafficker but with every sexual encounter the victim experiences. The trauma associated with just one day in “the life” is hard to comprehend, let alone years.

E02: Selling Girls in America – Grooming

Here’s the second episode of the Podcast: Selling Girls in America, which I host with Guardian Group. to learn more about this horrible crime and how to protect yourself and your loved ones, visit their website at www.guardiangroup.org.

To listen to the podcast, go here or subscribe at your favorite podcast platform.

Grooming

Trafficking can be difficult to identify, especially in it’s earliest stages. Often a pimp/trafficker will act like a boyfriend and groom his victims into the life by gaining emotional control over them as they fall in love with him. It can be tricky to see the red flags initially as this relationship develops.  It is important to listen to your gut.

Statistics
  • 42% of survivors report their trafficker earned their trust within one month of meeting [source].

Parents and caregivers can play a vital role in teaching our young people about the importance of safe dating, how to treat others and what to do if you suspect something is wrong. It is important to teach young girls that it is okay to get themselves out of a situation even if they are afraid they might disappoint someone. Once you learn this information do not keep it to yourself, share it with other caregivers in your sphere of influence. If we can protect our young people by educating them and their support systems then they rapidly become less of a target for predators.

E01: Selling Girls in America – Assessment and Recruitment

Here’s the first episode of the Podcast: Selling Girls in America, which I host with Guardian Group. to learn more about this horrible crime and how to protect yourself and your loved ones, visit their website at www.guardiangroup.org.

To listen to the podcast, go here or subscribe at your favorite podcast platform.

Assessment and Recruitment

Assessment and recruitment is the first phase in the cycle of sex trafficking. Below you will find the statistic referenced throughout the episode.

– Average age of entry into the sex trade is 15 years old, with 1 in 6 being younger than 12. It is believed to be younger for males [source].

– One in seven runaways will likely become a victim of sex trafficking [source].

– Sex trafficking has been reported in all 50 states with 83% of victims being US citizens [source].

– Twenty-five percent of victims report when sold online they saw an average of 10 buyers per day [source]. The number slowly decreases from there. This is 10 rapes per day.

Definitions:

– Force: a method a traffickers uses to maintain control over a victim, often includes violence.

– Fraud: occurs when the pimp/trafficker promises things that they never intend to follow through with in order to maintain control over their victim.

– Coercion: persuading an individual to do something by using some kind of threat, pressure or shame.

– Bottom (or Bottom Bitch): the girl that the pimp/trafficker trusts the most, she is often given the task of recruiting, collecting money and training other girls.

– Stable: the group of girls a pimp/trafficker is “running” at a time, the average is 3-5 girls at a time.

For more statistics and definitions please check out Guardian Group’s 2019 Human Trafficking in America Report here.

When looking for red flags FIRE is a good acronym to remember:
F- flattery I- isolation R - request for secercy E - enticements