Screenwriting 101: Common Ending Pitfalls

By Brock Cooper (doddleNEWS)

Anyone who has written a story or screenplay knows that the hardest part is the ending. How many people have watched a movie and thought it was great, but ended up disappointed in the conclusion? For every “Chinatown” and “Dr. Strangelove” there are a multitude of…Yes, I am going there…”Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.”

The truth is that endings aren’t easy. You’re wrapping up your entire story, tying up all the lose ends and trying to make it all entertaining. You want your audience to walk out of the theater or turn off the DVD player and literally say, “Wow!”

Common Ending Pitfalls

Length: We have talked before about the format of a screenplay. A page of a script roughly translates to one minute of movie time. So, an average script is between 90 and 120 pages. Does it often feel like an ending is drawn on or crammed to fit?

That’s because they are trying to hit that sweet spot of about 100 to 120 pages. If a story needs to be longer or if it can be wrapped up in 80 pages, then the writer is forced to stretch things out by adding unnecessary scenes to hit the mark or condense the ending so it fits within the limit.

Sometimes the ending isn’t the writer’s fault. A writer may have written a completely different or better paced ending, but the executives or producers messed with it in post. Many a writer has been surprised by changes made to better fit the “Hollywood” ending or audience preferences.

Lack of Resolution: The whole purpose of an ending is to wrap up the movie and give the audience a sense of closure. You can tack something on to the end if you plan a sequel, but in general an audience should be fulfilled.

Sometimes endings don’t provide this resolution. The audience is left wondering “what about this” or “what happened to this person.” Loose ends can ruin a movie because the audience goes out with more questions than when they went in. A movie needs to be a complete experience, and when the audience leaves without knowing how things truly ended up, they feel cheated.

Predictable: When we go into a movie, we realize certain truths. The good guy will beat the bad guy. The hero gets the girl and the big problem is overcome. You know that Renee Zellweger is going to get with Tom Cruise in “Jerry Mcguire,” but it’s how they go about it that matters. Audiences don’t want the same old thing over and over again.

The problem is when a certain type of ending becomes popular, Hollywood uses it over and over again until its beaten into the ground. How many people are tired of seeing the main character and his or her love interest coming to a sudden realization that they can’t live without one another and their dramatic “running to each other” union? It doesn’t matter if it’s through a field of flowers, over a bridge or along busy urban streets, because it’s all the same thing.

When you are crafting your ending, try to avoid these common pitfalls, and who knows where you could end up.

About doddle 16509 Articles
Doddlenews is the news division of the Digital Production Buzz, a leading online resource for filmmakers, covering news, reviews and tutorials for the video and film industry, along with movie and TV news, and podcasting.

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