Writing About Writing: I Suck At Endings

This is the last Writing About Writing I’m obligated to write for November 2018 (though I’ll certainly add more to the series if I come up with ideas I like). So I thought it only appropriate to write about how to end your screenplay.

The only problem here is that there’s a damn fine reason I never wrote about this in one of the other 29 posts. I’m not good at writing endings. So think of this less as a “How to write a good ending” blog post and more just a young writer trying to give her future self some advice for the next time she is struggling with an ending.

1. Make it unpredictable. 

I really can’t stand predictability, especially in mystery/suspense projects. Sometimes I’ll actually ask myself halfway through a movie “what do I think will happen” just so I can judge how predictable a film is. Life is unpredictable, so the stories that represent it should be too.

2. But also don’t try too hard. 

A twist ending just for the sake of a twist ending is also not great. There’s a great article on Wordplayer.com that talks about how endings need to be both unexpected, but also inevitable. If we’re being honest, that whole article is probably more helpful than the one you’re reading now so I highly suggest going through and reading the whole thing. The gist though is that endings still need to be set up by earlier scenes. We don’t want to feel like it came from nowhere simply because some writer was trying to surprise us.

3. It should answer our questions. 

Your earlier scenes should establish questions that keep an audience interested. The last thing you want to do is send your audience away still not knowing (unless you’ve already made the deal to write a sequel, in which case mad props to you). Ask yourself about literally every question you’ve ever tried to raise in prior scenes, even the inconsequential subplots. If you want to leave certain things ambiguous it might still work, but that should only happen if you consciously decide it’s what you want. It shouldn’t be a case of “oh crap I forgot about that cute guy who gave my protagonist his phone number on p. 17.”


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