Sunday, August 27, 2006

The Big Finish

This post is inspired by Terry Rossio's column at Wordplayer.com .

I wanted to give some additional notes on my personal experience to it. I agree with Terry Rossio and Ted Elliot that the ending is by far the most difficult part to come up with when you want to satisfy your audience.

I've been struggling for numerous times with an ending that makes the entire story/plot worthwile and satisfying. I never had a problem to come up with a great ending for my short scripts. They came up fast enough (usually after two or three weeks within the initial start of the script). But then for a feature length script it gets harder somehow. I guess it's the complexity you invest in a 100 page script. There are far too many characters and far too many emotions and motivations to oversee to keep track of.

With my latest two scripts (Shadows in the Sun / Friday, Last Night) I've come to a point where everything is clear except for the ending. They may be good enough for a mediocre script but ultimately not satisfying enough. Somehow you have to have a feeling it is satisfying for you as a writer as it is as a reader. I always felt things are missing.

In Shadows in the Sun I don't know the motivation of my antagonist. There is one but it is not enough. It seems too superficial.

The problem I face is basically what I believe most writers face: You have the first act perfectly executed. The second well done. The third act is coming but now you know everything has to come up to point where it all makes sense without the audience to anticipate it like a "same old story" thing.

For one part it lies in your writing. For another part it lies within your ability to step back and see what the audience will see.

It's a process you need to go through. Over and over.

Let's take an example from The Usual Suspects. If the writers wouldn't have put enough thought into their script it normally would've become a "cheater plot". It didn't. Tho in my opinion to a part it is. But it's so well executed you don't even realize what really is happening until you see "Kobayashi Porcelain" on the ground and how Chazz Palmiteri looks with the greatest surprise in his face on it. It's pure cinema. Great writing, great cinematography, great score, great acting, everything is perfect.

But you can't count on everything but only your writing. It's like a lightning strucks you one night and you realize you got it. Write it down.

I'm a firm believer of fast endings. Don't go for it too long. Don't set up things. Just go for it. Whenever you have the chance, end the script. You can always add a paragraph or two into your second act or even your first. But when it comes to the solution. When it comes to the end. Make it as quick and as compressed as possible. Like a poem. The audience will understand. And they will be in awe.

My point is actually this: Study poem. It's the art of screenwriting! Involve as much information as possible in your script as you can in only a few pages. Character motivation, storyline, emotions that arise from a few facial expression or better visual action.

Try to write a poem about your script story. Or even better write a poem about your third act. You know you probably got only roughly 20-30 pages for your third act. Write a poem and you will know if it works.

3 comments:

Unknown Screenwriter said...

I find that creating what I call a COMPASS LOGLINE keeps me on the straight and narrow path... Lean and mean... TIGHT.

I keep one with me all the time and read it all day... I read it while I write... I read it before I go to sleep.

The COMPASS LOGLINE is not the logline you sell your screenplay with... Rather, it is the perfect compass leading you through your story from beginning to end.

Good luck with it...

Unk

virgin34 said...

Keep up the momentum and self-belief while you're in your twenties, it gets harder after you turn 30.

Spanish Prisoner said...

I will check about the Compass Logline. I have something similar with me when writing my stories. Will post about that, sure worth it. Thanks Unk.

Virgin34, even if it gets harder after 30, it's still something worth pursueing as long as you find joy in it.