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SimplyScripts Screenwriting Discussion Board    Screenwriting Discussion    Screenwriting Class  ›  Great story ideas you can't find an ending for... Moderators: George Willson
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Scar Tissue Films
Posted: October 16th, 2015, 3:04pm Report to Moderator
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Not really expecting a miracle here, but anyone ever discovered ways of coming up with endings to stories that are able to stand out from the crowd?

I've got a couple of stories that have really interesting concepts, but the "natural" endings to them feel too obvious.

In effect it's the kind of Rocky syndrome...sporting films will usually end with the underdog winning and it's too trite.

Or you'll have a film about the End of the World, or the Devil trying to take over and there will always be some good guy who manages to stop it.  

You know, sort of the only way they can really end, but it's just not good enough.

What are the ways around it?

Is it to do with character? Your main character has some perspective that makes the victory unusual in some way?

Or do you just throw some twists in, maybe kill off your main guy so the end is more unexpected even if they do eventually win?

They always say the last five minutes are the most important, and I think I agree with that. You get great films that end badly...let's say The Village and the ending really undoes the film, or you can get some pretty mediocre films that really end with a bang and become more memorable.

Any thoughts?
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RKeller
Posted: October 16th, 2015, 3:48pm Report to Moderator
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Your question indicates you don't yet understand drama.  To say "I have problems with the last five minutes" is actually saying, "I've done everything wrong, starting with the orignal inspiritation, logline, title and first act." A world class icing cannot save a crap cake.
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jwent6688
Posted: October 16th, 2015, 4:09pm Report to Moderator
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Pretty sure Rkeller might want to hit the play button on your link, Rick. Before he/she questions your ability to understand drama.

But it is an unanswerable question. If I knew the answer, I sure as shit wouldn't tell all of you!

James


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Scar Tissue Films
Posted: October 16th, 2015, 4:22pm Report to Moderator
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Quoted from jwent6688
Pretty sure Rkeller might want to hit the play button on your link, Rick. Before he/she questions your ability to understand drama.

But it is an unanswerable question. If I knew the answer, I sure as shit wouldn't tell all of you!

James


Probably.

I just found a link saying there are only 5 endings.


http://www.writersdigest.com/w.....e_successful_endings

Barely there... ambiguous, open ended leaving it up to the readers. A literary ending for sophisticated audiences.

The real life ending..naturalistic. Again quite literary, but more explicit...we actually know what will happen but it's kept pretty low key.

The surprise ending. Big twist. Has to be carefully set up and also misdirected to work.

The classic denouement...occurs right after the climax. It explains what happened to the major characters as a result of the climax and also wraps up any loose plot lines

The epilogue

Removed from the story in time or space. That’s the reason it is called an “Epilogue”; the label serves to alert the reader that the story itself is over, but we are going to now see a distant result or consequence of that story.


I'm struggling with the 4th one, I suppose. The classic denouement.

Ah well, just have to work it out.
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bert
Posted: October 16th, 2015, 4:26pm Report to Moderator
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At the risk of sounding utterly pedestrian and commercial, I nevertheless feel compelled to point out something that perhaps you've overlooked with this question.

Think of your most favorite movies ever, until you've got a list of about 5 or so.  

For my list, I notice they end exactly like they're supposed to end.  No twists.

Get too jiggy with the ending and you lose a good fraction of the audience.  A handful of arty types may laud your "daring" choice, but the unwashed masses want their "proper" ending.

I do get what you're saying.  But it is hard to beat a good story, well told, with a conclusion that satisfies.

The "right" conclusion to your tale shouldn't be undervalued simply because it is the "natural" conclusion.

Oh, and Rocky lost, by the way.


Hey, it's my tiny, little IMDb!
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eldave1
Posted: October 16th, 2015, 5:05pm Report to Moderator
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For the most part - I have to agree with Bert here.  There are many times that I want the expected ending because that is in fact the payoff. To me, the art is in the process/story to get to that ending. Apollo 13 is a great example of this. We all know exactly how it is going to end - yet a great film because of the character development and the story line that got us there. I have really only seen a few films where the ending was a total WTF and it it worked (The Sixth Sense comes to mind).  Anyway - a couple of things come to mind to me to add a little pop:

Redefine Success

Yes - folks are going to want your protag to win/succeed. But you can get way from the hackneyed by re-defining what success is.

Ironically you mentioned Rocky (one of my favorites). Rocky actually loses the fight. But we got a payoff because the author (in this case Stallone) re-defined success is lasting - not winning. e.g., Rocky didn't have to defeat Apollo - he merely had to be standing at the end of the round and that was more than enough to cheer for. 99% of time - the author is going to have the fighter winning. IMO, Stallone brilliantly redefined winning and the ending was perfect.

Little Miss Sunshine is another one that comes to mind. The expected ending would have been that she won the pageant. Instead, success was redefined as (a) completing a dance - and a horrible on at that and, (b) the family re-uniting over the guts it took for the little girl to perform the dance.  Again - success redefined.

Have an unexpected catalyst.

Take Sleepless in Seattle. Yes - Tom and Meg have to end up with each other. Nora adds an unexpected catalyst in the lost back pack  - that made an otherwise routine ending a little more interesting.

Have the antagonist rather than the protag orchestrate the ending.

IMO, you want your protag to achieve their goal. But it doesn't always have to be because of something they did - it could be something the antagonist did (or didn't do.

All that being said - I am perfectly okay with the expected ending. Most films I have seen are fulfilling because the ending is exactly the payoff you wanted. I have seen films derailed entirely because someone tries to fit a trick ending int o a place where it doesn't belong.

Anyway - that's my diatribe.


My Scripts can all be seen here:

http://dlambertson.wix.com/scripts
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Scar Tissue Films
Posted: October 16th, 2015, 5:59pm Report to Moderator
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I mentioned Rocky as a series, rather than referring to the first film specifically, because of the necessity for him to win in later films. .it's kind of unavoidable.

Some good replies though. I think it's helped clarify things:

To make the classic  ending work I think the emotion needs to be huge. You have to really want the main character to succeed and probably have to care that the bad guy loses.

I suppose my feeling was that this isn't that kind of story.

So I suppose it's the Redefining success aspect I need to concentrate on. The character is searching for something that supercedes the events of the plot. Like in the case of Rocky where hus real goal is not to beat Apollo, but to gain respect.
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eldave1
Posted: October 16th, 2015, 6:20pm Report to Moderator
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Quoted from Scar Tissue Films
I mentioned Rocky as a series, rather than referring to the first film specifically, because of the necessity for him to win in later films. .it's kind of unavoidable.

Some good replies though. I think it's helped clarify things:

To make the classic  ending work I think the emotion needs to be huge. You have to really want the main character to succeed and probably have to care that the bad guy loses.

I suppose my feeling was that this isn't that kind of story.

So I suppose it's the Redefining success aspect I need to concentrate on. The character is searching for something that supercedes the events of the plot. Like in the case of Rocky where hus real goal is not to beat Apollo, but to gain respect.


Well, good luck with your efforts.

As a side note:

SPOILERS

In your short film (outstanding btw) you do the redefine success thing real well.

IMO. you start off with your protag wanting something he can't have - an impossible goal really. He wants for his Wife to have never cheated on him in the first place. He wants his life back.

Then his goal seems to shift - it becomes to set fear in his wife and her lover so that they will have regret. That only provides fleeting satisfaction.

He redefines the goal to be the wife must realize she made a mistake and that the dude she had the affair with is a loser - Boom he succeeds through the who shall I kill challenge.

So even in the ending - I saw the goals for the protag constantly shifting (i.e., being redefined) in a very artful and compelling way.





My Scripts can all be seen here:

http://dlambertson.wix.com/scripts
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Equinox
Posted: October 18th, 2015, 1:18am Report to Moderator
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Most of my favourite movies are in the mystery/suspense genre, so they often end with a reveal which explains the riddles thrown out before. Perfect examples are The Sixth Sense or Twelve Monkeys.

For others you know right from the start what the ending will be, like in Independence Day for example. You know they will beat the aliens and save the world in the end, but the interesting part is 'how will they do it and how will they get there'.

I think if your ending is predictable, you need to grab the user with the twists and turns that lead them to that ending to make the story interesting.


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Lightfoot
Posted: October 19th, 2015, 2:11am Report to Moderator
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Can't tell you how many movie and tv show endings have been spoiled for me, but even with knowing the outcome I still watched and enjoyed them.

To me, movie endings are a lot like guitar riffs and solos.....the simple ones can easily be just as good as the complex ones.
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Dustin
Posted: October 19th, 2015, 3:12am Report to Moderator
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Understanding drama is all well and good, but it only gets you so far. Makes you the same as everyone else that understands drama. As writers we generally strive to do something amazing, something that stands out above all those other people that understand drama too.

If we're not asking ourselves questions like this, and striving to do something different, then why are we trying in the first place?

I probably ask this question with every script that I write. I also ask it of the start and the middle, come to think of it.
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Scar Tissue Films
Posted: October 20th, 2015, 3:34am Report to Moderator
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Quoted from Dustin
Understanding drama is all well and good, but it only gets you so far. Makes you the same as everyone else that understands drama. As writers we generally strive to do something amazing, something that stands out above all those other people that understand drama too.

If we're not asking ourselves questions like this, and striving to do something different, then why are we trying in the first place?

I probably ask this question with every script that I write. I also ask it of the start and the middle, come to think of it.


Agreed.

I think it's particularly important when you're looking to make something yourself. You are limited, budget-wise, so you need something a little different as you can't rely on spectacle the way the big budget flicks can.

But more than that, like you say, it's an intrinsic part of it all, trying to do something amazing and forging your own little path.
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Dustin
Posted: October 20th, 2015, 5:13am Report to Moderator
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Action speaks louder than dialogue.

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Yeah, I know all about that. Something that costs almost nothing, yet will blow people away at the same time. It's a huge ask. Something that was asked of me with my crew. It has to cost almost nothing, yet be totally amazing.

I gave up and started reading other writers, yet still couldn't find it. I've written four shorts that have been optioned yet my crew didn't see the greatness in them. Just getting people to agree is a complete nightmare.

I think that it's best not to worry about it too much. If we can't think of anything else, then we take the best option. Or, if it's your own work, then perhaps consider inviting another writer in.
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ABennettWriter
Posted: October 20th, 2015, 7:53am Report to Moderator
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All of mine. I can't end any of my stories. I hate it.
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CameronD
Posted: October 30th, 2015, 2:36pm Report to Moderator
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Flip it. Look at what's expected and change it. Have the hero lose. Or the sport's team go down in defeat. Build the climax to where everybody thinks it's going, play into preconceived notions, then turn everything on it's head and surprise and shock them. You'll have a way more memorable ending that what's been done to death before you already.


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