Writing a great ending

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  • carcar
    replied
    Re: Writing a great ending

    I think contemporary romantic comedy should include something other than the romance, so that there's another issue to resolve besides "will the right two people fall in love?" The central question for romantic comedy protagonists generally is: "Am I mature enough to handle the trials and risks of being in real love?", so most romantic comedies are also about growing up, a different kind of coming of age story. So I think it helps to have an additional goal that reflects that growth journey, the journey to maturity. 500 Days seemed more like a stop on the way to me, like he wasn't quite there, but what worked for me was the answer to that central question was: "No. But at least I know what the question is."

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  • Vance
    replied
    Re: Writing a great ending

    I think most endings are good as long as the trip to get to them was satisfying. I'm thinking of most of the endings I've seen recently and when you take them out of context, most of them are pretty standard. It's the body of the work that stands out. An ending is usually dictated by the journey to get there. Breaking too much with that contract is risky and can pay off, but more often it tends to bite the filmmaker in the ass.

    That said, what I like to do is finish a script, then go backwards and justify every little thing that happened, no matter how small, with something earlier. There's a prank with a bottle of gin? Well, the characters were at a store earlier so why not show them buying it? If the initial script was good enough in the first place, you just put a reinforcing layer of armor around it and propped up your ending.

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  • Filmmagician
    replied
    Re: Writing a great ending

    Originally posted by Jon Jay View Post
    I agree with Ron re: fake obstacles in romcoms. In fact this is probably why I (and I suspect many others) have come to hate the genre. "You used my toothbrush! Cancel the wedding! I hate you!" etc.

    It's funny that the OP mentions 500 Days of Summer, which seems to have a lot of love but I found pretty much a poor copy of Annie Hall. If you haven't seen AH in a while it's worth watching again as it has a perfect ending, beautifully written and directed. It doesn't necessarily give the audience what it wants (Annie and Alvy getting back together) but it gives us emotional satisfaction because we understand them, understand why this didn't work out and crucially understand a little more about love and relationships in general.

    I think in general terms, what I want from a romcom ending isn't so much for the couple to get together, but a sense of why this time it matters. When Harry Met Sally works because you've seen these two go through their 20s fumbling around, making mistakes like we all do, then reach a point in their lives where they are smart enough to make the right choice. (The book Sally looks at in the bookstore is called 'Smart Women, Foolish Choices' IIRC). To a certain extent Four Weddings does this - shows us people making mistakes enough times that when they do declare undying love we believe them. Romcom endings fail when you just have 90 minutes of dicking around and arguing over nothing, then the couple get tired of arguing and so hook up. But there's nothing to suggest they'll still be together 6 months later.
    Very true. The why is what makes the story better. Why the two leads should be together.
    I have seen Annie Hall and loved it. I mention 500 Days only because the guy doesn't get the girl, and we kind of realize that from the beginning - via the narrator.
    The Break-up, while good for a few laughs, does have a weak reason why they're breaking up. The ending they don't end up together, but it's open ended and assumed that they probably will end up together. Which is still a less predictable ending, but a happy one.
    You raised a good point though, showing why the guy and girl need to be together for a real reason after real conflict.
    Thanks for the reply.

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  • Filmmagician
    replied
    Re: Writing a great ending

    Originally posted by nmstevens View Post
    You should try to think in terms of internal and external conflict. One way I've heard this talked about is "want vs. need" -- A character spends most of the movie chasing the thing that he most wants and ignoring the thing that he really needs until he finally reaches that point where the two come directly into conflict and he finally realizes that he has to choose between the two -- the "want" that he's been trying to get for the whole movie and the "need" that he's been avoiding for the whole movie.

    Of course, in the most general terms, the "want" is often to stay where he is, and the "need" is to change and grow.

    And needless to say, this isn't simply going on inside the character's head -- this also plays out in the external action of the story.

    NMS
    Great point. I do have a compelling conflict of want vs. need - more so than the want of just love/the girl. I'll have to dig a bit deeper and have this on all 3 levels of conflict though.
    Thanks!

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  • nmstevens
    replied
    Re: Writing a great ending

    Originally posted by Filmmagician View Post
    Anyone have any blog, youtube, or article links - or advice - for writing a great ending?

    I'm working in a rom com genre and the thing with romance is that the guy gets the girl, the reader/viewer knows this is going to happen, so I think it's a strike against the writer as a predictable ending. I know the HOW is just as important as the what. Just looking for some insight on a great ending. For instance I really liked the ending to 500 Days of Summer. Guy doesn't get the girl, and it's open ended. Perfect, fresh. Easy A had a good ending too. Kept throwing you off with the guys Olive might have ended up with. Wedding crashers, however, guy gets the girl, after a cheesy speech. Kind of predictable. (I loved wedding crashers, for the record), but still better than an ending like Hitch.

    Okay, thanks!
    You should try to think in terms of internal and external conflict. One way I've heard this talked about is "want vs. need" -- A character spends most of the movie chasing the thing that he most wants and ignoring the thing that he really needs until he finally reaches that point where the two come directly into conflict and he finally realizes that he has to choose between the two -- the "want" that he's been trying to get for the whole movie and the "need" that he's been avoiding for the whole movie.

    Of course, in the most general terms, the "want" is often to stay where he is, and the "need" is to change and grow.

    And needless to say, this isn't simply going on inside the character's head -- this also plays out in the external action of the story.

    NMS

    Leave a comment:


  • Jon Jay
    replied
    Re: Writing a great ending

    I agree with Ron re: fake obstacles in romcoms. In fact this is probably why I (and I suspect many others) have come to hate the genre. "You used my toothbrush! Cancel the wedding! I hate you!" etc.

    It's funny that the OP mentions 500 Days of Summer, which seems to have a lot of love but I found pretty much a poor copy of Annie Hall. If you haven't seen AH in a while it's worth watching again as it has a perfect ending, beautifully written and directed. It doesn't necessarily give the audience what it wants (Annie and Alvy getting back together) but it gives us emotional satisfaction because we understand them, understand why this didn't work out and crucially understand a little more about love and relationships in general.

    I think in general terms, what I want from a romcom ending isn't so much for the couple to get together, but a sense of why this time it matters. When Harry Met Sally works because you've seen these two go through their 20s fumbling around, making mistakes like we all do, then reach a point in their lives where they are smart enough to make the right choice. (The book Sally looks at in the bookstore is called 'Smart Women, Foolish Choices' IIRC). To a certain extent Four Weddings does this - shows us people making mistakes enough times that when they do declare undying love we believe them. Romcom endings fail when you just have 90 minutes of dicking around and arguing over nothing, then the couple get tired of arguing and so hook up. But there's nothing to suggest they'll still be together 6 months later.

    Leave a comment:


  • Ronaldinho
    replied
    Re: Writing a great ending

    Originally posted by Filmmagician View Post
    Do you think Wedding Crashers did this right though? Bradley Cooper was a horrible bf to Rachel McAdams. On top of that she and owen wilson are nice people... aside of his big lie. But maybe that's enough to make him not totally nice.
    I'd have to watch Wedding Crashers again. Honestly, the ending feels pretty un-memorable (or, at least, I don't remember it).

    What that movie did, that I do remember, is have Owen Wilson's whole relationship with Rachel McAdams be built on a lie. So rather than a lot of more mediocre films (where it's some trivial misunderstanding that gets blown out of proportion, and if the characters only talked to each other like normal people it'd be solved but instead they have a huge argument) he actually doesn't have a real relationship or a real connection to her. It's entirely right and reasonable for her to be genuinely pissed off at him when his lies come to light.

    And the reason why we're still rooting for him is that we've seen clearly that he's outgrown this lie, and that he's really only doing it for the sake of his friendship with Vince Vaughn. But it's still a real obstacle.

    It avoids the "two nice people" problem (at least partially) because - although this comes partly from Wilson and McAdams - they have real chemistry and a real connection. We actually see what they like about each other. One note I've given to a lot of writers is "show me what's great about these two together!" What is special about the two of them together that is different from how they are with everybody else? What, specifically, makes these two very attractive people (who have very clearly had the opportunity to meet lots of other attractive people in their lives) right for each other, in a way they weren't right for lots of other nice, good looking people they met earlier in their lives?

    The "two nice people" problem doesn't meant that your leads shouldn't be nice. It means that they shouldn't JUST be nice. There has to be more to their connection than that they're both nice and played by movie stars.

    I'd have to rewatch Wedding Crashers again to get more specific about it, though. I watched it maybe six months back, but honestly I don't remember a lot of it.

    Leave a comment:


  • Filmmagician
    replied
    Re: Writing a great ending

    Originally posted by Ronaldinho View Post
    Or sometimes writers give one of them a significant other, and then make the significant other horrible. This is one of my least favorite approaches as not only is it false
    Do you think Wedding Crashers did this right though? Bradley Cooper was a horrible bf to Rachel McAdams. On top of that she and owen wilson are nice people... aside of his big lie. But maybe that's enough to make him not totally nice.

    Leave a comment:


  • Filmmagician
    replied
    Re: Writing a great ending

    Originally posted by Ronaldinho View Post
    Muser is right.

    What I see reading a lot of mediocre romcoms is that the obstacles feel false. .
    Totally agree. I do have pretty big obstacles, one being a big reveal/lie/secret the hero has, the other being a romeo/juliet type of forbidden love, and a few vices that get in the way. I'll examine how I can put some real obstacles between them that adds some drama and conflict. Great point. Thanks

    Leave a comment:


  • Filmmagician
    replied
    Re: Writing a great ending

    Originally posted by Jim Mercurio View Post
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bAnjIxlFZHc

    There is a link with a bit about dilemma.

    But a killer ending is where the goal and need unify into one succinct action.

    The romantic interests in rom coms are literally the externalization of the protagonist's dilemma. So the more complex you can make those characters, the harder the choice is and the more complex the theme will be and the more meaningful the ending will be. Try hard to make the protagonist have a tough choice to make. If it's such an obvious choice, then it's not interesting or suspenseful. Ideally, the protag is only able to make the right choice near the ending after growing and having his or her character arc.

    Make sure that the boy loses girl moment at the end of the second act is tied to the character's flaw or weakness. Make it a regression so that he or she goes as low as possible given their eventual growth. They are the furthest from the goal and their ultimate best self. This will bring unity to the story so the choice at the end is interesting as part of the exterior journey AND the internal one.

    Hope that helps.


    FYI: My DVD Killer Endings is available at my site. A-listscreenwriting.com
    I was literally just watching one of your videos yesterday - thanks for the reply and great advice. Really helpful.

    Leave a comment:


  • Jim Mercurio
    replied
    Re: Writing a great ending

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bAnjIxlFZHc

    There is a link with a bit about dilemma.

    But a killer ending is where the goal and need unify into one succinct action.

    The romantic interests in rom coms are literally the externalization of the protagonist's dilemma. So the more complex you can make those characters, the harder the choice is and the more complex the theme will be and the more meaningful the ending will be. Try hard to make the protagonist have a tough choice to make. If it's such an obvious choice, then it's not interesting or suspenseful. Ideally, the protag is only able to make the right choice near the ending after growing and having his or her character arc.

    Make sure that the boy loses girl moment at the end of the second act is tied to the character's flaw or weakness. Make it a regression so that he or she goes as low as possible given their eventual growth. They are the furthest from the goal and their ultimate best self. This will bring unity to the story so the choice at the end is interesting as part of the exterior journey AND the internal one.

    Hope that helps.


    FYI: My DVD Killer Endings is available at my site. A-listscreenwriting.com

    Leave a comment:


  • Ronaldinho
    replied
    Re: Writing a great ending

    Originally posted by Filmmagician View Post
    Anyone have any blog, youtube, or article links - or advice - for writing a great ending?
    Muser is right.

    What I see reading a lot of mediocre romcoms is that the obstacles feel false. These are two basically nice people and the script isn't really about anything so of course it's obvious that they're going to get together at the end. I call this the "two nice people problem" and tends to make for very flat scripts.

    Instead, I'd suggest that you dig deeper, and find REAL obstacles. We all know plenty of basically nice people, some of whom are single despite not wanting to be. Why is that? "I set him up with that nice girl, and she's cute, and they seemed to get along ... why didn't it work out?"

    Or sometimes writers give one of them a significant other, and then make the significant other horrible. This is one of my least favorite approaches as not only is it false (people are together with people for reasons, even if its a bad match, so it feels false when super-charming movie stars are dating obvious cheaters or abusers or just general jerks) but it makes the leads look weak. (It's a lot of young writers' first attempt to solve the two-nice-people problem).

    You have to believe in the obstacle. It has to be real. You have to realistically think that this obstacle would stop these two people from getting together. If you don't believe that this obstacle could stop this couple from getting together, then overcoming it won't resonate emotionally.

    eg, in "When Harry Met Sally ..." the problem is that they had decided that they were friends, not romantic partners. This is a real problem. Don't we all know people who would be a great couple but neither of them sees each other as a romantic partner? Therefore, overcoming it feels real and pays off emotionally. "How I Met Your Mother" was able to get nine seasons out of this sort of thing because they set up a real obstacle: these are two people who wanted really different, and incompatible, things out of life. That obstacle was so real that the only way to solve it was ...

    spoilers in the next paragraph. Highlight to view.


    The only way to solve it was to have him meet somebody else, marry her, have the kids he wanted with the wife, and then have the wife die, so that both the leads could have what they wanted and each other.

    Which, you've got to admit, is a little extreme. But it's what they had to do to honor the obstacle they set up.


    End spoilers.


    So find a real obstacle. Because if it's a real obstacle, and then you overcome it honestly, your end will work.

    Leave a comment:


  • Joaneasley
    replied
    Re: Writing a great ending

    Does it matter in an action movie if the hero achieves what he was moving mountains to achieve for the whole rest of the movie? Does it matter if that's what the audience was hoping for for the entire time yet often fearing it would be impossible? YES it matters. People love a particular genre because they want a vicarious experience that makes them feel the particular emotion associated with that genre. In action movies, it's the experience of being a brave, powerful hero who can save the day and win the girl. If your hero fails, many in the audience would feel let down and depressed, maybe even cheated. In a romantic comedy, most people are longing for true love to prevail, for two people who don't know they belong together to overcome great obstacles and misunderstandings and find true happiness in a beautiful, surprising (yet, in retrospect, perfectly set up) and emotionally satisfying way. Maybe in real life you don't always get to be a hero, and maybe your love relationships don't all end happily, but you go to a movie because you want to experience somebody else's vicarious success to enjoy that happiness and to make it seem possible that Hollywood ending could happen to you next time.

    Giving the audience what they need and what your writing should have made them long for should not be dismissed as unimaginative predictability. If you don't give them what they need at the end, you're like a guy who's been dangling candy at a toddler and then don't give it to her. Think she'll admire your freshness and unpredictability? Or cry because she wanted the candy and you took it away, made her feel like she can't trust anyone and life is crap -- all before she reaches her third birthday? Is that what you want to do to her? In my book, you dangle it, you owe the baby her candy.

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  • muser777
    replied
    Re: Writing a great ending

    Of all film genres, I find romcom way more 'and-the-moral-of-the-story-is...' than any other - its audience wants to see what love is, especially today.

    That's your ending. A surprising event that conveys your personal take on love. Doesn't actually matter whether the man and woman get together (as long as its upbeat), what matters is the statement beneath that event. All you absolutely must do is be pro-love.

    Leave a comment:


  • Filmmagician
    started a topic Writing a great ending

    Writing a great ending

    Anyone have any blog, youtube, or article links - or advice - for writing a great ending?

    I'm working in a rom com genre and the thing with romance is that the guy gets the girl, the reader/viewer knows this is going to happen, so I think it's a strike against the writer as a predictable ending. I know the HOW is just as important as the what. Just looking for some insight on a great ending. For instance I really liked the ending to 500 Days of Summer. Guy doesn't get the girl, and it's open ended. Perfect, fresh. Easy A had a good ending too. Kept throwing you off with the guys Olive might have ended up with. Wedding crashers, however, guy gets the girl, after a cheesy speech. Kind of predictable. (I loved wedding crashers, for the record), but still better than an ending like Hitch.

    Okay, thanks!
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