You’ve climbed walls and beaten down doors on your path from idea to completed first-draft—and woven the proverbial needle through every structural check-point along the way. Your hero lost it all at the end of Act 2B, rose from the ashes in Act 3, and rode triumphantly through the climax to land—where exactly?
Well—at THE END. Every great adventure must one day draw to a close, and your script is no exception. Somewhere around page 100 for comedies, or page 115 for actions and dramas, your screenplay must wind down—and ultimately FINISH.
So how do you end a screenplay? What are the right ways and wrong ways to say goodbye to your cast of characters?
Turns out—there is no “right way” to finish a script. Unlike so many other parts of screenplay structure, how you end your script will be one of the most personal and idiosyncratic choices you will make. These days, the convention in America is for scripts to end with a twist—even dramas will pull the rug out in the final pages. But of course, sometimes the best twist is no twist at all—which leaves us back where we started…
Good endings, however, tend to provide definitive answers to the following three questions. What those answers are, however, is totally up you:
1) Was the inherent conflict of the inciting incident resolved? (E.T. is on the space ship!)
2) Was the essential character conflict defined on page 17 resolved? (Indy and Indy Senior ride into the sunset together!)
3) How is the protagonist different now than from the beginning of the film? (Zoolander’s all grown up: “there’s more important things than male modeling—like love, and helping kids who can’t read good.”)
NOTE: Portions of this article first appeared in the article "Screenplay Structure," penned by this author for the website www.scriptfrenzy.org.