Notes from a Screenreader: Don’t Whimper

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Photo via Go Into the Story.

Your ending needs a bang. Settling gently down to Fade Out from the end of Act Two does not an Act Three make.

  • Don’t hold back. Act Three is a balloon you keep inflating until it explodes. Push it as far as it will go.
  • Tie up loose ends as you go. Space them out in the run up to the end, preferably in action, or prune out the subplots that require them. It’s clunky to resolve two or three dangling storylines in conversation after the climax.
  • Make your ending impossible. Rewrite to refine characters, conflicts, escalations and thematic elements to put as wide a distance as possible between conditions at the beginning and the outcome. It will make your ending a revelation.

If your ending lays off on your characters, if the final challenge isn’t difficult enough, or if everything has not led inevitably to this outcome, your ending will whimper.

— ANNIE LABARBA

Annie is a screenwriter, story consultant, and reader for major screenplay competitions.

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