Write Your Screenplay: How to Avoid a Dud Ending

Even Oscar®-winning screenwriters struggle with crafting an original, satisfying, cliche-free ending. Jacob Krueger, via Andrew Kevin Walker’s classic Se7en, explains how to avoid a resolution that’s a dud.

If you have a question for Jacob Krueger, email it to questions@writeyourscreenplay.com.

14 thoughts on “Write Your Screenplay: How to Avoid a Dud Ending

  1. Paula DiSante

    I always know what has to happen at the end of my screenplay, but exactly HOW I get there is open to variations and changes. The “shape” of the ending evolves because the characters have evolved and grown throughout the story. That’s what works for me.

  2. Tammy B

    Gosh I was so looking forward to hearing the point of this video, but the example used, “300 lb man tied up and eating himself…” was so gruesome that I had to stop it immediately. I’m extremely visual and don’t like horror, gore, etc., and although I’m probably the rare bird here, I’d like to kindly request that you guys please use examples that don’t go that route. Perhaps I’m asking a lot, but I sure would appreciate it. Thanks so much!

  3. w. b. ebron

    -I don’t agree that u must write your begining and than the end. Yes, if you start out to drive somewhere you will have your destination; however,for when I sit down to write I see the pitcure another way. Writting a story is like a child starting off in life and his life is beining developed as each step he/she takes in life. But if it works for you than go with it.

  4. Chris Smith

    Thank you, Jacob. This is all really good advice. But the difficulty of recognizing what makes an ending “great” or “right” is reinforced by the fact that the makers of “Se7en” filmed a couple different endings because even they weren’t sure which one worked best until they saw it cut into the film.

  5. tara johns

    As I was writing (and forever re-writing) my first feature that I went on to direct, I had a quote by M. Night Shymalan stuck on the wall in front of me. It went something like this: “I was on like the fifth draft when I suddenly realized, Oh my god – this guy’s dead!”

  6. DONDI LATIMER

    Doug, who’s agent and is he/she taking on new talent. I’ve been trying to find an agent since last year. If you or anyone else knows one PLEASE, PLEASE let me know. Thanks.

  7. Jacob Krueger

    Thank you to everyone for your comments. While I do agree that as Doug and some others have mentioned, it can be a helpful thing to have a great ending to drive toward as you write, sometimes it does take awhile for the right ending to bubble up. Francis Ford Coppola actually shot APOCALYPSE NOW without knowing how it would end, and the original ending of WHEN HARRY MET SALLY left the two of them broken up, rather than together. All writing is a process. So if the screenwriting gods are kind enough to gift you with the perfect ending at the beginning of the process, by all means accept that gift! But if the great ending’s not yet coming– as it wasn’t for the student who asked this question– that doesn’t mean you have to give up on your script. Instead, it may be that you simply need to learn more about your character, so the great ending can evolve organically from your writing. Either way, it’s worth recognizing that oftentimes the ending you think you’re building to is not the one you end up with, and that giving yourself the flexibility to discover your best stuff, rather than locking yourself into a paint by numbers process, is more likely to help you write a screenplay that takes both you and your audience somewhere they didn’t initially expect to go.

    Jacob Krueger
    http://www.WriteYourScreenplay.com

  8. ADAM MOAR

    I totally agree and agree with the way he said it. I think I love this teacher a little bit – though it may have something to do with the fact that I’m rewriting my “meh” third act…tomorrow. Some people like to fly by the seat of their pants. The best writing does that – whilst being true to the characters. It’s hard to plan an ending, then make the characters fit that ending, and make both work well – or either in fact.

  9. TheWriteStuff

    If I lock myself into an ending, it usually kills the spontaneity in my writing. I like to start with a sense of my ending but not feel trapped by it. I think most writers would benefit from being open to the possibility that their script might really be about something different than their original intentions.

  10. Lx

    Agree with the “come to you” aspect. Often times you can’t see the character or what he/she is doing until they actually do it on paper. I think there are instances when you know how you want something to end but there is nothing “organic” about such an ending, it feels contrived and like the focus of the movie was about the destination and not the journey. Great recent example (IMHO) Captain America – they HAD to get to that ending and, because of that, it was just sort of “meh” and the whole film seemed mildly ill-paced. The 6th Sense was different, I don’t think M Night set out to end with the reveal, instead he wanted to tell a tory from (spolier alert) a dead person’s persepctive and thouhgt -in the end – it’d be fun to trick the audience.

  11. Antonio D'Alfonso

    Hello Mr Krueger… I like the energy of the video. I too teach script writing… and have come up with a certain type of structure for teaching writers to deal with moments in the film. I agree with Doug… Endings are usually the first thing that makes the entire idea gel. Without knowing the end of the trip the trip can never take off. I know if I have to go to Italy I need to go to Alaska first. But eventually that journey takes me to Rome somewhere.

  12. Doug

    I’ve sold one script, and have another one in option now with a major producer. I write my beginning first, and then I write my ending. Then I write to my ending. I don’t believe that great endings “come to you.” I believe they’re written from the very beginning, and then you have something to write to. Writing a script without knowing the ending is like jumping in your car, not putting an address in your GPS system, and hoping to get to your destination. You don’t think M. Night wrote “The Sixth Sense,” without knowing the ending do ou?

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