S-E-X Tips For Screenwriters: The Happy Ending

Dr. Paige Turner

Dear Paige,

I’m hoping for your advice.

I’ve gotten my script into the hands of readers, and the feedback I’m getting is that they don’t like the ending.

I don’t want to cave to peer pressure and the relentless push toward commercialized crap by grafting on a traditional, clichéd happy ending to my romantic comedy. Not all relationships work out in real life, right?

Some people just aren’t meant to be together. Believe me, I’ve had plenty of experience with this.

Paige, does Hollywood always have to have a happy ending?

Thanks,

On The Edge

Dear OTE,

Why, of course you’re on the edge my friend, and so are your readers! You’ve built up anticipation, gotten them truly excited and then left them hanging. You may have learned something about how to write a screenplay, but you haven’t mastered delivering the goods.

The Happy Ending is not a cop out. It’s about fulfilling your audience’s expectations!

Frankly, the happy ending isn’t always a happy one, but the one that leaves audiences feeling satisfied. A sad ending can still be a happy ending, if it’s the one that the film has been building to all along.

Genre films in particular, such as your rom-com, create very distinct expectations. These movies are popular for a reason – they take us on a familiar journey. There’s a comfort in knowing what kind of experience we will have when the lights dim. And that’s why specific audiences choose the specific genres that appeal to them. They want to be scared and survive, to experience vicarious thrills, to see the star-crossed lovers kiss, to go on an explosive, high stakes adventure.

In a horror movie, we expect all the kids who had sex to die. In a rom-com, we are rooting for the couple that is meant-to-be to finally get together. In the action flick, we want the bad guy to be served his just desserts. (All the better if the good guy doesn’t have to get his hands dirty in the end. Far better for the bad guy to be “hoist with his own petard.” Why do you think so many villains wind up in a roof-top fight with the hero and tragically fall to their death?)

Your job is to deliver on your audience’s expectations, but in a smart and distinctive way that is unique to your story, your characters, your world and your theme. That’s what makes you a stand out and not a sell out.

The So OTE, it sounds to me like you’re not getting much action yourself these days.

My prescription is to do a little socializing and have some fun. It might be just what the doctor ordered to give you a sunnier outlook and a fresh perspective on your final acts.

Wishing you a happy ending!

xoox, Paige

 

 

 

 

 

Got a question for the Good Doctor? Leave it in the comments below and Paige will get back to you.

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2 Responses to “S-E-X Tips For Screenwriters: The Happy Ending”

  1. bamgomes May 31, 2015 at 10:12 am #

    What about surprising endings? Take your audience by surprise?
    Most movies now we just need to read the logline to know how it will end.
    I love movies that I don’t know what to expect in the end and that surprise me, like “SAW” and “The Sixth Sense”.
    “The Express” for instance, although it’s based on a true story, I didn’t know about that story so I didn’t know how it was going to end. It has a sad ending that took me by surprise and I loved it. Probably if it wasn’t based on a true story the ending would be completely different, with all ending well.

    I think that it’s good to have, once in a while, stories that don’t end just like all other stories out there and that take us by surprise.

    • bevins June 3, 2015 at 11:33 pm #

      Thanks for your comment. I too love a good surprise ending, but only when it doesn’t come utterly out of the blue. It needs to feel organic to the story. I loved the ending of “The Sixth Sense,” especially what I call “the domino effect,” when it hits you and you look back on the story and realize that the truth was there all along. So powerful and effective in this film.

      I believe that as an audience we love a good surprise, as long as it fits with the story in tone and content.

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