Know Your Ending

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Syd Field

(photo credit: The Story Department)

The great Syd Field writes:

“So– what’s the best way to open your screenplay?


That’s the first thing you have to know: What is the ending of your story? Not the specific shot, scene, or sequence of how the script actually ends, but the resolution. Resolution means solution; how is the story resolved? What is the solution? Does your character live or die? Get married or divorced? Win the race or not? Return safely to Cold Mountain or not? Get away with the robbery or not? Go back home or not? Find the criminals and bring them to justice or not?

What is the resolution of your screenplay?

A lot of people don’t believe that you need an ending before you start writing. I hear argument after argument, discussion after discussion, debate after debate. “My character,” people say, “will determine the ending.” Or, “My ending grows out of my story.” Or, “I’ll know my ending when I get to it.”

Sorry– but it doesn’t work that way. At least not in screenwriting. You can do that maybe in a novel, or play, but not in a screenplay. Why? Because you have only about 110 pages or so to tell your story. That’s not a lot of pages to be able to tell your story the way you want to tell it.

The ending is the first thing you must know before you begin writing.


It’s obvious, when you think about it. Your story always moves forward– it follows a path, a direction, a line of progression from beginning to end. Direction is defined as a line of development, the path along which something lies.”

(Syd Field in Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting, A Step-by-Step Guide from Concept to Finished Script, 90).

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Today’s Assignment:

1. Know your ending.

2. Throw it down on paper as a rough draft.