Screenwriting : Knowing the end at the beginning? by K. C. Steward, Screenwriter

K. C. Steward, Screenwriter

Knowing the end at the beginning?

I've read that screenwriters should know how their scripts ends before starting to write. I find that even though I outline and flesh things out, my script creates its own ending organically. Do you usually know your ending at the beginning?

Anthony D Paul

I don't have the exact ending after I write fade out but I want to know how it all ends. Does your character win or lose in Act III. I think it's important to know.

Mark Souza

I always know the ending before I start. or I won't start. But if something better crops up along the way - FANTASTIC! Outlines have a purpose, but they shouldn't be a straight jacket. There is always room for creativity and a change of plans. But to have a change of plans, you need a plan in the first place.

Kefi Canväs

The ending is different from what you're trying to accomplish with characters arc. As an above commenter similarly stated, as you develop your story the specifics of your ending can change but you at least need to know where you're trying to take your character - if not, you may have an unfulfilling conclusion to your story.

Brian Flinchbaugh

I tend to know my ending before I write. That doesn't mean I stick to it 100% if something else comes to me as I write, but I find it works well if I know where I'm going, somewhat of a goal to reach.

Matt Sanford

Sometimes I know the ending, some times I don't.

Cyd Madsen

I know writers who write their scripts backwards. It's different for everybody. I find knowing the ending helpful, but it doesn't always end that way :-)

Charles Wilhite

I usually know generally how it ends...the ending is, oddly, how I get most of my ideas...seeing something and then asking the question "Now how did that happen?" Getting there...creating something new, answering that question , that's the exciting part, for me.

Chris Leonard

Kevin Smith is one of the rare writers who's been successful writing without an end in mind. If you're writing without and end in mind, hoping your ideas will lead to a good ending, you may be in for a lot of rewriting and disappointment.

Monserrate Pagan Jr

Most of everything I write I have a slight idea of the ending but never really know where it leads me and how I will reach that ending

Roger Scouton

The first thing I typically do is create an unusual but workable heist outline. Then I decide how to craft the story.

Janet Scott

I can't start writing till I work out the start or ending... I get the idea for the start, then, wonder about the journey that character would take. I then ask myself the question, how would it end. Once I have that. I then fill in the story, as I write.The story itself dictates where I am going. If the ending changes, that's fine. Quite often, the end comes out as I thought originally... sometimes... usually most times, I try for the twist.

Mark Sanderson

You should know the final scene and how the movie ends so you can chart every scene and storyline toward that end goal. Never wing it and do create a solid story treatment before you go to pages. It's good practice and experience for the time when you will be hired by a producer to write a movie on assignment. They will never let you go to pages without a workable story treatment with every story beat authorized and agreed to in the development process.

Wanda Weaver

Yes, I've got to know how it ends but don't usually have the specific details worked out. This happens as the story and writing evolve. I've got to have some kind of roadmap.

Nkosi Guduza

Well, one particular idea right now, I am postponing on writing usually I just write. This is because I am waiting too at least know that there will be a good enough end. On the other hand, when I write if the idea a base of story is flawless I can assume the end will BE. So sometimes I might cook an egg slowly, or sometimes I fry it fast on high speed. Just depends, justice is served to the flexible. Nobody likes rigidness ;) x x x

Anahita Mostajeran

in many times just a view of the end is enough. we write final sequence based on many things and details we don't know at first

Janet Scott

Bit like a road map really, Know where your going, then you can take your time getting there.

Nkosi Guduza

Sometimes the best decisions in life are spontaneous. Work it out as you go along, only the brave dare and succeed. Yes, plan, but sometimes take adventures. x

Dana Lin

I always know how I want the audience to feel at the very end, and most of the time I have a particular scene in mind, but I'm totally flexible with it evolving, but the emotional end always remain the same for me.

Philip Landa

Absolutely know your ending before you start, saves a lot of wandering around time

E.B. Laird

They may not come in order but I will have my beginning, middle and end in my mind before I get going or it's to easy to float around with the story. Lot's of wasted pages, too much banter that doesn't push the story forward, characters lacking substance, it will be a lot to rewrite. I stay flexible because good ideas and arcs usually come to you during the writing process but having the foundation laid is a big help.

Simon © Simon

RB wrote an article pertaining to this question. I do not know the link. IT is here somewhere, great read. To answer your question with someone else experience. (Which has helped me) SCREENWRITING – 10 Tips From The Great Billy Wilder The audience is fickle. Grab ‘em by the throat and never let ‘em go. Develop a clean line of action for your leading character. Know where you’re going. The more subtle and elegant you are in hiding your plot points, the better you are as a writer. If you have a problem with the third act, the real problem is in the first act. A tip from Lubitsch: Let the audience add up two plus two. They’ll love you forever. In doing voice-overs, be careful not to describe what the audience already sees. Add to what they’re seeing. The event that occurs at the second act curtain triggers the end of the movie. The third act must build, build, build in tempo and action until the last event, and then—that’s it. Don’t hang around. FILMMAKING – 10 Zero Budget Filmmaking Tips Courtesy of the Raindance Film Festival 1. The Story Is Everything Nothing glues you to the screen more than a good story. If the story is there, does one really care about the budget of the film? Stories and screenplays have four main elements: Firstly, your story must have characters with a specific goal. A specific goal is one that can be measured, so at a point in time we can see whether or not the character achieves or fails to achieve the goal. For example, if your character’s goal is to move out of London – this is a weak goal. We all want to leave London. It’s dirty, expensive and increasingly dangerous. But if the goal of your character is to leave London by noon tomorrow, or else… then we have a goal that is easily measured. Secondly, your story has a setting. The setting can be usual or unusual. Thirdly, there are the Actions of the main characters and finally what they say, or Dialogue. The trick of a good storyteller is to weave these four elements together so the seams do not show. When a writer achieves this, we say they have mastered the craft of storytelling. But not necessarily the art of storytelling. 2. Location Location Location There are two expensive components to a film shoot. Image capture (camera) and the locations. Moving a cast and crew from location to location is time consuming, and expensive, regardless of your budget. If you can reduce the amount of location moves, or eliminate them altogether, then you are a huge step closer to reducing your budget. Locations in this scenario suddenly have a huge impact on the script. To learn how, we need only to look at some of the most interesting films of the last few decades: Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs, Kevin Smith’s Clerks, Spike Lee’s She’s Gotta Have It , Orin Pelli’s Paranormal Activity and George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. These films have one thing in common: limited locations. In fact, they would each make excellent stage plays. The trick, it seems, is to take a bunch of actors to a limited location and chop them up. When you do this, you will essentially be filming a stage play. But a stage play filmed as a stage play is boring. Turn your limited location script (which is essentially a stage play) into a movie successfully, and you will have, what the moguls in Hollywood call, Talent. 3 Image Capture Choosing the camera that suits your script and your budget is simpler than ever before. Most likely you will be shooting on a digital camera. Two elements of any camera you should look out for are: compression and lenses. Remember that all digital cameras generate the same signal. What influences the image quality are the lenses you film through and the numbers of pixels per frame (compression) The ultimate no budget camera trick is use a little known fact of British law: security camera footage can be recovered if you have been the victim of a crime. The UK is covered in security cameras, some private and some publically owned. By law, if you suffer a crime, the police will request a copy of the tape from the camera owner. Recce the CCTV cameras in your neighborhood, write a screenplay, re-enact a series of ’crimes’ and presto – you will have your movie shot – for absolutely nothing. 4. Sound It isn’t the look of skin on skin that turns you on in a sex scene. It’s the sound of skin on skin. Professional filmmakers spend much of their time considering and creating the sounds that go with their pictures. It is a fact too that our brains are wired in such a way that when we need to strain to hear what the actors are saying, the picture goes dim. Good clean sound with interesting effects added in is the quickest way to make your images, even those shot on your mother’s humble video camera, look great. 5. The Bucks Are In The Music The fact of film revenue and distribution is that the main revenue streams are from the sound tracks for your film. This is because the musicians unions are much stronger than the actors, writers and film unions. After you film leaves the cinema (if it was lucky enough to get there in the first place) the main revenue streams a movie generates is for the mechanical copyright royalties for the sound track. Filmmakers are usually the last to understand how music royalties are decided, registered and administered. Explaining music copyright law is something that falls outside this short article. Briefly, Filmmakers can get cheap of free scores by composing and performing it themselves. Remember that there are three music copyright streams: composers, lyracists and performers. Or, by getting an unsigned band to perform, or to acquire the movie rights to an existing band by contacting them through their agent, or estate if deceased. Research the track you are interested in through 6. Get Organized Nothing is more disheartening than showing up to help out on a mate’s shoot only to spend an hour looking for a screwdriver. Disorganisation is totally unforgiveable and easily preventable by advance planning. Make sure you know where everything is, and make sure everthing and everybody shows up at the right place at the right time. If this is not within your organizational ability, partner with someone who is. 7. Your Friends Cannot Act It is always tempting to get a few friends together to make a movie and use them as actors as well. This usually leads to peril because your friends are not trained actors. They may have spent hours and hours with a video camera in front of the bathroom mirror, but they will not know how to act in front of a camera on a set. When your friends think they are acting well on set, you will probably be so shocked at their hammy performances that you will be unable to direct them without running the risk of destroying your personal relationship. Far better to advertise for actor/collaborators at local theatre and acting schools, hold rigourous auditions until you find a stallar cast of talented unknowns than use your friends. If you have a suitable script and some money, you can approach a casting agent who will then pimp your script and your project out to established actors who might we willing to do it for nothing if they like the script, their role, and have been offered a suitable cut of the profits. 8. Build A Following In the good old days (pre-Valentines Day 2005) filmmakers would submit their films to a series of film festival and tour with their film building the hype for their film until they received sufficient distribution offers to finance their next project. By making and touring film after film, a filmmaker was able to build up a loyal fan base which would guarantee them and their producers a predictable revenue stream. The explosion of social media has changed the landscape and created two types of filmmakers: those who loathe and abhor social media, and those who embrace it. Contemporary filmmakers can use social media to create a following of people eager to sample and appreciate their latest work. Astute filmmakers employ two producers: one who deals with the traditional production work flow, and one who deals with social media. A first step for any filmmaker is to register the domain name for their production company and film title, as well as Facebook and Twitter profiles. Often these are sold on to eventual distributors, as was the case with Paranormal Activity. A great way to build your list is to comment on relevant articles, like this one. You can comment below. 9. Are You a Filmmaker, a Content Provider or a Communicator? Whatever your goals are, remember that you need to decide what it is you are doing. Filmmakers make films and hope to cruise the festival route until they are discovered and become festival darlings. Content providers are professional filmmakers who deliver movies whether dramatic, corporate or documentary at a price per minute. Communicators are filmmakers and content providers who have something to say using the power of moving images with excellent sound, well crafted stories and good sound tracks. Communicators will also consider a host of different mediums including short two and three minute episodes for mobiles (mobisodes) or internet (webisodes). Gaming and phone apps are also provide interesting storytelling possibilities with a host of different strategies for monetizing content current being debated around the world. 10. There’s No Such Thing As Luck I believe that luck is earned through a combination of hard work and karma, If you maintain your integrity and your passion, success will surely visit you. It’s A Wrap Nothing is as powerful as a good movie. And by using the medium of cinema you are able to influence and change lives. It is people like you htat can make a difference and make this world a better place. FILM EDITING – Some Tips And Advice From Ron Dawson Every frame counts: I get so detailed in my cutting, that I’ll shave off individual frames from some shots. Keep in mind that for most of my work there are 24 frames in a second. So I’m literally saving off fractions of a second. But those fractions add up over a four, six, or ten minute film. Cut out “ums” and “uhs”: most of my work is primarily comprised of b-roll over dialog from interviews. There’s no reason to keep the “ums” and “uhs” that people say when they’re trying to remember something, or if they’re stuttering over their words, etc. Not only can you shave quite a bit of time out, but your subject will be happy you made them sound more intelligent. Don’t repeat: often I’ll be interviewing a series of people all talking about the same topic (e.g. employees at a company I’m doing a corporate video for; brides and grooms of a wedding photographer for whom I’m doing a promo; etc.) Inevitably, they will all at some time make a similar or identical point. For the most part, I’ll use the best sound bite from just one of them as it relates to that one point. (However, this is not a hard and fast rule. There may be times when you may want to include a very specific aspect that every single person mentioned, and string them all together to make a strong point. For example, if five people in a row state how a photographer made them laugh.) Aim for a specific length: it helps if you have a specific length of time to shoot for. For a web promo, 2-2.5 minutes is ideal with 4 minutes being tops). Most broadcast TV commercials have to be exactly 29.5 seconds. In “Hollywood,” studios are always imposing strict running times. If you’re committed to a set time length, that will force you to make the hard choices to cut out what isn’t absolutely needed. Save longer versions along the way: in my process of cutting down the films I work on, I’ll duplicate the sequences I create, then rename them with sequential numbers (e.g. promo pass dump, promo pass 1, promo pass 2, etc.) The “dump” sequence is the very first dump of all the footage and synchronized audio. Each subsequent pass is shorter than the last. If I ever need to go back to get a sound bite or visual I cut out previously, I just open it up and copy and paste the clip I need. Be mindful of the message: if you’re creating a commercial piece meant to communicate a message, always keep that message in mind. Split it up: sometimes you can split a video into multiple parts if you feel that the information you have is too important to leave out, but adding it back in will make the piece too long. For my photographer promo clients, I will almost always have a complementary shorter video that has additional interview footage from their clients. (Note: that’s complementary with an “e,” not an “i”. Description: )) Think of them as “special features.” It gives the viewer the option to dive deeper into a specific topic if they want, while keeping the main promo short and tight. The human eye and ear are amazing: we can actually take in quite about bit of information in a relatively short amount of time. Use that to your advantage. Sometimes all you need is a split second to communicate a world of information.

Ruth Atkinson

Ruth Atkinson These are great, thoughtful answers that show there really isn't any ONE way to do things. Have to find what process works best for you. A combination of outlining and letting the story surprise you as you write is a good rule of thumb. I recently wrote a blog post about starting at the end and working backwards which can be a useful tool.

Monserrate Pagan Jr

Very well expressed too many forget that the "character" should drive the acting and how to reach the end

Michael Penhallow

It is a good rule to start out knowing where the end will be. But the good screenwriter should always be open to that spark of creativity where another better possibility reveals itself and not be afraid to go down that path.

Janet Scott

It does help to know the ending... then you can tiki tour around.... enjoying the scenery on your way there.

Alex Sarris

Without a good ending there may not be a story. I think the beginning and ending should be known to ensure it is solid enough.

Sonny Dyon

I typically know Act 1 and Act 3...I have my issues in Act 2. That's the rub...

William Harrell


Sarah Walker

I always know Act 3 before I start so I have an end point to aim for. But that doesn't mean it's fixed in stone, I usually make alterations to improve the final act. The only thing that doesn't change is the last image I want the audience to see.

Steven T. Boltz

I always have an ending in mind, and an outline to go with it. The outline will invariably change, but the ending is pretty much set from the beginning.

Michael Eric Ross

Almost all the time I have the complete story arc nailed down before I start, but the ending's subject to tweaks and changes here and there. Like Sarah, I've usually got the last image of the film in my head -- and sometimes on paper -- before I get there. It's strange how sometimes, if I'm really in my element, the characters will inform me about the shape of the ending long before I get there on the page.

Andy Davie

For me I find it varies a great deal from story to story. I usually know how it's going to end before I start writing anything, but it's subject to change along the way. The scriptwriting process often uncovers alternative ways for it to end as the story develops. Thankfully it's rarely too far from the original ending I'd envisaged. I do think it's important to be flexible though and open to look at alterntives in the hope you go for what you think is best for the story.

Tony McFadden

Acts 1 and 2 are well plotted, and Act 3 is just a skeleton. I know how it ends, what the resolutions are, but the path from the 2nd plot point to the conclusion come more from what I put on the page in act 1 and 2. And because its not firm until the end, it's not infrequent that I need to go back to act 1 and fix up the setup. But I definitely know the end. To answer your question...

Janet Scott

I like to work the entire thing out in my head, before I write anything. Then it changes, as I go along... what ever I am thinking at the time of writing...I write, should it change during a conversation with one of the characters.... all good.

Ben Felix Spencer


Cheri Dodd

I hadn't heard that, but I know that my ideas start with a general concept and a character. I usually have a good visual of the beginning and I have a pretty strong idea of how the story ends. So in that respect, yes, I think you should know the ending at the beginning, or outline/index-card stage. BUT, with that said, my EXPERIENCE has been that my beginning rarely changes much, but my endings almost always change from outlined concept to typing "The End." So, in essence my script creates its own ending organically, yes.

Jennifer Stewart

I think it's an individual thing. If you're clear about your controlling idea and your protagonist's journey your ending will be dictated by that. But it's also okay to just pour it all out and afterwards form something from what you've written - it's just a lot more work, and easy to get lost! I don't think there's a right or a wrong about it; the important thing is what allows you to express your ideas most powerfully and creatively within the structure.

Randall Roffe

I agree, no hard and fast rules

Rayna Booker

I disagree. If you don't know how your story is going to end how do you know what story you're writing?

Michael Penhallow

Sure, always good to have a strong ending in mind but you've got to have space to allow the story to tell itself.

Burchell C Hanson

yes, sometimes i want to get to the end so bad before i have to change it. i do see the end at the beginning

Ian Hornby

I find it varies completely. Sometimes I plane from start to end, yet when I wrote my stage play "Cold Blood" I had no idea until I reached the end how I would finish it. OK, I had a rough idea, but hadn't decided whether the central character gets arrested or gets away with her crime (murdering her husband). It may sound bizarre, but I was quite interested and tense myself, wondering how it would pan out, and I think that gave the writing process a bit of extra energy. Frustratingly, the first theatre to stage it were very moral and didn't like the fact I'd chosen to let her remain free so I was asked to provide an alternative ending whereby she gets convicted. In the end, it was published with both options.

Janet Scott

I have a rough idea as to where I want to go with it... then I work out by trial and error as to how I am going to get there. The ending can change for me in regards to how I end up at the end.... however I just went a different route to get where I imagined I wanted to end up.

Bill Shannon

Working on a full length script right now and what I did with it: One day when I was off, I went out to the local pizza place with my headphones and a notebook. I got some food and sat there for two hours asking myself questions about the movie. "Why are they in trouble?" "Who are they in trouble with?" "What's the villain's 'hook'?" "What's the resolution to the problem?" "What wrench gets thrown in their gears of success?" After I had plot points answered, I was able to come up with the two best scenarios for the ending and picked one that revolves around that 'hook' the villain has!

Andy Davie

I just finished (well a week ago now) a screenplay wherein, just like KC I knew roughly where it was going and how it would end, but by the time I reached the end it had changed compared to how I'd visualised it... the producer wasn't 100% happy with it so it changed again and now we all feel it works just right, but ultimately the end still delivers the desired outcome - the right people overcame the crisis around which the story revolves. So while we tend to know where the story is heading, I do think the end, along with the beginning and middle, with any good screenplay is subject to... the will of the producer, director and sometimes even the cast when you get right down to it :-)

Phillip "Le Raconteur" Hardy

Andy: Start with writing three/four paragraphs of what's going to happen in the script. The good old beginning, middle and end helps. I always write a synopsis and logline first and then write my script. As long as you think what your writing is good, I wouldn't get too hung up on whether or not you finish in two weeks.

Andy Davie

Thanks Phillip, Having a rough outline definitely helps and when it comes to knowing the ending I think it's a good idea to know where you're going, but always be ready to change it a bit or be flexible if it's in the interest of making a better story, in reference to the dreaded block, having that outline helps there too as you say, the beginning middle and end are always good references to keep handy :-) Cheers Andy

Terry Licia Reed

I usually have the beginning and ending in mind from Day One, but the middle? Plays out as I go along ... who lives, who dies, who loves, who hates? To me, that's the hardest part.

Phillip "Le Raconteur" Hardy

Terry: That's great way to write. The guys who wrote the Ten Day Screenplay advise giving your characters the freedom to tell you what they want to do or say. That sounds crazy but when I start writing a conversation I definitely try to create a real feel that allows a stream of consciousness thing to transpire. Too much outlining or plotting out may tend to make things more mechanical.

Vonnie Davis

The protagonist must have a goal that ends, either happily or not.

Gloria Hass

When I wrote novels, I loved it when I had the ending or the middle of the book before the beginning. I loved the challenge of filling in the blanks so to speak. Sometimes, I ended up creating the middle then the beginning after I already had the ending.

Anthony Crociata

Absolutely, but you don't have to be married to it. Like any great journey, it's helps to have a roadmap.

Antonia Jones-Hackley

The very first piece of advice I got was that, you should know how your story begins and ends.

CJ Walley

I usually figure out a bunch of different endings and pick the one that feels most satisfying. What's more important is the lead into the end, that's what the audience are sat down to watch, that's what really matters.

Orianna Morales

Yes. I start at the middle but yes.

Gavion E. Chandler

It truly depends on how the story and its idea is sparked. It might be a flash of an image, or the thought of an idea that inspires certain writings. Like COMPANY MAN a play that I am writing that engages the thought of how the 'corporate entity minimizes the importance of the individual ever while maximizing the potential of productivity and profit from the individual and yet the 'corporate entity' regards the 'idea of the individual' as a threat because the individual has the ability to challenge and question the practices and principle of such an entity. This play exploded from a comment from my overseer, 'you have to stop thinking the civilian way and thinking the company way!!" and became a 200 page play that I am still editing. But in my plays I am exploring and questioning our humanity, and the promise and true terror of such said potential. I have an ending in mind for the player, but how I am going to get there and what is going to happen along the way is another matter. But the ending in mind, may not be the ending that comes to be penned in the end. It is a general direction and directive where the questions raised and offered for food for thought. I wish I could put more thought into this but dinner is ready, perhaps I could expound upon it further later on. Gavion E. Chandler~ 'Man is his own devil.'

Lisa Clemens

I used to balk at outlining but a recent screenplay I just finished a first draft on was SO much easier and faster to write with a well planned outline and yes, I knew the ending. My partner and I once had an idea for a script but could not come up with an ending we liked or could agree on....we shelved it for a better script idea. One with an ending we were sure of.

Helen Sykes

At the beginning, when you're messing around with an idea, don't let logic cramp your style. Once you commit to the idea you need an ending in mind, no matter how sketchy... If you leave without a map, you might still get there in the end, but you'll probably take a few wrong turns on the way.

Tony McFadden

Writing genre fiction (thrillers, mysteries), you kinda NEED to know the end. How else can you subtly drop the clues the astute reader/viewer needs so they don't call bullshit at the end? Absolutely need to know the ending, if you want a compelling screenplay.

JC Young

I usually have my end and beginning worked out. Sadly the middle or the path to get from the start and end can be the biggest slog. But, you may totally change your ending by the time you get there.

Gavion E. Chandler

In my novel my main character who shadowing his to-be apprentice has five hundreds of history, I know of his predicament and what it to become of the character and what he will or will not learn. In the beginning and the end and the middle I have the general circumstances in mind, it is the journey of the pen and the thought of their lives lived and breathed in my world that comes to create the direction of their story and their lesson. But I spent ten years building the character and their history, who they encountered, their lifeline is mapped out, and the book just exploded into 56 chapters.. One day I will have it published. Right now I am working on my plays and getting them produced. But the same goes for my plays, I have the general circumstances and lessons and thoughts in mind, even if it is sparked on the premise of a thought or two. I just see where it's going to lead. It is a mad trip down that rabbit hole, but it's fun as hell. Gavion E. Chandler~ 'Man is his own devil.'

Robert Sprawls

I do. The one I'm working on now is the first of a trilogy and I know how all three end, though I've only a skeleton for #2 and next to nothing for the third, but I know where I want to go and what I want to happen in the end.

Monserrate Pagan Jr

Shades of George Lucas If you never read the story, he wrote star wars and realized it was too long so he cut it up into 3rds and add the different tie ins. The biggest advantage was that he was already on the inside and even though he had a lot of problems convincing the studios he still was 5 steps ahead being on the inside. But the advise Dan gave is spot on. They only worry about the here and now. Take your other stories and modifies them if the first doesn't work out

JC Young

Sorry but the George Lucas story about writing Star Wars is such a myth. It's so obvious that Lucas was constantly making changes to his story and concept as he went along. Don't try to write or sell a franchise of scripts. If you have a great story. Write it as novels or even graphic novels. Hell you got a better shot of getting a graphic made into a movie now than an original script.

Robert Sprawls

Yeah, I'm moving it to graphic novels. I do have other story ideas I'll put to script and pitch, but this one story must remain mine.

JC Young

I actually know someone who's script is now being produced after he went the graphic novel route. The Fifth Beatle by Vivek Tivary has gone gangbusters and even nominated for several comic awards. The project got picked up even before then. So it's very viable to turn your works into a graphic media to build momentum.

Robert Sprawls

Thank you JC. The GN route was suggested twice or three times, now a possible fourth. I'm doing research into the GN business and see if I need to go self-publish or if it's better to go with a house.

William T. Fanelli

You should know the ending in at least its most basic form prior to starting. I find the more in depth I know my ending the less I need to / try to procrastinate once I get to that point in the script.

James Chalker

Knowing the ending before you write is one of the many screenwriting maxims that are only valuable if they work for you. The important thing is to write.

David Wayne Smart

In the beginning, I may have an ending in mind, then again, my story develops more as my characters evolve. For my Sci-fi's, my endings are the beginnings of a new script.

Orianna Morales

Yes. Writing from the middle or the end makes sure that you are consistent in the problem solving, the fulfillment of the vision, etc. As you accumulate experience, you will train yourself to do the opposite and start backwards.

Steven Seidman

Like others have said you can plan it out or write it out. I personally like to know how it ends before start writing it. But I'm a "Cold" writer.

Ruby Zandra Waller

@KC, I can't begin writing until I know the ending so I can build the story and weave it line by line ascending the action to the climax and descending the action from the middle to the end wrapping the action up with lots of twists and turns that forecast the ending but doesn't expose all the surprises at once. If I don't know the ending I can't write the beginning which forecasts the entire theme with allegorical messages throughout. Knowing how I will end it balances out the beginning and the climax in the middle. The ending concludes the story by tying all the lose ends and surprises and twists and turns together to leave my audience satisfied. I need to know how to satisfy my audience with a super ending before I can start stroking them in the beginning. For example, if I'm going to end with chocolate cake, I will build my story around my love for chocolate cake.

Laurie Ashbourne

I typically have a general idea of what the feel of the ending will be but I let the writing happen organically to get the most emotion out of it. I know many writers who go in blind, especially if they are in development at the studio level. A director friend of mine used to compare story development to a sports game -- saying that the writers do their best work not knowing how it's going to end and likewise with audiences -- they'll stay more engaged if the end is not predictable.

Monserrate Pagan Jr

@Laurie "audiences -- they'll stay more engaged if the end is not predictable." this is what all writers strive for to keep the audience guessing and and interested enough to go home and say "You got to see this movie" to their friends and family

Laurie Ashbourne

@Monserrate, ideally yes -- but a lot of what gets put out there is predictable in how it will end.

William Martell

Yes. Part of that is that the beginning dictates the end... there is a problem introduced and the end will either be that problem solved or that problem purposely not solved (to make a point). I may not know all of the details of the ending, but I know the general idea.

Gavion E. Chandler

I usually have the general direction that my character is leaning or the discovery of the character, but I have several ideas for how it might or should end. But sometime the story just takes over. Gavion E. Chandler!~ 'Man is his own devil.'

Ann Burr

I always seem to know my ending before I have started

Tony McFadden

I know that this has been debated to death, but I'm going to quote from Syd Field's book "Screenplay": "Endings and beginning are essential to a well constructed screenplay. What's the best way to open your screenplay? KNOW YOUR ENDING." (caps are his) And if you haven't read his book yet, drop what you're doing and go get it. It's worth it.

Monserrate Pagan Jr

ok it is dead i hope

Evan Wilder

And that's why we invent outlines, folks.

Fay Devlin

To each their own: I prefer to outline, or at least know my beginning, end and major plot points -- as well as who my characters are.

Rob Mc

Depending on the scale of the story I like to outline. If there is a huge scale to the story then you have to understand your character far more, just to understand how theyll react to everything. But a smaller scale thing? I like to focus more on the ideas behind the story in the first place. Wow I went off topic! Endings I think, occur as the story is written - the story is like a jigsaw you have to find a place for the ending in. The more you write perhaps, the more the ending and how you get there will become clear.

York Davis

I agree with friend Fay. I'd much prefer to have a story outline with "working" ending to start. That way, it's easier to write each scene and justify it as heading toward an actual ending. That doesn't in my mind prohibit a change of endings along the writing path. If my original ending changes (and it has in one case!), then I just rewrote and fine-tuned for the new ending.

Beth Fox Heisinger

Isn't the whole point of a story the ending? :)

York Davis

I believe you're right Beth.

Monserrate Pagan Jr

Beth IMHO I don't believe the whole point of the story is the ending but the journey -

York Davis

Monserrate and Beth, that's why the ending can change on the journey. But I still believe it's good to have a goal in mind. No?

Beth Fox Heisinger

Yes, of course, story is also about the journey. But, all journeys come to an end, or rather, a conclusion. You still need to know where you are going in storytelling. :)

Monserrate Pagan Jr

Yes that is consistent with the persons writing style, but I believe all of us have a certain way of written which is different yet the basics are the same.

William Martell

The beginning of your story contains the seeds for the ending. So THE GODFATHER begins with the wedding of nice war hero Michael's sister, and he arrives with his girlfriend Kay who is an outsider. Michael explains his father's business to Kay and says he would never be a part of it. Meanwhile, his father is not with his biological family before the wedding, he is doing his Mafia family business in private. The end has Michael at the christening for his sister's baby, now the brutal head of the Corleone family... following in his father's footsteps! Afterwards, instead of celebration with his biological family, he shuts the door on Kay so that he can do business with his Mafia family. The beginning of your script already puts in place the ending of your script. You ask a dramatic question in the beginning and the ending illustrates the answer.

York Davis

Thanks William for your well-illustrated and precise answer.

William Martell

Except for accidentally making it sound like the sister's baby was the brutal head of the Corleone family... which is a totally different movie!

Stacey Stefano

While writing , I have the fore plan of how the story takes shape , but along the way , I do give creativity some spaces to alter it and make it more compelling .

York Davis

Thanks Stacy, that's the way I like to write too!

Stacey Stefano

Thanks so much York Davis

Doug Nelson

I have to generally know where I'm heading as I begin my voyage. I understand there will be many detours along the way.

Sylvia Marie Llewellyn

There's an expression that goes like this.... 'know before you go'.... that's not to say it won't change. But at least there's a roadmap of sorts. I used to write the beginning, middle, then end. Now I write Act III first, Act I next. Hopefully all the set ups in Act I are payed off in Act III. and then I tackle Act II... I split Act II in half Act II (A) and Act II (B) and write that. Nothing is set in stone of course... I find it easier to tackle my stories this way. Each writer has their own process. This one works for me.

David Dogman Harvey

Outlining is always best. I know my end first and how to introduce my characters. The middle is the hard part for me and as stated, the middle changes with unforeseen problems. That's why I wrote one backwards to make sure it's a needed scene that flows to the next. Still wrote too much.

York Davis

Interesting logic in the way you like to write Sylvia. That way, every facet of your story would fit into place. I think I'll try it with my next script.

Omar Chraibi

what if I tell you that I write the end first then the middle, I write backward, this is the best way I know that I don't miss anything

Monserrate Pagan Jr

This writing the end first is somewhat interesting to me. When you think about (question) isn't the ending something that we first think about? For example; we might go into a store on a last minute shopping trip and they award you with a gift certificate for $1000.00 dollars to use before you leave the store ? That in really I think is the ending, You get the merchandise and it is ended. So now you write the middle or first part how this all came about. That is a very simple example: how it would work in a much more complicated story (think like "Swordfish) I know I could not do it that way thanks for all the pointers david, york, omar will think more about this

Sylvia Marie Llewellyn

I hadn't realized when I posted on this thread today... that it started a YEAR AGO. That's okay. Some very good comments here with different perspectives. Thank you all.

Matthew Pigott

How can you know your ending before your beginning? That's like knowing how you're going to die before knowing how you were born. The past is a puzzle, the future a mystery. Why should this truism be any different in the context or a novel or script?

William Martell

I can know the ending because it isn't about me, it's about a character that I created... so I am God! ("When I pray to Him, I find I am talking to myself.") As the creator, I know everything that happens next. Everything. Plus, as a screenwriter, I have to turn in a complete treatment and often an outline before I start on the screenplay, the way a novelist often has to write 3 chapters and a complete outline for their publisher. The professional world of writing requires knowing the story before you write it.

Sylvia Marie Llewellyn

KNOW before you GO..... makes your life much easier. It's a roadmap of sorts. It's like... you're in L.A. and you want to get to NYC by car. you don't just get in your car and drive east thinking you'll eventually get there. Well you might.... but it'll take you a helluva lot longer.

Mark David Gerson

I NEVER outline and I never plot -- in my novels or in my screenplays. Nor do I use index cards or PostIt notes. Rather, I let the story and its ending be a journey of discovery. For me, that kind of journey is what creates the magic -- for me as writer and, ultimately, for the actors, director and audience. (BTW, it's that method and philosophy that I teach and that I write about in all my books for writers, including my book on screenwriting, "Organic Screenwriting: Writing for Film, Naturally.")

Narendra Simone

Akin to relationship picking up a life partner, stories pick me as a writer and i go along for the ride!

Deryn Warren

I am a script doctor and honestly I can tell when someone is not using an outline and it isn't pretty. Use an outline! If anyone needs a script doctor who has taken people to the Nicholls prize then check out under script doctoring.

LindaAnn Loschiavo

I agree with Deryn about using an outline. I always have the last scene and the last line in mind whenever I write.

Jason Gray

I write an outline that introduces the characters, the major plot points and a degree of exposition. I know the ending plot-wise (though it could change), but I don't know the ending story-wise, or emotionally, until I arrive at it with my fully fleshed out characters...

JC Hess

Know the ending and write back to the beginning. It works for me.

Deryn Warren

Unless you are successful screenwriters take Mark Sanderson's advice above. Have an outline. Know how to write an outline. You can't wing it. Structure is too important in screenplays and you won't be successful if you don't follow the rules. This is what Mark said: You should know the final scene and how the movie ends so you can chart every scene and storyline toward that end goal. Never wing it and do create a solid story treatment before you go to pages. It's good practice and experience for the time when you will be hired by a producer to write a movie on assignment. They will never let you go to pages without a workable story treatment with every story beat authorized and agreed to in the development process. Mark is correct. When I script doctor a newbie's script I often take out the first ten pages of lead up. No back story unless it is in the essential dialogue. No exposition at all. Don't give background on the characters in other words. We will get it if you are skilled. Start with an inciting incident. No chatting. Visual. Conflict. No sitting up in bed with a nightmare. Take out all extraneous dialogue. Use Final Draft or the equivalent. Make your script between 90-120 pages and nothing else. You better know the ending before you start! The professionals do.

Tony McFadden

Completely and unreservedly agree with Deryn.

William G Chandler Jr

I try to know how a story will end, initially, just so it moves correctly throughout.

Mark Ratering

If you are more film-maker than writer like me your outline is in your head.

Billy Dominick

I always construct an outline first but some things change during the writing process but the core stays the same.

Doug Nelson

Mark, I’m what you’d call a filmmaker. I write short scripts, I produce them and I direct them. At my age, if I don’t write it down, I can forget what I’m going to the kitchen for. As a writer, you need an outline – that’s how you know how & where your story is going. As a director you need an outline (called a shot list) to make sure you have an idea how you’re going to show the story. You need to generate a shot log that becomes the editor’s outline. As a producer, you need to have a plan (outline) about you’re going to pull it all together. If you ask me to produce your story and tell me it’s all in your head – I’ll slam the door in your face. I don’t mean to seem rude, but that’s just the way the real grown-up world works. Oh, I did read your resume - you know better than that.

Deryn Warren

If you want to be in the big leagues you follow the basic rules.

Doug Nelson

Deryn - correct, more-or-less. Rules can be bent from time to time but you need to know the basic rules before you start messing with 'em.

Lisa Clemens

I've been asked to show an outline before writing for someone. Outlines are sometimes part of the job!

Ruby Zandra Waller

First, I outline everything in my head. Then I outline it on paper so my mind doesn't forget all those wonderful ideas my head came up with to share with others.

NicKhil Chavan

What if an idea struck to your instinct but you can't write a story further because you don't know the ending. So, will you drop that million dollar idea? I am sure, I won't make that mistake. I will start Brainstorming & try to figure out the best ending suitable for my Million Dollar Idea Story.

Tony McFadden

A tweet triggered an idea in July 2013. It took almost 15 months for me to figure out how it would end. I wrote two other books in that timeframe and let the idea percolate.

Lisa Molusis

Yes, I know my ending before I start writing. And if you think about it the only difference in an outline is that you're using truncated phrases to establish the story-- fewer words and broader strokes. My outline doesn't get as detailed as others and the story does can diverge from the outline as new ideas form while writing. I've found that if you don't know where your story is going, it's harder to structure and avoid meandering into a tangent or back yourself into a hole. Outlines allow you to write efficiently and only what's necessary.

Doug Nelson

If you know not where you’re going, it’s unlikely that you’ll ever get there.

Phillip "Le Raconteur" Hardy

I like to have an outline with an ending in mind. However, we are the writers creating our stories, characters and worlds in which they live. Therefore, we are omnipotent. When someone offers to pay me for my work, then they are omnipotent.

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