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This week's question

What about that last page, Doug? I have trouble with that winding up moment, the last beat. Nobody seems to talk about that much. Do you have any advice on it?

George Weatherby


This week's Answer: 

Completing the Completing

Ah, the last page. The last hurrah. The denouement final moment. The last image or the last dialogue. I've often spent a disproportionate amount of time on that last moment. We want our screenplay tied up just right with the perfect bow. Maybe we're looking for the last satisfying "ah" or at least "the viewer/reader thinking, I'm glad I stayed all the way to the end even though I wasn't always sure that I would" moment. 

Often this moment is a "feel good" beat. The hero has overcome, won, beaten the odds, risked it all and is coming up golden (albeit often somewhat tarnished). Many times he/she's with a love interest that is now more interested in him/her, or an ally who is more allied with him/her. It's a "they lived happily ever after if you're a fool to believe that" point in script time. Often, in the horror genre, it's a "I know you thought it was over, but it really isn't because the screenwriter wants to make another sale so there's going to be a sequel that most likely won't be as good" moment.

It can be a final twist, the last discovery that, even though we were hoping everything was going to turn out perfectly fine, something is still rotten in the state of Denmark (reference: Shakespeare's "Hamlet" or the actual yearly Denmark report). 

It's usually a time of reward for the hero. He or she has given his/her all and has been transformed in some way and deserves at least some ice cream or something sweet after all that bitter turmoil and gallant confronting self and sacrificing it all to face his/her greatest enemy, which is ultimately self. 

It's a time for the viewer/reader to breathe a little more deeply after going through an emotionally cathartic passage. We're now in a new place where the horizon looks different -- and the hero is often heading towards it with a love interest or ally -- and our systems have been cleansed and we want to go along for the last ride and feel the wind in our hair and believe we're in a better, regenerated world.

Unless Jason or Michael Myers is still on the loose.

Doug Herman

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