Every screenplay must have a great ending that makes the rest of the story worth watching. To make sure your ending will meet all expectations, you need to follow the three I’s: make your goal inevitable, impending, and immense.
Making the Goal Inevitable, Impending, and Immense.
The climax of your story should always be inevitable, impending, and immense. By inevitable, that means every step of your story should be pointing to the climax where the hero and villain must meet face to face to do battle. The climax is what we’ve all been waiting for.
Here’s one way to plan your climax. First eliminate Act II and focus on Act I and Act III. Start out with who your hero is and what does your hero want. Next, decide how your hero is going to get what he or she wants by defeating the one person who is standing in the way.
By thinking of your story in a condensed fashion, just by focusing on Act I and Act III, you can define what your climax is all about. Without an inevitable climax, your story will just flail in random directions. Every part of your story must lead to the inevitable battle between the hero and the villain.
Impending means that your climax has to occur right now, not five weeks later. The hero must take action now and defeat the villain now. This forces the hero to act under a deadline.
What happens if there is no deadline? Then there’s no suspense. If Luke could have waited another year or two before battling the Death Star in “Star Wars”, where would the suspense be in that? If Bruce Willis could have waited another few days before tackling the terrorists in “Die Hard”, there’s no sense of impending clash.
A climax must be inevitable and impending. The climax rushes at the hero like a speeding train, forcing the hero to act now. Failure to act now means certain defeat. That’s how impending your climactic goal must be.
Most importantly make your climax immense. What happens if the hero loses? This must be a catastrophic, life-changing event.
In movies like “Independence Day” failure to defeat the aliens means that human beings are doomed to extinction. In “Finding Nemo,” failure to rescue Nemo means he could die. In “The Hunt for Red October,” failure to find the submarine in time could mean the loss of a priceless enemy war vessel. Something immense always has to happen in your climax.
Your climax doesn’t need to be immense in the sense of explosions or saving the world like in “Terminator.” Sometimes saving the world can be a simple life. In romance comedies like “BedTime Stories” or “When Harry Met Sally,” the risk of failure is that two people will never find love.
In “Pretty Woman,” the risk of failure is that Richard Gere will remain unhappy and Julia Roberts will be condemned to a life of prostitution. Those aren’t life-changing, planetary events in the same sense as “Terminator” or “Independence Day,” but they are certain life-changing events to the individuals involved.
Before plotting your story, focus on your end first and begin with the end in mind. Is your goal inevitable? Impending? If not, your climax may not be strong enough to give your audience a satisfactory ending, and that will just weaken your screenplay as a result. If your goal is inevitable, impending, and immense, then your chances of creating a great screenplay increases exponentially.