Flawed Beginning and Endings Will Kill Your Story

The two most crucial parts of your screenplay is the beginning and the end. The beginning must grab our attention right away and the end must satisfy the initial question posed in the beginning. That means the beginning and end must work together to tell a complete story.

Watch a popular movie like “The Matrix” a second time and you’ll notice the beginning immediately sets up the ending. Two characters are talking (Trinity and Cypher) where Trinity hints that they’re watching Neo (the hero) and Cypher mentions that she seems to like watching him, which foreshadows the ending where she’ll kiss him to bring him back to life.

Cypher also wants to know why Trinity took his shift, which also foreshadows Cypher’s eventual betrayal. Then the action starts where Trinity wipes out a bunch of policemen and escapes with the villain chasing her by making incredible leaps across skyscraper buildings.

With the subtle foreshadowing in the dialogue and action, “The Matrix” introduces the goal of the villain and hero even if we’re not clear exactly what those goals are. By dropping us into the story as it’s happening, we get swept up in the intrigue right away.

That’s what a good story beginning must do: introduce the conflict and the goals so we know where the story is going.

What a bad story does is drag on without giving a single clue what the problem might be. If we don’t know what the problem and conflict is in the story, we have no reason to pay attention.

In “Don’t Worry Darling,” the story introduces the hero laughing and kissing her husband at a party. No hint of a problem, conflict, or goal of any kind. Then the hero’s husband shows her how to drive in the desert and again the hero and her husband are laughing and having a great time. No conflict, no hint of any trouble or what the story is about.

Then the hero watches her husband, and all the other men in the community, head off to work while the wives stay behind. Once more, no conflict, no hint of a problem, which means we still have no idea what the story is about.

The beginning continues hiding the conflict and goal of the story as the hero is in a dance class when the wife of the community leader arrives. Once again, no hint of conflict, no idea what the story is about. “Don’t Worry Darling” is a great example of a poor beginning because we have no idea what’s happening or why we should care.

In the beginning of “The Matrix,” we know lots of mysterious things have been happening and the police seem to be looking for computer hackers who have incredible physical skills. In the beginning of “Don’t Worry Darling,” we know nothing about the story. All we’re getting is pure exposition about the characters and the setting, but we have no idea what’s going on for well over ten minutes.

“The Matrix” grabs our attention and starts the story off within seconds. “Don’t Worry Darling” takes over ten minutes to get going. That’s a clear recipe for failure.

Endings are just as important. In a movie called “I Don’t Feel At Home in This World Anymore,” aa woman has her home burglarized by a young man who steals her computer and her mother’s silverware set while wrecking her home.

As she starts tracking down her possessions, she learns the identity of this young man, who then learns that she’s tracking him. So far, so good.

Then the hero gets this young man killed by slashing him in the throat, causing him to run outside and get hit by a bus. Then Act III begins with another half hour to go in the story.


“I Don’t Feel At Home in This World Anymore” introduces a scary villain who threatens the hero, and then kills him off. Now the hero has to fight against this villain’s friends, who we barely even know.

Essentially this movie promised us a fight between one villain and then killed him off to replace him with two more villains who we don’t know very well. So the big climax occurs between the hero and two villains who never threatened the hero before. That’s a recipe for a poor ending.

When writing a screenplay, take care to craft your beginning and end carefully. The beginning should throw us in the story right away. The end should deliver on the promise that the rest of the story introduced by having the hero fight the villain in the end. Anything else simply will not work.

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