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Script Tip: How To Make Your Third Act Fresher and Better

Marilyn Horowitz suggests the key to writing the new third act is seeing how the world is changing at any point in time and writing stories that show us how to live better.

If the ending of every story has already been told how do you make yours original? An ending is either happy or sad – it’s your point of view and beliefs that create something new.

In order to be original, we writers must have an understanding that the world is constantly going through change and it affects the way people live. The key to writing the new Act III is seeing how the world is changing at any point in time and writing stories that show us how to live better. In recent years, many people have lost their jobs and lost money on investments and – as a result – are being forced to re-examine their core values and reinvent themselves. The ending that was expected in real life is no longer there, so the new Act III must offer both fresh possibilities and the hope that it’s never too late for us to have an exciting future.

third act

Successful new movie plots echo our everyday experiences as well as providing an escape. So a story like Up, in which an old man gets to be an action hero after his wife dies, is a perfect example of the kind of film that offers confirmation of the hope that we can reinvent ourselves and have a new adventure at any point in our lives. Another film that demonstrates this is, Easy Virtue, a comedy in which an older woman finds love with a younger man. The younger man’s father is in an awful marriage, and in the end falls in love with his son’s bride. This turns out to be a good thing. The message of the film is that it’s never too late to find true love and to live a new life.

The world around you must be considered when designing the plot because people go to see movies that not only help them escape, but that allow them to better understand their life experiences and how to deal with them, offering ideas to broaden the viewers’ horizons.

To find a better ending, do the following exercise:

For our example, we will use the film, TheGodfather I, which is a film that uses the old ending.

Step 1: Briefly describe the ending you currently have for your screenplay. For example, if your film were The Godfather, you might write: Michael Corleone takes over the family business.

Step 2: Next describe an opposite ending for your screenplay. For example, what if in The Godfather, Michael never went to the hospital after his father was shot, so he doesn’t save his dad and instead lives happily ever after with his wife, Kay.

Step 3: Now Briefly describe the wildest, most unlikely ending. For example, if your film were The Godfather, what if Michael Corleone’s wife had lived and he’d stayed in Sicily and bought a vineyard?

This last example shows how you could take an old ending and turn it into a new one. In this alternate ending for The Godfather, Michael chooses a new adventure and reinvents himself. Now, ask yourself how could your main character do this in your screenplay? In light of the current world situation, your characters, like your audience, must find new paths and new ways of prospering. Good movies can inspire us to get past our own old boundaries and try harder to live our dreams. Looking for a new ending for your story will allow you to gain insight into your own experiences and discover a new perspective in how to live your own life, and give you a better shot at getting your movie made.

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