Wednesday, January 06, 2010

The End

My ending is driving me nuts. I've written and rewritten Burnside about three times now, but I still don't have the last 5-8 pages.

I thought I knew. With every single project I've ever started, two scenes are completely clear in my head: the opening scene and the closing scene. I rarely change a word of either once I've written them.

This time I knew exactly what my opening scene was to be. It's sort of an homage to the rooftop chase scene in Crouching Tiger, where my character bounces off walls and causes damage in the middle of the night, and that has remained as is from day one.

But that damned ending.

This is the first time I started a project without 100% certainty about the ending. I knew someone had to die because someone always has to die in those films, but I didn't know who. Then I realized my male lead was just like a real person who lived in the era and place where I have set my story, so I made him into my lead. That means my female lead has to die.

But then I couldn't do it. I mean, I did it, but it was terrible. I knew something wasn't right and I knew I needed help. My first set of notes said the death didn't work and it needed a happy ending. I rejected that notion. No happy endings here. Crouching Tiger didn't have a happy ending. Hero didn't. House of Flying Daggers didn't. I can't give my lovers a happy ending; that would be ridiculous. A new ending, sure, but not happy.

But then I went to rewrite the ending and after I deleted it I just sat there. I started thinking too much. Maybe I should have a happy ending. What if they both live? Wait, am I only thinking that because it's the note I got, or is that truly a better idea? Will I be selling out my story if I don't kill my protagonist? Am I losing my edge? Is this the end? Should I move back to Fuquay-Varina?

I got a second set of notes, but this time, instead of writing an ending I wrote three alternate scenarios and asked the note-giver to help me choose. He agreed with the first guy that I shouldn't kill my protagonist. Okay, so maybe letting them both live is okay. This is an American version of those martial arts films, after all; maybe the American way is to live. But does that mean they should live? Do we really need these shiny, happy stories? Can't we have a good tragedy anymore? But should this be a tragedy? It can be bitter sweet, after all. They can live but not be together. Maybe she lives but she's blind now or something. Chinese people dig the blind. Dammit, I don't know.

I don't believe in writer's block, dammit. This is a setback, a minor setback. I will figure this out and then it will be glorious and I will not go back to Fuquay-Varina I will conquer Hollywood.

As soon as I figure out what happens next.


  1. I kill all of my characters in the outline. I don't actually touch the script unitl the outline goes from beginning to end smoothly.

    Remember, YOU CAN'T BE WRONG, only different.

    If you think she should die, wack the bitch :-)

    Maybe have her killed saving him. It could be one of those no one notices it was a death blow things. And then the other protag tries to rouse her and it comes out.

  2. Terry Rossio makes big bucks. But he has about as much artistic integrity as Michael Bay.

  3. Bottom line - you've got to make a decision, as in NOW - and then stick with it.

    I once got stuck on a scene that took me SEVENTEEN MONTHS to complete due to my uncertainty.

    Don't go down that path. Decide what YOU like best, then decide what the enigmatic THEY might like best...then choose.

  4. BTW - was glad to read that Terry Rosio quote on Harry's post. I've noticed the town likes it's scripts to be darker, more violent and more sexist than the films that will most likely be made from them. It's a strange (and, let's face it) disturbing contradiction.

  5. oh yeah, you can also make it seem like she gets killed. And as the guy is bawling his eyes out she stirs awake.
    Turns out the flask she took from him and put in her pocket blocked the bullet or deflected the death blow.

    Or like I said, just wack her.

  6. I shall ponder everyone's words. I hope to have an ending by Sunday.

  7. Crouching Tiger, Hero, and House of Flying Daggers are all Chinese.

    Americans like a happy ending, and more so when the economy is crap. We go to the movies to forget about what crap our lives may be for a couple hours. Seeing a protagonist in a story ending up bad off, unless it's a world-changing sacrifice, tends to lower their overall appeal for me.

    You might want to try some of the Shaw Brothers films or some of the other early chinese films. Not everyone dies ... at least not all the time.


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