by Michael Chasin
Life, unfortunately, doesn’t always turn out as it should.
Sometimes people meant to be together—are not.
Sometimes bad things—happen to good people.
Sometimes justice—does not prevail.
So we seek diversion. We seek entertainment.
We seek stories that feel like real life, with all its obstacles, set-backs, and tragedies, but unlike real life, stories that end—as we want them to.
So, after identifying with a hero, who suffers the same indignities as we do, and then worse, it is deeply and fully satisfying to watch that hero—triumph.
And that is why people go the movies—to feel better—to be uplifted—to experience—a happy ending.
As a screenwriter, it is vital that this is recognized—and served—even affecting an otherwise unhappy ending.
In Rocky, after training so hard, Rocky loses the championship fight.
But the film ends, with Rocky winning—Adrian’s love.
In Edge of Darkness, an evil corporation murders Mel Gibson’s daughter—poisons him and gets away with it—as Gibson dies in intensive care.
But the film ends, with Gibson in afterlife rising from his death bed and reuniting with his daughter as they walk arm-in-arm down the hospital corridor.
In American Beauty, hero Kevin Spacey is murdered.
But the film ends on Spacey’s narration, I can’t feel anything but gratitude…for every single moment of my stupid little life. You have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m sure…but don’t worry, you will, someday.
As a screenwriter, it is your job to give the audience a satisfying ending.
As a storyteller, it is your privilege to give your audience happiness and hope.