The first time through Act II we went very fast. One day, thirty pages. You’ve got holes in this thing.
Excellent. That’s exactly what you need.
Notice that the act of progressing through the rewrite draft has answered some important questions for your character.
Now ask yourself this: What’s he going to get that he didn’t plan on getting that is far better than what he hoped to get?
He knows something now he didn’t know before. He’s got the golden fleece. Now, having gotten it, what does it get him? What surprise is awaiting your main character and your audience?
In Casablanca, Bogart has the letter of transit, he has Ingrid Bergman, he has his bag packed, and he has burned all his bridges. He’s leaving Casablanca. But he doesn’t leave with Elsa; he leaves with Louie, to go off and help the war effort.
THE CREATIVE ALTERNATIVE
Because of his renewed understanding of love (“We’ll always have Paris. We didn’t until you came to Casablanca.”). Bogart is no longer a man with a thwarted heart. He is alive again, and he goes off to have a life. Something we thought could only happen with Elsa. But it happens because of her. The ending surprises us, and we’re even satisfied by it!
So look now. Do you know your ending? Is it the same one you always had in mind? Is it predictable, inevitable? Are you satisfied?
If you think that your hero has two choices (he can either go or stay, get the girl or not get the girl), now is the time to let the creative alternative dawn on you. He will not get either one or the other, he will get something else entirely.
In Splash, Tom Hanks gets the girl but life is not how he thought it would be. He has to leave human life and live as a “merman.” It’s perfect. It solves all the problems he had adapting to her human behaviour. Now all he has to do is adapt to being not human himself.
WHAT IT TAKES TO CHANGE YOURSELF
We have spoken all the way through the rewrite about the change your character will go through. He is different in the end from what he was in the beginning. You have seen him go through all manner of obstacles to change. He has successfully surmounted the worst jeopardy you could think of.
We have sincerely worked to have him change. Inner Movie Axiom: People don’t change.
Look at people around you. Look at yourself. You have been through tremendous changes writing this script. Look at all that has changed for you, and yet you are just more yourself.
Inner Movie Axiom: People don’t change – they grow.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CHANGE AND GROWTH
Growth is what happens inside you. You discover a new way to understand circumstances, and in seeing them a new way, the circumstances are changed.
I bring this up because of the “Hollywood ending.”
THE HOLLYWOOD ENDING
If the character becomes someone else in the end, who wants what? John Wayne fights the war and wins. The war’s over. The end.
Can you picture him opening a hardware store in Kansas? No, this character is a war guy. He’s going to go find another war. Let’s say there’s no war anywhere. Things change. He’s got to open a hardware store. Twelve years later, somebody’s going to come in and make trouble in the hardware store, and the Duke is going to be fighting and winning.
Circumstances change, behaviour can change; he’s still our everloving, rough-and-tumble Duke.
If you accept yourself, then you’ve got a chance at changing behaviour, circumstances, attitudes, self-esteem, everything.
Inner Movie Axiom: We fear change because we think it’s going to change us.
Change doesn’t destroy the person you are. Let your hero grow. Don’t suddenly have a gambler stop gambling and become a family man in the last scene when he tried and couldn’t change during all of Act II. Have him do it now, because he’s grown and he’s really ready to change. Let us believe it’s going to work. Let your hero have an ending that is true to who he is and who he has become.
Go now, give your hero his best possible ending. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~
©Andrea Nicola Dodgson, 1971.