The Third Act: Writing a Great Ending to Your Screenplay / Edition 1

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A film's ending is crucial. It is the last thing an audience sees, and often the last thing it remembers, before leaving the theater. Indeed, it is no stretch to suggest that, more than any other part of the film, the ending determines whether the audience likes a film or not.

By extension, the ending of a script is probably the last thing the reader will remember when they put it down An otherwise great script will likely be passed on if it does not end well.

The Third Act is the first screenwriting instructional book to focus entirely on that most important part of a script - the ending. Like the three-act paradigm for the entire screenplay, The Third Act offers a unique structure for the writer to follow when writing the last act of their script. No other screenwriting book offers this simple structural approach to endings in a three-act story. Additionally, The Third Act provides suggestions as to which type of ending writers should consider for their particular story.

The book features detailed examinations of the endings of many memorable films, including Rocky, Rain Man; Good Will Hunting, Saving Private Ryan, Casablanca, The Breakfast Club, Se7en, Lost in Translation, and Gladiator. A checklist is provided at the end of each chapter, giving the reader some suggestions to apply in their writing based on the structural element being explored in that chapter. A longer and more comprehensive list of suggestions appears in an appendix.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780826418784
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic
  • Publication date: 9/1/2006
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 190
  • Sales rank: 979,929
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Drew Yanno is Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Fine Arts Department at Boston College in the USA, where he teaches courses on screenwriting.

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Table of Contents


1. Three Act Structure

2. The First Act - Third Act Connection

3. The Structure of the Third Act

4. Set-up of the Final Battle

5. The Final Battle

6. The Outcome of the Final Battle

7. The Denouement

8. The Bridge

9. Endings

10. The Three H's: Hollywood, Happy, and Hopeful

11. Something Better

12. Some Endings that Didn't Work

13. Controversial Endings

14. Endings Outside of Three Act Structure


Appendix A: Thirty Questions

Appendix B: Additional Resources

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 18, 2006

    Smart and Friendly Critique of Screenwriting Structure!

    Thank god someone has finally written an intelligent and helpful book on 3rd Acts!! Having earned my MFA in Screenwriting from USC and working full time in development, I have read hundred of scripts. I can say for a fact that even the best writers can meet their downfall in the crucial third act (see Cameron Crowe¿s Elizabethtown). I have seen many good scripts crash and burn at page 80 ¿ the start of the 3rd act. Usually the writer has no idea how to resolve their plotlines, and winds up taking shots in the dark. The truly amazing scripts have killer third acts ¿ every moment of the previous scenes as been building to this. The mediocre scripts have satisfying, yet never surprising, third acts. And truly horrible scripts? Well, those writers never considered their third act while writing the first act. Yanno walks the reader (and screenwriter) through the key types of scenes often seen and usually required in successful 3rd acts. He breaks down the mechanisms of the 3rd act, and of scripts in general, without losing the purpose of writing ¿ to tell a story that evokes emotion. During his numerous examples, Yanno does not discriminate with his taste in films. He discusses a wide range of movies: classics, modern releases, art house flicks, and even popcorn blockbusters. Most screenwriting books focus on the author¿s one or two favorite examples, Yanno uses almost 20! Although I read The 3rd Act as a screenwriting guide, it works equally as a critical discussion of story structure ¿ and therefore would be a tremendous value to writers and film theorists alike. I really hope this is the first in a series by Drew Yanno. His thorough and friendly examination of other areas of screenwriting in definitely needed.

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