Pixar Rules of Story #7 – Start with your Ending

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Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.

Linked to Rule #3: Your theme will out, Rule #7 recommends identifying your story’s ending first, perhaps before you have written the rest of it. This is not to say that you shouldn’t have thoughts about opening scenes or great scenes for ACTII but that, when you start to flesh out and prep your story, it can be immensely helpful to begin with the ending. This can make it easier for you to develop and plan the rest of the story because you will know where you, your theme and your characters are headed; all roads lead to the finale!

It may sound counterintuitive to work this way, but I do believe it can provide an advantage.

For my very first screenplay, I had what I thought was a great idea for what would be the “inciting incident” in a western. I had it all, Cowboys, a bank robbery and a female protagonist… what could possibly go wrong?

Well, it wasn’t a disaster, but it took a long time to get to the ending, because I hadn’t quite figured out where the characters were going – I was making it up as I went along. Working that way just led to a flat and “generic” ending that didn’t do the rest of the story justice, play to the story’s themes or to the protagonist’s arc. What started with a powerful, proactive female protag, ended with her being saved by her lover – yeah, I can hear the yawns from here – but it was my first go, I’ve learned a lot since then… I hope. I may well go back and figure it out one day, but getting to that point was a lot harder than it was in my next script, where I had a clearer idea of my ending before I started full prep and writing.

The ending can change as you write and re-write, as the rest of the story might, so you can still be flexible and serve the story – you don’t have to use the first ending you come up with, you have to allow the story to develop, don’t be scared of it.

Of course, some people do work better if they just start writing and see where they end up. And that is fine; everyone needs to find their own way of working, we are all different. But if you do find working out your plotlines a struggle, why not try coming up your ending first and see if that helps?

In short: understand the ending to understand the beginning and everything in between. That way, you may find it easier to tell your story.

Do you figure out your endings first?

Does it make writing easier for you?

Feel free to comment below and remember to come back next week for Rule #8 – Knowing when you are finished!

Please also check out the Introduction to the series if you missed that!

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Posted on April 22, 2015, in Structure, theme, Writing, Writing Rules and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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