Every screenplay needs a resolution. No matter the format, the resolution is a crucial story element that completes the screenplay. But what is the resolution in a screenplay and how can you ensure that your screenplay has one? In this article, we are breaking down resolutions and discussing three core elements for effective resolutions.
WHAT IS A RESOLUTION?
The resolution is the moment after the climax and resolves the main story (or A story) in this world, even if there are more stories to be told. Not everything has to be resolved but it is imperative that the main story is resolved and we either see the solution to the protagonist's problem or their new normal.
Having an effective resolution doesn't mean that everything has to be tied up neatly with a bow. There can still be more story to be told, but whether the character reaches their goal needs to be clear and resolved and poses the question of what will the protagonist's life look like now. Let's take a look at three elements that all screenplay resolutions need to ensure that your screenplay has an effective ending.
3 TIPS TO WRITE AN EFFECTIVE RESOLUTION
1. Make sure that the protagonist’s goal is clear. The goal should be clear before we are out of Act I. It is important to know the goal so that when we reach the resolution, we know exactly what we are resolving. If we don’t see the protagonist trying to reach a goal through the screenplay then the resolution will not feel earned. To learn more about how to set effective goals for your protagonist check out our All About Goals article.
2. The protagonist needs to reach their internal need, even if they don’t reach their external goal. Not all goals need to be reached, but the internal goal does need to be met to ensure the protagonist has a strong emotional arc. The protagonist doesn’t necessarily have to win the battle and live happily ever after, but they do need to have a clear transformation from where they started to where they end. Their journey must change them to make the adventure and resolution worthwhile.
3. All set ups should be paid off. Everything in a screenplay matters. If something was set up, foreshadowed, or brought to our attention in the previous acts, it all needs to be resolved by or in the resolution. Leave no stone unturned. Otherwise, your reader will have more questions than answers and the resolution will be unclear.
THE LITTLE MERMAID
Let’s take a look at Disney’s remake of The Little Mermaid which hit theatres a few weeks ago. #SpoilerAlert.
Ariel has several goals throughout the film which we are able to easily track so that the resolution feels earned. First, her goal is to be in the world with humans. Her second goal is to get kissed by Prince Eric so that she can regain her voice, keep her legs, and fall in love. Her last goal is to defeat Ursula and avenge her Father. Ariel’s internal need is to explore the human world. The obstacle that stands in her way is her Father who is fearful of humans because they killed his wife. In the resolution, both her internal need and external goals have been met. She receives her Father’s approval to be in the human world and is granted legs. She marries Prince Eric, who also has a curiosity about the world, and the two set out to explore the world together. There are no set ups that haven’t been paid off. The main story is concluded and Ariel gets her happily ever after.
Watching movies is great but as a screenwriter, reading screenplays is even better. Want to read more screenplays? Be sure to check out our Screenplay Vault where we have dozens of screenplays available to read for free.
IT ALL STARTS WITH THE OUTLINE
If your prior story elements are not clear, then neither will your resolution be. A screenplay builds upon itself, so if your Act I doesn’t establish a goal and we have nothing to track in Act II, then your resolution won’t land. Making sure your screenplay has all of the necessary story elements happens in the outlining phase. Looking to up your outlining game? Then be sure to check out our Outlining Workbook Packages for features or television, the ultimate guide for setting up your screenplay!