If you’ve had a chance to read any of my other screenwriting articles regarding the creation of a story, then you’ve likely noticed a theme. Many of my personally developed screenwriting techniques revolve around creating a sense of suspended belief within the writer. While screenwriters strive to create a safe-space for audiences to enter this mindset, they must themselves enter into this mindset. Within the realm of this screenwriting topic, screenwriters must write with the idea of casting doubt on how the script ends, until the actual ending.
Part of creating suspense within your screenplay is never giving the audience a chance to guess the ending. Casting doubt upon script endings is a sure-fire way to maintain attention and suspense.
Provide Hints for the Wrong Ending
My personal favorite films are those that hint at how the story will end; however, at the last minute, the story takes a sharp turn and the ending comes out of left-field. Screenwriters must be careful when utilizing this technique as spending too much time cultivating a certain outcome only to have the opposite happen can upset audiences. The reason? They’ve spent the previous hour-and-a-half investing their emotions and thoughts into a particular ending and when this isn’t satisfied they can sometimes feel betrayed by the screenwriter.
Therefore, it’s essential that you only hint at a particular ending. This way the audience has room to guess what may happen by using clues you provide; however, since these clues are not set in stone, they will not become too invested in how the script ends.
Strive for Mystery
As I’ve written many times before, the ideal screenplay is one that is filled with mystery. This is true for all script genre’s, not just mysteries or thrillers. The primary reason why I really hit on the importance of hinting at a particular outcome is because you never want to spoon feed your audience, especially when you’re feeding information that does not lead to how the story actually ends.
Combine Expectations with Reality
Throughout my years of professional training, I’ve noticed that the most successful screenplays are those that combine both false expectations regarding how the movie ends with the actual reality of the film ending. By doing so you prevent audiences from feeling betrayed while maintaining a sense of mystery and suspense. Being unpredictable in your screenwriting is the most effective way of writing scripts that sell.