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How I Wrote a Screenplay in 30 Days: Part 8


Act Three

Download a copy of the screenplay, A Girl Named Trouble.

Before I started writing the screenplay “A Girl Named Trouble,” I knew the ending. But I wasn’t crystal-clear on how the big shootout was going to go down. In the end, I wrote it about 10 different ways.

A Killer Ending

In one version, Bernie kills almost everyone before Roman arrives. In another Roman shows up after the shootout. In another Roman and Bernie enter together. In a stranger version, I had a drinking contest between Trouble, Cane and Calix. An even stranger version had Pete get shot in the face by Cane and lose an eye, setting off a chain-reaction gunfight in which Pete kills Cane.

I found the most satisfying scenario was Bernie approaching the bar but the reader believing it’s Roman. I felt like Roman needed an edge to make the mathematics of the initial shootout believable. His rage over the death of Trouble makes the exchange with Kong realistic.

Dante Becomes Important

And thus ends Roman’s story to Dante. Up until this point the reader doesn’t feel much for Dante one way or another. He’s a thin foil for Roman. But now Dante becomes a much bigger part of the movie. Getting the rest of his money from Pete is why Roman brings Dante to the bar. There was no other choice; everyone else is dead.

Revising the False Ending

There was always going to be a false ending – something to tie up after the big shootout. In an earlier version, Roman bumps off his embezzling business partner, Dante. But to simply shoot Dante wasn’t very satisfying, so Roman concocted a story to let him know he screwed with the wrong man. The “running out of gas,” the walk, the story and pointing a gun at him was all part of Roman’s plan to terrify Dante before he kills him. Of course, Pete was a witness to the massacre, so he was obviously going to be killed by Roman.

Roman didn’t even shoot anyone (even though he tried) up until the big shootout at the bar. In the original ending, I had Roman shooting at the camera at the end of the movie, to make him more threatening to the audience. Very violent stuff – and a bit of a tangent that wanders off at the end of the movie. So keeping the money in play was definitely the way to go.

The Ending, Version Two

In the ending I eventually chose, we continue to chase the money. Dante remains a simple foil for Roman. Pete revealing there was never a girl makes Roman more sinister. So I was still able to move his arc into a darker and darker place. Roman starts the story as a liar and remains one throughout. And toying with Pete in the final scene allows Roman to use the first line ever spoken by Trouble, “You never saw me.”

After almost three weeks of nonstop writing, I started the hardest part. Next week, the rewrites.


Start the series from the beginning.

Mike Johnston is a production executive and advertising creative in Seattle. He is available for consulting, writing and directing. Contact Mike.