I love sports movies. They’re so simply constructed – a down-and-out team (for some reason – they’ve lost their coach, or their team is divided, or their star players are taken out, or they’ve been named the underdogs), faces unbeatable odds (usually the reigning champions), fights through their fears and doubts, and in the last play, triumphs in some amazing way.
If you’re a Patriots fan, you’re pumping your fist right now. Sorry, Seahawks friends. But, this year we had a fantastic super bowl.
Last year, not so much. I’m not going to dig up old wounds, but the lights going out ended up being the most exciting part of the game. Why? Because. . .we had no triumphant ending. No white-knuckle, breath-holding, I didn’t-see-that-coming finish.
No Hurrah Ending
The Hurrah Ending is what we’re waiting for in a great sporting event…and in a great story. We trek through every chapter, suffering with the character, waiting for the finish that will make it all worthwhile.
And when we don’t get it, we walk away, unsatisfied.
I watched Unbroken this weekend. It’s the epic, unbelievable story of survival by Louis Zamperini in World War two, through plane crash, being lost at sea, then two years in a Japanese prison camp. I loved the book. I devoured it because the unbelievable events kept me at the edge of my seat. I suffered with Louis Zamperini with each turn of the page.
And when he returned home, despite the name of the movie. . .he was broken. Yes, he survived, but, to be expected, he took the war home with him and it began to haunt him.
And, although relieved he’d survived, I felt as broken as he did. He had lived. . .but he hadn’t triumphed.
Until. . .until the last twenty pages when suddenly everything changed. Desperate, suffering from serious PTSD, and on the brink of losing everything, Louis gave into his wife’s request to attend a Billy Graham crusade.
And, that night, when he went forward to receive and give forgiveness, he went from wounded to whole. From survivor to significant.
The war was over.
Knowing this, I watched the movie, waiting for the triumph. But the movie ended with Louis returning home to his family. As if his survival was enough. Granted, that’s astoundingly inspirational. But it’s not enough to survive on the outside. To simply return home. We needed triumph over the darkness inside.
Thankfully, there is more to the Louis Zamperini story than what we got in the movie. The book tells us how he overcame on the inside – how he returned to Japan and forgave his captors, his abusers.
They left that out of the movie, telling it in the epilogue lines.
The huzzah ending became a footnote.
Imagine with me, the power of the story if they told the last twenty pages. What if they showed his drinking, his anger, his nightmares. Showed his BLACK MOMENT. . .his greatest fear, that the words of his brother, Pete (if you can take it, you can make it), weren’t true. That after surviving such atrocities he DIDN’T make it, but rather let it destroy what was left of his life? What if, in that moment, he believed the lie (said in the beginning of the movie) that he was nothing?
Then, what if they showed him crawling to the altar, clinging to God, realizing that God was in his suffering, and has a purpose for his life. What if they then showed his life transformed? What if the final shot was not in the footnotes, but in the body of the movie when he returns to Japan, sees the guards who hurt him, has a moment of flashback where he remembers the beatings, then reaches out to embrace them?
That’s a movie that is added to our “must-see-every-year” list. As it is, we enjoyed the DVD extra documentary, “the Real Louis Zamperini” more than the movie because it gave us the hurrah ending we’d waited for.
Great filmmaking. Moving. But if you want to create a powerful story, we need the hurrah ending to make us rise off the sofa and cheer.
Let’s take it apart just a bit here. The Hurrah Ending consists of 5 parts:
Black Moment Event (the realization of your character’s Greatest Fear)
Black Moment EFFECT (the inner black moment, the sense that the lie feels real.)
Epiphany (The Truth that sets him free)
Overhaul/New Man (he steps into his destiny and becomes a new person)
Final Battle (the thing (action) he can do at the end that he can’t at the beginning)
Does your book have a Hurrah Ending? If not, then it’s not finished.
Go ahead, fix it. We’ll just sit here waiting for that last, epic play of the game.
Go! Write something Brilliant!