Foreshadowing the Ending With the Beginning

One way to outline a story is to focus on the beginning and ending scene because these two scenes represent bookends. The beginning scene foreshadows the ending.

In “Star Wars,” the opening scene shows Darth Vader attacking Princess Leia’s starship. Then the ending scene shows the Death Star attacking the rebel base where Princess Leia is at.

In “Fury,” the story is about a World War II tank crew fighting their way through Germany. The opening scene shows the tank disabled while a German officer rides up to the tank on horseback. Then the tank commander ambushes and kills the German officer.

Not surprisingly (SPOILER ALERT), the ending of “Fury” is a bigger version of the beginning, like “Star Wars.” The ending of “Fury” shows the disabled tank fighting an entire German army by itself.

So one way the opening and ending scenes mirror each other is for the opening scene to represent a smaller version of the ending. In “Ghostbusters,” the opening scene shows a librarian terrified when she sees a ghost. Then the ending shows the Ghostbusters battling a supernatural entity that appears as a giant marshmallow man, which is simply a bigger version of the opening scene.

What happens if your opening scene doesn’t mirror the ending scene? Then you wind up with an unsatisfactory story because the ending doesn’t fulfill the promise of the beginning. In “Inglorious Basterds,” the opening scene shows a Nazi officer hunting for Jews on a French farm. He manages to kill all the Jews except for one woman who manages to escape.

That ending foreshadows a bigger battle between the Nazi officer and the French woman who managed to survive and escape. Yet that’s not what happens in the end. As a result, “Inglorious Basterds” feels like an unbalanced story where the beginning and opening scenes don’t fit in the same story.

In your own screenplay, take time to define the opening and ending scenes to make sure they match. Just doing this simple step can make it easier to define the rest of your story.

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