Your hero usually starts off as a nobody and winds up as someone special in the end. You can see this transition from zero to hero in most Disney animated films. In “Tangled,” the hero starts off thinking she’s just an ordinary girl stuck in a tower. Only later does she learn that she’s actually a princess. In “Frozen,” the hero is already a princess but is looking for a prince to make her life better. Only later does she realize she can make her own life better. In “The Princess and the Frog,” the hero is a a poor girl but later falls in love with a real prince.
This transition from zero to hero is crucial because the hero needs to feel downtrodden in the beginning to make him or her sympathetic, then in the end the hero needs to be triumphant and it’s hard to be triumphant if you’re still a nobody or just another ordinary person.
In “Star Wars,” the hero goes from a farm boy to a hero who has won the admiration of a princess while saving the galaxy. Even in “The Karate Kid,” the hero goes from a kid beaten and alienated in a strange neighborhood to the hero of a karate tournament.
Look at movies that fail to make the hero triumphant in the end. “La Femme Nikita” is about a woman criminal turned into a government assassin. Yet in the end, the hero’s last assignment isn’t that memorable. Her earlier battle in assassinating a man in a fancy restaurant is more action-packed than the ending battle, which weakens the overall story and the ending in particular. You never want a middle scene to be more memorable than the ending. That’s why James Bond films typically end with a climactic battle where the hero has to save the world. If James Bond saved the world in an earlier scene but only saved a stray cat from the top of a tree in the end, the story would feel anti-climactic.
The action in your story needs to steadily build up to a massive climactic ending. Think of a fireworks display that teases with fireworks up until the finale. Just as a fireworks finale has to be the most exciting part of there whole show, so does your ending have to be the most exciting part of your whole story. One way to do that is to make sure your hero winds up as someone special in the end.
Watch “Django: Unchained” and through the first half of the movie, Django is passive and learning from the German bounty hunter. Then from the midpoint to the end, Django initiates most of the conflict and takes charge of the situation. The end pits Django against the villain in a final shoot out. Before Django got caught, he had a massive shootout with dozens of men, killing most of them, so the ending of “Django: Unchained” avoids a let down by having Django blow up the mansion with dynamite. The ending is different than the earlier shootout, but much bigger and thus satisfying as a climactic close.
The difference between “Django: Unchained” and “La Femme Nikita” is that “Django: Unchained” is bigger than any earlier scenes but different because it focuses less on gunfire and more on explosions. The let down in “La Femme Nikita” is that an earlier scene is more action packed than the ending, and the ending is just another shootout that’s not as exciting as the earlier shootout scene.
If you’re going to duplicate action scenes, the ending must always be bigger than anything we’ve seen before. If your ending can’t be bigger, then it needs to be different. The ending in “Django: Unchained” is less of a shoot out and more of an explosion. So even though it has less action, it does have bigger explosions.
Look at “Kill Bill Volume 1” and you\’ll see that the ending has more action than any other scene. In earlier scenes, the hero had to fight a single adversary. In the end, the hero has to face an army of swordsmen before finally getting to the villain. By the time the hero gets tot he villain, it’s somewhat of a letdown since the action is far less exciting, but the action of the hero mowing down dozens of swordsmen makes up for that by being much larger than any previous scene.
By the end of “Kill Bill Volume 1,” the hero is still the same person as before, but because she\’s wiped out a literal army single-handedly, she’s raised herself in our eyes from someone we barely know to someone we can massively respect.
In every story, make sure the ending is bigger than anything we’ve seen earlier. In “Rocky,” we’ve seen Rocky box but the end is the championship fight in front of a national televised audience. That’s a huge change from the dingy boxing ring Rocky fought in in the beginning. Start with a big, massive ending and work backwards to a tiny, obscure beginning and that’s the way you story needs to progress as the hero changes from feeling like he or she is a nobody until the end when he or she achieves a massive victory against overwhelming odds that the hero and the audience both have massive respect and admiration for the hero’s accomplishments whether the hero becomes a princess or not. In the end, the hero becomes someone special and that’s the most important ending of all.