Two Ways to End a Scene

Scenes act like building blocks that carry the audience from the beginning of your story where you pose an initial question to the end where you answer that initial question. The way to structure the ending of each scene is to include a cliffhanger that makes the audience want to know more, and the two ways to do that are:

  • Disrupt and destabilize a character’s life
  • Motivate a character to take action

In “Star Wars,” Darth Vader boards Princess Leia’s starship and takes her prisoner. That definitely destabilizes Princess Leia’s life, which leaves us wondering what will happen to her next.

Later in “Star Wars,” Luke argues with his uncle about leaving the farm. By the end of the argument, Luke feels trapped. In the beginning of the scene, Luke felt hopeful his uncle would let him leave early, but by the end of that scene, Luke’s hopes are dashed and his life appears worse off than before.

However, later Luke discovers the burned remains of his uncle and aunt and realizes he has nothing left to stay for. The end of that scene motivates Luke to leave with Obiwan.

Another later scene in “Star Wars” occurs when Luke is trapped on the Death Star and R2D2 discovers that Princess Leia is imprisoned onboard and scheduled to be executed soon. That motivated Luke to rescue her.

In “Die Hard,” John McClane sees the terrorists take over the Christmas party so that motivates him to slip away. In another scene, John McClane talks on the radio with a man who has trying to get too friendly with his wife. When John McClane realizes the terrorists are going to kill this man, he says he doesn’t like this man (which is true), but the terrorists kill the man anyway. Now John McClane realizes the danger his wife is in, and that definitely destabilizes his life.

So in every scene, think of ways to disrupt a main character’s life or motivate the main character to take action. this will help you avoid scenes that seem to end with no purpose or direction, which will drag down your story in the process.

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