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Contrast. A plot develops through characters' failures and successes. As much as the overall arc of a story should escalate toward the end, throughout the journey there should be ups and downs, dark contrasted with light. A protagonist's most crushing defeat often precedes his victory, just as a victory might precede his ultimate defeat.

A short film has a lot less room for ups and downs in the story. But the best of even the shortest short dramatic films have at least one contrasting "beat" in the story. Contrast is often at the heart of the "twist ending" which often works so well with a short ending-the twist itself usually relies on switching our expectations from negative to positive or vice versa. A protagonist might win only to find out he really has lost.

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