Thursday, June 16, 2011

Top 10 Tips for a #1 Break-Up Scene (with 5 Stellar Cinematic Examples)

I recently had to write a break-up scene in my manuscript, and I found myself going to youtube for inspiration. The thing about break-ups is that they're super personal. Sometimes there's screaming. Sometimes there's silence. Sometimes pleading. Sometimes just a disappointed nod and an exit. Sometimes the breakdown is during the break-up scene, sometimes after (not everyone wants to show their feelings in front of others), and sometimes it doesn't occur till weeks later. Sometimes there's guilt. Sometimes anger. Confusion. Lust. Self-deprication. Sex..... (hey, it happens...) It all depends on the characters.

To have a truly stellar break-up scene consider the following:
(BU=Breaker-upper HB=the heart broken person)
1) Who is breaking up with whom? What is the BU's motivations?
2) How does the BU feel about the person he/she is breaking up with?
3) What does the break-up initiator feel about herself in relation to the break-up? (Does she hate herself for it? Does she dream of it?)
4) How does the BU show his/her emotions? (Is he/she normally a loud or quiet person? Touchy feely or not so much?)
5) How does the HB feel about the BU?
6) How does the HB show emotion?
7) How long have the two been together and what is there relationship status?
8) Is this a surprise for the HB? Maybe it's a surprise for the BU and he/she just snaps?
9) What things need to be brought up in this discussion and in what order? (Does it start with toe nail clippings, rise to tardiness, and end in "GOD DAMNIT YOU BASTARD, I KNOW YOU'RE CHEATING ON ME!" Or is it as simple as "I can't do this." "What?" "We're done.")
10) What do the characters need to feel and do once the scene is over?

And now for the examples (in no particular order)

1) Dangerous Liaisons. Never scene the movie, but I found the scene and it's AWESOME.

2) Grey's Anatomy: Addison + Derek (sorry for the music in the background, but a really excellent example if you watch the whole thing through)

3) Closer: Alex + Dan Breakup Scene

4) Tipping the Velvet: Nan and Kitty (You should skip till 1min and can watch till about 4:50. It's a great example of the before and after break-up)

5)Grey's Anatomy: Alex Karev + Izzie Stevens


  1. There are so many great breakup scenes in YA that are so well done. I love being able to "feel" that emotion, that passion, that anger. I want to know everything. I want my eyes to tear up. Great idea to go to YouTube for inspirational clips.

    Nice to meet you today, Gina!

  2. I thought these were supposed to be tips not rhetorical questions. I feel misled.

  3. Would you feel better if I said "Ask yourself?" before each one? Then, again, I'm rather starting to assume that not much manages to please you.

    <3 Gina Blechman

  4. Nice tips! Love the clips. ;)

  5. ...the breakup scene in Closer was one that caught me off guard while watching the movie. Definitely the flick's climax. Great idea of including it in this post:)


  6. Wow awesome tips. I like writing the scene from both point of views and then merging them for optimal BANG! Fun!

  7. Great idea! I like it. :-)

    <3 Gina Blechman

  8. These are great examples of breakup scenes and questions to ask. I've not written one yet, but I'm sure I will one day. This will help greatly.

  9. I didn't like the movie "Closer". What a bunch of awful people. They all deserved to be hit by a bus...the world could stand to be lessened by such selfish assholes.

  10. generally not a fan of them either, though Natalie Portman's done some good work.