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A false ending has two contexts; in literature it is a narrative device where the plot seems to be heading to its conclusion, but in reality, there's still more to the story. In a musical composition, it is a complete stop of the song for one or more seconds before continuing.
The presence of a false ending can be anticipated through a number of ways. The medium itself might betray that it isn't the true ending (i.e. it's only halfway into a book or a song, a film's listed running time hasn't fully elapsed, only half the world has been explored in a video game, etc.), making only stories with indeterminate running length or a multi-story structure able to pull this off effectively. Another indicator is the feeling that too much of the story is incomplete when the false ending comes, making it feel like there has to be more.
Two examples in film include L.A. Confidential and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. In the former, it seems like the case is completely closed with no loose ends until one of the witnesses admits that she lied about important details to give more importance towards the trial of the people that raped her, exposing a cover-up conspiracy. In the latter, the movie keeps using editing techniques that are indicative of endings in scenes that could be used as such, but continues with more until the movie finally ends. Spider-Man 3 is an example of this, with two false endings present. Another example is in The Simpsons Movie, where, at a very climatic stage in the film, the screen fades away and says To be continued, which is then followed by the word "Immediately."
Some examples in video games include Final Fantasy VI and Wild ARMs. Both involve confrontations with the major antagonists at what seems like their final lairs, but instead a crisis occurs and the story continues. A third is in Naval Ops: Warship Gunner, upon sinking the Druna Skass a second time (Which can only happen if the player plays though the game again, as the game resets itself to the beginning if you sink it once), the player is greeted by another supership, that looks just like the Druna Skass. Yet another example is the survival horror game Obscure II, in which the player must wait until the credits roll to their conclusion before gameplay resumes.
Role-playing video games are notorious for having such plot devices. It usually involves the game's main antagonist being defeated, only for a previously mentioned character to be revealed as the "real" villain. One example is The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, in which the main character is apparently about to have a boss fight with the former villain Zant, but Zant reveals he has been working for another Villain.
In music, several songs have used false endings as part of the performance, such as The Rascals' "Good Lovin'"; "White Room" by Cream; "The Peace!" by Morning Musume; "Rain" by The Beatles; "Monday, Monday" by The Mamas & the Papas; and "But You Know I Love You" by The First Edition. Another notable example of a musical false ending is "(Everything I Do) I Do It for You" by Bryan Adams - because the original song was six and a half minutes long, the false ending became the end of the single/video edit of the song (the album version had a fadeout ending). In addition, several other songs have also had false endings, such as "Angels" by Amy Grant, a #1 Christian hit in 1984. Another example is "Keep On Dancing", a 1965 Top 10 hit for the group The Gentrys from Memphis, Tennessee. In both songs, there is a pause of 2 seconds before the music starts all over again. Also, "When I Grow Up (To Be a Man)" by The Beach Boys, has a sudden stop and resumes 1 second later as the band counts numbers of years of age until the song fades, counting from 19 to 30. The Alice in Chains track "Rain When I Die" has a fade-out false ending lasting about 20 seconds, then the music comes back, and then it fades once more, thus providing the real ending.
While it is difficult to use the device effectively, there are several methods that allow it to be done.
In several video games, such as those with multiple playable characters and story lines, the game may appear to end after defeating a difficult boss, or clearing what appears to be the "Final" level, complete with credits, an outro, and a return to the start screen. These endings are different from bad endings, as everything may appear to be resolved. However, fulfilling conditions such as clearing all the storylines, reloading the save file, or reaching the "ending" in a New Game+ mode may give the player the option to continue on to the real ending.
An example of this is Sonic Adventure, and its sequel Sonic Adventure 2. In the former, there are 6 Stories to play, only the main character's, Sonic's being the most complete. The other character's stories are simply side-stories. However, if "all" of the stories are completed, a final story appears that wraps up the game and acts as the "true" ending. In the latter, there are two stories to play, one for the heroes, and one for the villains. Of note is the plot device is hidden in a false Chaos Emerald being used that would destroy the space colony in which the villain Doctor Eggman is using as a base. It is at first implied that Eggman took the false Emerald, but in reality, when the last story is played, again, after the two normal stories are completed, a true conclusion is offered.
Another example could be the Survival Horror game, Resident Evil 2, where, depending on your choice, you get to play with one of the two characters and get a certain ending for one of them to later discover, when you finish playing the second path with the second character, you fight the real final boss and the "true" ending (That may vary depending of which character you have chosen first) is shown. The main difference between both of the "true" endings are that places and times are exchanged, as well as the final dialogue from the game.