We usually find scene setups and payoffs under it’s more common name, foreshadowing. The problem is the definition of foreshadowing doesn’t necessarily teach you how to use it in a scene-centric way.
For that I’m going to reference a very popular and cheesy action movie from 1989.
Setups & Payoffs from Lethal Weapon 2
The Nail Gun
At the beginning of Lethal Weapon 2, we have a scene at Murtaugh’s house where it’s obvious there is work being done by a contractor. Riggs and Murtaugh find the contractor using a nail gun — a novelty item for the two men to admire.
At first glance this seems like a pointless scene, until later when Murtaugh is attacked in his house by The Bad Guys. Not having a weapon handy, he struggles to reach the nail gun left behind by the contractor — the nail gun that we, as the audience, knew existed because there was a scene showing off the setup.
Not only is this a great use of a McGuffin, but also of foreshadowing and the elimination of that treacherous Deus Ex Machina. It wasn’t sheer blind, random luck that Murtaugh found a nail gun in his house. Without the setup scene, the audience would have felt this was far too convenient of a way out for Murtaugh. Having a scene to show off the nail gun, and then a later scene where Murtaugh uses it to kill two baddies is a great example of setup and payoff.
Riggs Ability to Dislocate His Shoulder
Another early setup scene is one of Riggs trying to win a bet at the police department among his fellow coworkers as to whether or not he can escape a straightjacket within a time limit.
He wins the bet by dislocating his shoulder, which is met by the collective cringe of his fellow officers. Like the nail gun scene, at first this seems like a bit of pointless showing off. It is only later, when the baddies have dunked Riggs into the bay with his arms strapped at his sides does his ability to dislocate his shoulder become an important factor. Much like the nail gun, if the audience had not seen the setup, Riggs’ sudden ability to dislocate his shoulder would seem fake and all too convenient.
These two setups & payoffs seriously ratchet the enterainment meter on Lethal Weapon 2.
If you need an easy two scenes to fill up your story, or want to make your story more entertaining you might try a simple setup and payoff.