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How to end a story about a war – Lessons from World War Z

So I saw World War Z a few days ago. It turned out to be a better story than I’d anticipated. I expected it to be either too soft or too macho, but it struck the right balance. After I finished the movie, I realized that there were some lessons in it for me, specifically, about writing fiction.

The story is about a war, a war against zombies. Quite simply, it’s a war that cannot be finished in one book, one film or even one lifetime. That reminds me, I have to compare this story to how Resident Evil handles war.

The main character shows his heroic capabilities right from the beginning, even though they’re initially directed towards his own family. Then there’s a moment when he doesn’t want to take up the assignment for the rest of the movie but he finally relents, knowing that he’s the best/only person to deal with the situation. His reluctance is not necessary, but it builds his character one way or the other – if he’s a family person and accepts the mission too eagerly, he’s unhappy with the family; if he’s a family man and is reluctant, he cares about his family but knows his duty towards society or others.

When he’s on the mission, his driving factor is either to be with his family again or to finish the mission so as to make life better/safer for his family.

Finally, here comes the most important part. The Hero discovers something or learns something that changes the course of the war – a secret to destroy or hinder the other side, a new weapon or piece of knowledge that can solve the problem much more easily. This doesn’t mean that the story has ended. The story cannot end in such a short time frame. It can only end later. But does this mean that we have to keep writing/making sequels? No. It means that humanity has been saved by the sacrifices and courage of one man, that hope still remains for Mankind and that there is a promise of a future.

That’s the end of the story – Hope. There’s no better ending, because no matter how much fairy tales try to prove it, there’s no forever after, there’s only the promise of a better tomorrow.


Note to Authors out there: I know there are other alternatives and ideas out there. I’ve looked at this just from WWZ’s perspective. If you’ve got some suggestions, please write them in the comments or contact me on ADN.


  • Nitin Khanna

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