in writing

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.

What do you think?


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


  • Any good personal blog is like an episode of Seinfeld – there’s a lot of navel-gazing, an excess of philosophizing, and not a lot of public good comes out of it. That’s fine, because the personal gains are humongous, if metered like the seasons of self-love and loathing.
    Whenever I think of non-text forms of blogging – podcasts, and photostreams – I realize that neither of those are truly enough. You can express a lot in a photo, but it feels static, whereas the written word has largely proven that it should always be taken with a grain of salt based on the time from which the writing belongs. You can’t express a lot in podcasts because speech is such a thing that it derails the most cohesive of thought. I’ve rarely ever come across a podcast that was more than one person, off-script, and intelligible after about five minutes of listening.
    But blogging, well, that’s something. Don’t take my word for it. Here are my favorite quotes about this art form –

    A blog is sort of like an exhale.

    – Nora Ephron, 2006, via Daniel Gray

    For bloggers, the deadline is always now.

    – Andrew Sullivan, 2008, via tedium, via The Atlantic
    I used to think that if I critique something on my blog – a book, or an idea, or a movie – it should be well researched and well structured. The frivolous thoughts are for microblogging. I still think that about the other forms of blogging. But there’s vgr, holding a mirror, saying, “No, blogging is for everyone and everything. Dump your worst ideas and your stupidest thoughts on your webspace. Are you that curated in your offscreen life too?”
    I’ve written a few book reviews and notes and movie reviews here on my blog. The only time I’ve received any form of feedback is when I criticized a highly timely and visible piece of tech, which was immediately picked up by the lead developer and I’m glad I was wrong and completely out of line and learnt that over time.
    I love the concept of blogging, but, and I believe this to be true for a lot of bloggers out there, am held back by this wanton need for perfection. Screw the perfection. Just hit publish. The deadline for your thoughts is always now.
    p.s. I’ve linked to a lot of posts from my own blog. Because once a blogger is done navel-gazing, it’s time to make others do the same!
    Update. Perfect timing – after I wrote this post, I updated my Jetpack plugin and they’ve added a new Gutenberg feature to find and add GIFs to posts. What could be more frivolous than GIFs? So here’s one –

    GIFs in WordPress? Banana!

    Update. More timely validation, this time from a more professional environment that uses blogging –

    Perfection is the enemy of the good
    Have No Fear – Learning to love your blog

    Update. Austin Kleon on the importance of revisiting diaries (and his blog) –

    […] the live reading and revision, that’s what this blog is for. It’s the place where I take private thoughts and turn them public, see what the reaction is, if any, and then weave what I’ve learned back into the work.
    The importance of revisiting notebooks