Five ways to strengthen your endings

One of the most shocking endings ever.
One of the most shocking endings ever.

Today, we’re unveiling the secrets of how to write gripping story endings using none other than the cinematic masterpiece, Seven. We take a close look into the world of Detective Somerset, Detective Mills, and the relentless antagonist, John Doe, as we extract five guiding principles that will add to your storytelling skills.

1. Establish compelling, contrasting characters.
In Seven, the characters aren’t just investigators; they’re intricately woven personalities. Somerset, the seasoned detective on the brink of retirement, contrasts sharply with Mills, the young and idealistic newcomer. Similar to Unforgiven where the characters’ past and present reputations heighten the stakes, the distinct traits of Somerset and Mills in Seven set the stage for a terrifying finale. Somerset’s intellect clashes with Mills’ zeal, creating a dynamic that propels the story towards a frightening conclusion.

2. Escalate the tension.
Seven simmers with tension from the opening credits. The gruesome crimes committed by John Doe escalate in savagery, pushing the audience to the edge. As a writer, escalate the stakes in your story to tighten the grip on your audience. Like Unforgiven, where the suspense increases with each obstacle Munny faces, Seven thrives on the mounting tension as Doe’s plan begins to manifest itself. Each crime scene intensifies the urgency for Somerset and Mills to solve the case. This sets the stage for the explosive climax.

3. Deploy unexpected twists.
The film subverts expectations, leading the audience down a dark and twisted path. The revelation of John Doe’s ultimate plan shocks and unsettles, leaving an indelible mark on us all. Like in Unforgiven where Little Bill’s brutality surprises us, Seven challenges the audience’s assumptions. As a writer, utilise the unexpected: Turn the familiar on its head in order to keep your audience guessing and engaged until the very end.

4. Deploy character change.
In Seven, the characters undergo change: Mills, initially the optimistic rookie, grapples with the harsh realities of the world, and Somerset, on the verge of retirement, finds renewed purpose in his pursuit of justice. Unforgiven, too, shows how Munny’s journey has changed him—from a ruthless killer, to a pig farmer who cannot stay on his horse, and back to a ruthless killer. Mills’ descent into darkness, and Somerset’s acknowledgment of the complexities of life deepen the story. As a writer, ensure that your characters change, prompted by challenges that shape their destinies.

5. Use powerful settings.
Seven’s climax unfolds in the eerie den of John Doe. The environment becomes a character, shaping the outcome of the final confrontation. Much like in Unforgiven, where the saloon intensifies the showdown, Seven strategically places the characters in a setting that amplifies the stakes. Leverage the settings in your own writing to enhance the emotional impact of your story’s conclusion.

Crafting a great story ending, then, is an art, a delicate game between characters, tension, twists, growth, and setting. Use this in your own writing to greatly improve your endings.


Great endings contain compelling and contrasting characters, tension, unexpected twists, character growth, and powerful settings.

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