Melissa asked: Why does every book have to have a happy ending? Don’t get me wrong, I like the happy ending, but at the same time there are a few books that I have read that totally threw me by not having the expected happy ending, the guy didn’t get the girl, and they didn’t live happily ever after with 2.5 kids and a dog. Anyway, funny question, I know, but sometimes I like it when the ending isn’t what I’m expecting.
Oh, that’s a good question!
Actually, I did write a story that didn’t have a typical happy ending once – Marina, where my heroine and my hero do NOT live happily ever after. (at least in that book!). Why do I mostly write happy endings? 1. Because I like them. 2. Because I think my readers, who have spent so much time with these characters would like them to be happy. 3. Because after all that suffering, I think my characters deserve it. And since I’m the creator, I want to make them happy.
However – if I am crafting a story where I don’t think there should be a typical happy ending, then I am not going to write one. I think the story has to be told the way it is demanded to be told. I hated, for example, Sommersby. Hated. Why? Because, aside from the fact that I was a sopping mess by the end of the movie, it wasn’t a happy ending. However, that was how the story HAD to be told. Any other way, and it wouldn’t have been realistic. But then again…was it truly an UN-Happy ending? Because the heroine got to keep her status as a landowner, had experienced true love, and was able to honor the promise her husband/imposter had made in giving the land away to the freed slaves. Perhaps, it was happy…or let’s call it bittersweet.
How about Cold Mountain? That might have been written differently, but then again, it wasn’t really an UN-happy ending either, was it? The woman lost her man, but she’d only had him in her imagination, and only in reality for one night. They might NOT have lived Happily Ever After, but she had her child, and the illusion that they would have been happy, and person, in that way, they did have their traditional ending.
I think it’s important to take a look at WHAT HEA means for the character. And for the story. And if it means a traditional ride off into the sunset, then great. But perhaps, like you suggest, we can think outside the book, get to the heart of the matter, and craft an ending that will keep people (like me), rooted to their seats, sobbing. And, thinking.
(Susan May Warren spent the summer collecting “Ask and Author Anything!” questions, about life, writing and anything (within reason) her readers asked. Stop back every week this winter to read the answers to those questions!)
Are you a writer? Get your daily dose of writing craft! www.mybooktherapy.com!