Monday, January 24, 2011

Happy Ending

I don't always love a happy ending. The journey of a story is only half the fun, and as we watch the characters struggle, suffer, and bleed (either literally or metaphorically), if the payoff isn't worth it, than the story could be ruined. The opposite is also true. If you have characters who don't sufficiently struggle, who never suffer, and rarely bleed, tying the resolution in a bow of feel goodiness is the dollar store version of high-priced writing. I want to see characters earn their happy ending.

A fellow Inker spoke to me about her resolution in a new project. She was worried a little because her story doesn't end on a traditional "happily ever after" complete with Prince Charming, white horse, picket fence, yadda, yadda, yadda. But it's good. Really good.

Many of us read because we like to escape, and sometimes having a happy ending is part of the fun. But I can say that my favorite books, the stories that have truly moved me, don't always end happily.

I remember as a young 16 year old high school student reading "1984" and feeling a sense of shock at the end. It wasn't happy. It wasn't tied in a bow of back pats and smiles. And I loved it. I thought of it often. The book made me look at things in a different way. That, my friends, is a STORY!

What endings do you love. Are there any resolutions that made you stop and go, wow? What endings have you not liked?


  1. I like satisfying endings. That doesn't always mean happy. I read an epic historical fiction one time and it just seemed to putter out. Now, the truth is, the problem still isn't resolved, but the characters just seemed to fade and or die for no value. If someone dies there should be a value in that death--good or bad, there needs to be a reason. Yes, in real life there is senseless dying, but we are talking about fiction. If I care about a character I want their sacrifice or happiness to have a purpose.

  2. I'll take a plate of Happily Ever After almost anytime over meaningful sadness.

    Nicholas Sparks comes to mind, specifically "Message in a Bottle." The characters suffer as all his characters do and the story was well written and the end was tragic, but in the film version they added an element of purpose in the tragedy. SPOILER: The main character in the book dies at sea because he goes out in a storm just as his new found love is arriving to be with him forever. Idiot!

    In the movie he dies as sea, saving a family who capsized. At least it had meaning. I would have rather he washed up on shore, mostly dead but not completely dead so I could see them pull happiness out of the jaws of fate.

    I love a good love story where the characters overcome and steal back their hapiness from the mean demons of fate.

  3. For Donna:

    If you like a good laugh at Nicholas Sparks' expense, read this (caution, language)

    As for bad endings, MOCKINGJAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

  4. So funny. I totally thought Nicholas Sparks was writing the same book on purpose. It was enlightening to see an interview where he mocked a formula he has made millions selling. How could he not know his books are all the same? His readers do.

  5. He's only mostly dead . . . :)

  6. I'm a sucker for a happy ending, but if a story is well done I can appreciate it, although it may not be as enjoyable for me overall as another well-written book with a happy ending.

  7. Graham- I thought you liked Mockingjay. What changed your mind?

    Deb- HATED "1984" when I read it in high school. But I get what you're saying about a book not having to have a happy ending and I agree.

    Linda- I'm with you. I think I like the books I read to have happy endings most of the time because life in general can be so hit and miss in the happy arena. When I read, I want to invest in a character and I want that investment to pay off at the end, whether it's a Shakespearean tragedy or a typical rom-com. I want the end to make sense!

  8. Arlene--

    I liked everything but the end. Did you read the Chop?