Saturday, July 26, 2014

Happy Endings: They Do Exist

"Sad endings are more realistic." I've been hearing his often lately, and I beg to disagree.

It seems like these day the whim of a happily ever after is disappearing, and these more "realistic" endings are moving in. Frankly this is disheartening to me. I spend an entire book emotionally invested in a main character then the book ends with her/him losing or dying. What was the point of reading it then?

I believe happily ever afters are more than never having any troubles again, because we will all have troubles throughout our lives. C'est la vie. I believe happily ever afters are the conquering of a large struggle. It is a new, better life paved after the bad. It is hope. For Christians our lives will end happily guaranteed because we will go to Heaven in the end.

Many historical events had happy endings. The colonists won in the Revolutionary War which created the United States. The Allied Powers won World War II and stopped the Thousand Year Reich from happening. The Russians didn't obliterate the USA in the Cold War. Even in horrible events like the planes crashing in the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, but not the White House offered a happy ending. That still after that devastating attack our White House still stands because of the bravery of real people.

If soul-crushing events like this in history can have happy endings why not novels?

As writers what do we want our readers to take away from our writing? If you are considering a sad ending, why? Because it's more realistic? For kicks? To make your readers sad?

By putting your writing out there, you most likely will influence someone. What we read and watch effects us as people. Novels that end with hope could give a reader hope and ones that don't could give the opposite.

I'm not telling you how to write your book. I'm giving my two cents on the matter, because I believe what flows out of the nub of a pen can change hearts and nations for good or ill. In World War II, the Nazis burned books. Why? Because they knew of their power to influence, to make people question Hitler's propaganda.

Every good book has this power and a message. What message will you leave with your readers?

What do you think of happy endings? Does your book have one? What is a favorite book of yours that has a happy ending?

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  1. I prefer slightly bittersweet endings. Yes, I want the good guys to win and my favorite characters to live but I also want a lot of sacrifice. If it's happily ever after for all the good guys, it kind of makes my suspense of disbelief harder.
    With the historical situations, those were tragedies for quite a few people, not happy endings. For Americans, it was happy but for a lot of others, it makes even the darkest fiction look like rainbows and unicorns.
    In WWII the German soldiers were slaughtered in concentration camps and their wives and daughters were raped by the Soviets who America helped win. (I've read some biographies on the subject from a German POV.) That's the main reason my character Rolf is so cynical. His grandfather lost the war.
    The Soviet Union also invaded a lot of countries and killed so many people it made Hitler look like an amateur. I guess it could count as a happy ending since they finally collapsed.
    With the modern wars, same thing. It's not bad for Americans but if you live in Iraq or Afghanistan, it's bad. (Afghanistan finally got the Soviets out then the US invaded.)
    When writing, I think one needs to be careful they don't make things look too good when someone else might be suffering. Readers now are pretty savvy when it comes to figuring out who got hurt. In the alien Avatar, many watchers pointed out that the humans were probably being sent back to a dying planet so it wasn't such a happy ending. (It's pretty easy to find other movies that do similar things and readers or watchers spot the sad ending.)
    Nowadays, you can't just tell one side of the story and expect the readers to forget the bad guys that might now have starving children because they'd originally invaded due to a famine.
    I guess I'm a bit cynical since I've studied history a bit.

    1. I guess in the end, I like the reader to feel like they can win, but it's not going to be easy. My main theme is that people need to think for themselves and do what's right, even if it's disobeying orders.

    2. Of course not /all/ the good guys are going to have a happy ending. That's not realistic at all. There are losses on both sides. In Lord of the Rings many good men died in the name of protecting their loves ones, Boromir for instance, but in the end it was worth it because the good guys conquered evil. But if Sauron won in the end and Frodo succumbed to the power of the Ring wouldn't it make the whole story pointless?

    3. I certainly wouldn't like to see Sauron win. I don't want a pointless story. (I'm not against someone killing a main character in a heroic sacrifice, if the sacrifice works, though I don't plan on doing that any time soon.)

    4. Exactly. There are very few exceptions to not killing the main character. I only can name like two or three examples where it worked. Other times it just ruined the story.

  2. Hmm. Happy endings. I like the point you made about happy endings in history, even in events like 9/11.

    I love good endings. Be they happy or sad, heart-wrenching or joyous. Realistic doesn't always mean sad, nor does it always mean happy. How I judge an ending (and, as I've said many times, the ending, to me, is everything) is not by its happiness or sadness, but by how good it is. Satisfactory. A sad ending can be just as bad as a happy ending if done wrong, and a happy ending can be just as good as a sad ending (since we're coming from that perspective at the moment). As you've pointed out, both are realistic. It just depends on where the story is taking you.

    My favorite endings are the ones that finish the book well and make me think. Even if all the loose ends aren't wrapped up nicely like a perfectly wrapped package, it's okay. As long as it's done right.

    Sorry to ramble so much. Hopefully this comment was somewhat worthwhile...

    the writeress || barefoot in the snow

    1. Good point, Jessy. It is a worthwhile comment. :) Thank you for sharing your thought.