Thursday, May 5, 2011

Happily Ever After

Hi folks! Just got a spare minute to do some blogging. I know I haven't done it in a while, but life has been hectic (with lots of law books aching to be read).
Today, I want to bring up the subject of story endings. As hard as it is to write a good hook for your beginning - the ending is a bit trickier. Why is that, you ask? Because and ending can ruin all your perfect building. Like one of those playing card towers when you put the last piece in and everything falls down.
This is perfect timing for this post for two reasons: first, my novel Hunters just finished its first round in the queues and second, because I've just finished reading another book - so - two endings.

Happily Ever After

Well, depends on how cynical you are, but this might just be everyone's favorite ending. How does it work?
All your important characters (the ones your readers invested in) live. Every loose thread is tied up in a nice, shiny, red bow. And everyone lives happily ever after - your couple gets together, the world is freed from its tyrant, a new child will be born into the world - and every character is happy with how things turned out (well, except the baddie, but he's probably dead, exiled or locked away by now, so he doesn't count)

A few quirks about a HEA: - since you tie it up so well, you can't really do a sequel on it - since everything is solved, thus adding to the happiness.
- it's easily in danger of becoming cheesy (just sayin', since the majority of HEA endings = proposal)
- readers these days don't really want them anymore - because they will rightfully point out that life doesn't go that way - which is true, but it's a book - enjoy yourself.
- some might even go as far as to say it lacked in imagination (depends on the quantity of cynic in that person or how miserable that person is)

The good thing about HEA: It never fully disappoints. Because happiness never does - yes, you might think that the book would have been better if...., but you still aren't really disappointed that everything turned out well for the characters you've grown to love (well, unless you're a real sadistic person :D)

This is what I went for with Hunters - all threads closed up, proposal scene at the ending (fortunately, it was apparently screwed up enough not to be too cheesy) and everybody happy. And no one complained about it. Which is what makes this type of ending popular AND a success.

Happily Ever... Wait a Minute!

This is my type of ending. (and the one I usually do when I go for happy - ignore the above mention). It consists in, and I quote, "shit happening". It's much closer to life - sure, so the characters are all fine and did win their war in the end, but there were friends lost, sacrifices made to make that happen. Not everything will be tied up all nice and shiny - which kinda dismisses the "Life is not like that" argument from above.
This type of ending is closer to what real life can throw at you. The baddie might have gotten away/not received the proper punishment. Your characters might have come out a little scarred from the conflict. But it's still a good ending.

HEWM quirks: - you might accidentally kill some secondary character someone liked and piss them off
- readers might be disappointed about the threads which are left open
- it's hard to get the right amount of happiness in to satisfy the reader and also not make your characters seem like a bunch of insensitive jerks.
- it might seem that you were lazy and forgot to write the ending chapter (in case you leave too much open)

Good things about this ending: - it's still happy
- it's more like life
- leaves room for sequels (in case you want to tie those loose threads)
- you can do it in a million different ways.

This is the kind of ending I have for 3 out of my 7 books in my Jewels series - volumes 1, 3 and 6 end in a happy-ish manner - sure, threads are still left hanging, but the characters are happy.

And this is also the kind of ending that book I've recently read was going for. Only it didn't work - and it wasn't just because the best friend who used, cheated and got pregnant with her fiancé's best friend still came on top and had her way, but because that meant there was no character growth.
This poor, sad MC was a tool and a pawn the entire book, never rising up to her abusive friend, and even if she ended up with said abusive friend's fiancé for a boyfriend, she still never stood up to her, but let her spread rumors and blame them, even if she had cheated too. Very, very unsatisfying - I know you can't always win in real life, but I honestly don't want to read a book like THAT. And this ending ruined what started out to be a promising book.

Happily Never After

This is that type of ending which isn't necessarily happy (okay, it's not really happy at all - the characters are miserable), but leaves room for hope.
So, someone dear to your MC has disappeared, but there's a chance they might be alive (and other variations - getting hurt, getting dumped, being mortally disappointed). The MC is crushed, but doesn't give up hope (kinda like the ending of Gone with the Wind). It's mostly sad because the characters are mostly sad - but it ain't over until the fat lady sings.

HNA Quirks: - can send a massive wave of hate your way if you rob readers of their hope in the next volume
- be sure not to make it completely depressing, or some people might not come back for the resolve

HNA advantages: - let's face it, it's pretty easy to do and makes you feel like a mastermind
- leaves even more room for a sequel - people will actually demand one
- brings some real drama in your characters' lives and makes them grow/ seem more real
- another good example of life's not all about roses.
- you can dose the amount of evil to your liking

This is the kind of ending I have for volumes 2, 4 and 5 of my book - even if they all have elements of happiness in them (yeey, they're alive), there's still a bitter taste there at the end, and major things are left unsolved (kinda like in the fourth volume of Harry Potter)

The Sad One 

This is the part where something really, really, REALLY annoying happens and the book ends with disappointment or death galore. That doesn't make the book a bad one - it might just fit perfectly. (think of Orwell's 1984 - it had a horrible ending, but it WORKED). Either all your MCs died, or they never met their goals and became empty shells of their former selves (this can actually be more painful than dieing), either they found out something that cracked them and put them in a mental institution or... you can fill the blanks with whatever makes you shiver.

TSO quirks: - it can destroy you - people might hate you for it and think you a sadistic bastard.
- it's really hard to pull off - if you don't do it properly, see above point.
- however well you pull it off, people will still be sad at the end of your book
- it doesn't really leave room for sequels unless you're planning to do a prequel or a terrible spin off after your own work.

The good things about TSO: - if you pull it off really well - you'll be a writing genius.
- stops other authors from writing terrible follow ups using your popular characters (see starwars)
- helps you move on to a happier project
- you might stir up intense feelings in your readers.

I've never used this one, but might - book 7 of may series would be either a HEA or TSO - depends on how fed up I get with the characters by the time I bring them there :p

So, what kind of endings to you like to read/ write?

Oh, and one more thing. Drop by tomorrow, May 6th, for an awesome interview with awesome Mysti Parker! Courtesy of Bewitched Book Tours and yours truly.


  1. Girl, I'm a sucker for HEA, but the first two are my types of endings. My guy and girl will end up together, but in the second option, not everything will be perfect. Other characters may die or walk away with broken hearts. I think it's a little more realistic of an option.

    Love your thought processes here. And BOO to sad endings. Hate em. Jack shouldn't have died in Titanic. That's all I have to say about that.

  2. Good question, Steph. I'm not a fan of the sad ending. I read for entertainment, and I like to feel good at the end of it. At the same time, I'm not a fan of too much saccharine.

    I like something in the middle...some of the bad guys may have gotten away but someone I wanted to hurt got a nasty come-uppance, or maybe they got away but there's the promise of a storm a-comin' their way. The protag got at least some good outcomes, but maybe not all good. You get the idea.

    I guess I'd describe my WIP ending as "happy to still be alive...for now."

  3. Heya, Stef!

    Mine is HEA, for now. I may adjust it to HEWM though. I have a few thoughts on that, anyway.

    And Jack *had* to die at the end of Titanic. It made Rose a stronger person because of it, plus, from the standpoint of the hero's journey, it was necessary. Otherwise Rose wouldn't have become the strong woman she lived her life to be.


  4. Hi Guys! Thanks for the comments!

    @Ian - yes, I know what you mean. I sometimes like the drama of 'happy to be alive' too :D

    Titanic was not a sad ending - it would've been one if Cal had shot the two of them while they were descending the the life raft - the way I see Titanic, it was actually a HEWM - because Rose had a full life and did very well for herself. And, like Jay says, I'm not sure she would have gone and be a pilot and all the stuff she did if he were still alive ;)

  5. Hi Stef. Great Post.

    I like an ending that answers the questions raised throughout the book. It doesn't have to be happy as long as I get my resolution.

    I loved the ending to the Hunger Games series because I had to think about. If things happened different how would that have played out? I like pondering those sorts of questions after reading a book so if things are tied up to nice and pretty I feel a little empty after.


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