Friday, April 24, 2009

Happy Endings...Or Not

Photo by Ben Sisto

I've been thinking about endings lately. Part of this was prompted by Lady Glamis' post on the Innocent Flower. But most of it is because I'm at the end of my first draft of Blessed.

While I was writing my climax, I was given a really exciting psychological method to view the climax by (I know, vague...but I don't want to give it away to my crit partner who will surely read this post later) that I decided to go with. It is shocking (not vulgar shocking, but just surprising...especially how I did it, I think) and creates anxiety for the reader (at least I had anxiety writing it). But isn't that what "edgy" Christian fiction does? Think Ted Dekker here, people.

I'm also thinking about this new twist from my counselor viewpoint. It's very real, very true to form psychologically. But since it is less-than-100%-perfect for the readers' sensibilities, it made me wonder just what our preference about book endings say about US as readers. Do perpetually happy people shut a book that doesn't end in marriage in disgust? Do those among us who are more "dark" in our outlook shut a book in disgust if it does? Just curious.

Of course, my genre is romance. And people typically pick up a romance book for one reason: the romance. All the different takes on how boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl again thrills that typical reader. Which leads to my question for you.

Q4U: How many of you romance readers have to have the superbly happy ending? The picket fence? Yappy dog? Are you okay with just a general nudge that that could happen? Or do you need it in black and white (either on paper or quite literally in a black tux and white wedding gown)? Do all the strings in the book have to be tied neatly, or can one of them be tied disastrously?

Hee hee...I'm laughing. My crit partner is going to be going insane with questions! So is Sue.

[deviant, evil laughter]

Wordle: signature


Cindy said...

Well, that's a tough one. I like happy endings. I'm a happy ending kind of person. But the happy ending doesn't have to come packaged nicely with a silk bow.

I don't care if the characters have to struggle to get there. I sometimes don't even care if they are struggling until almost the last moment. But I think when readers pick up a romance they automatically assume all the character's trials and hardships (between each other and from other external issues) are going to lend themselves to a character union of some sort. So I can see disappointment when this happens.

Jaime said...

I would agree with Cindy's post. Especially in a romance novel which centers primarily on the romance itself. I'm not sure I would enjoy a Shakespearean (sp!?) ending so much unless the author had a reputation for dramatic sorrows and more literary writing. Happy endings are mostly a must, but ... then there are the exceptions.
See? This helped you a lot didn't it! :) LOL

T. Anne said...

I do like happy endings. FOr me it's a reward. I've read novels with tragic ending, endings where the MC ends up with the wrong person and etc... they never seem to satisfy and it makes me want to press the author for changes lol.

Jill Kemerer said...

If I'm reading a women's fiction or other genre book, I feel the author has license to put whatever ending in he/she chooses.

However, when I pick up a romance, the hero and heroine had better have a VERY (and unambiguous) ending! I'd be horrified if they didn't!

I'm assuming your current book does not tie up the romance at the end. (Sorry if I'm assuming incorrectly, and no, you don't have to give it away!) Maybe the book falls more into the women's fiction w/romantic elements or suspense w/romantic elements category?

Yay that you love your ending! Sounds like you've found the perfect twist!

Jeannie Campbell said...

ah...jill, i can't give away the ending, but i can say your assumptions aren't right. :)

thanks to you other ladies for weighing in. i agree with you. i was just asking for the sake of see if there were any dissenters among us. :)

PatriciaW said...

Unfair. Unfair. Soooo unfair.

I'm going to have to catch up because now I want to know the ending. As long it has an HEA, I'm good with it. Doesn't matter how they get there, as long as the path is true to the characters.

Now I'm eager to know. Bad writer! :(

Eileen Astels Watson said...

For it to be classified as a romance I think it really needs the HEA. But that doesn't neccessarily mean marriage, just that they're together and content once more or for the first time. Some category lines do require "the wedding" scene. But by the size of your novel, you're not writing for one of them, I suspect.

I like a HEA with a bit of reality thrown in. Not everything in life comes out rosy!

Katie said...

ARGH! What a cryptic post!! Now I am sitting here trying to figure out what this might all mean. As long as Kathy doesn't imprint on Juice and the two steal SAm and run away together, leaving Joshua to comfort a distraught Lizzie - I think I'll be okay. But I am beyond curious at this point.

I am imagining your laughter sounding something like *mwa-ha-ha-haaa*

Jeannie Campbell said...

katie! LOL!! imprinting on hysterical!

Jody Hedlund said...

I think our culture shifts so much with fads, that anything goes (as long as it will sell). I think agents are looking for fresh and different, so maybe you'll have a great chance to pitch this book!

Ralene said...

I remember watching City of Angels with Meg Ryan and Nicholas Cage not long after it came out on video. The ending of that movie made me so angry that I have never, and will never, watch it again.

Now that really strayed from the HEA ending...but I agree with what some of the other said. HEA in a romance is usually necessary, however I don't think it all has to be tied up in a nice red bow.

Jessica said...


Whoops, I didn't realize you'd posted this. Sorry. My post today is on HEA too. Ack. Sorry about that.

I kind of agree with Ralene. I watch romances with certain expectations. I watch them for comfort, to uphold my belief that people really can fall in love, and also to help me forget about the bad stuff. City of Angels depressed me. Bleck.

Lady Glamis said...

This is an excellent post with good questions! Can a book even be considered romance if it doesn't end sweetly ever after? I don't read a lot of "real" romance, so to answer your question, I like a bit more depth to my love stories. I don't mind things left open. And I don't need a wedding at the end, heaven forbid.

I think something fun and insane to consider is to write something VERY romance and do a post-modern twist at the end where it all falls apart and ends disastrously. I guess it'd be a tragedy then, but I love mixing genres.

But I also like a lot of classics and depressing literature. I'm not your average reader, LOL.

Thanks for the link! Endings are definitely difficult and frustrating. Good luck with yours!

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

I confess: I do love happy endings. If a book is well written and I'm familiar with the writer's style, I can deal with a loose end here and there. However, the whole Romeo-Juliet scenario leaves me depressed.

There's enough of that in real life, thank you very much.

Susan :)

Karin said...


Romance: absolutely

Women's Fiction: optional relationship HEA

Romance definitely needs the man and woman together. Anything else, however, can end however you want.

I've read plenty of books with deaths and unfulfilled romances that I still enjoyed...but they weren't marketed as romances.

With that said...I still prefer the HEA, but I'm not a huge fan of romance. I like to see the characters work through things and find happiness on the other side of the struggle.

That's my take on it :)