And They Lived Happily Ever After

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The setting of my next novel.

Everyone loves a happy ending. At the end of a novel we want to read the equivalent of “And they lived happily ever after.” But is that realistic? Do we even want “realistic”? Maybe that happy ending is too predictable.

After months of agonizing over writer’s block, I have at last reached the end of the first draft of my next novel.

In writing the ending, I was conscious of trying to follow the storyline in a logical manner, and still craft an ending that the reader will find as satisfying as a perfect dessert after a  tasty meal at a five-star restaurant.

How can the author prepare such a gourmet dessert?

1. The events that wrap up the plot must be believable.

2. These events must follow in a logical sequence, while keeping the reader wondering if they will indeed happen.

3. The characters involved should have their character flaws redeemed and resolved by this time.

4. Our hero should be successful in his endeavours.

5. The villain should finally get what’s coming to him.

These steps would allow for a happy ending.

Of course, in real life, happy endings can often have twists. But do we want those twists to happen in a novel?

What do you think? Do you want that dessert to be perfect, or do you want some degree of reality weighing in?

Reality comes in many varieties. The dessert might be too sweet, too bland, too rich, or too ordinary. There might be a fly in it, or worse yet, a hair.

Think about some endings you have read. How do they make you feel? What kind of endings do you like?

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10 thoughts on “And They Lived Happily Ever After

  1. First, Anneli, congratulations on finishing the first draft of your next novel. 🙂 That’s a fantastic achievement.
    I don’t think that novels should necessarily have a happy ending. Sometimes a realistic, hopeful ending might be just as satisfying. Or an ending that makes you wonder what will happen to this character that has been lodging in your mind for the last while. I agree though that the villain should get what’s coming to him. Readers want justice. More than happy endings.

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  2. Do I want the perfect dessert or do I want some reality in there? That depends very much on the story. Happy endings aren’t always necessary, as long as the story is resolved to a good stopping point. But that stopping point must have a finality about it otherwise the reader will be dissatisfied. for instance I just finished reading a novel where the main character is left stranded on a remote, little known island with two injured persons. If there is a sequel to that story I’ll be happy to buy and read it simply to see what happens next. Surely they can’t all just be left to fend for themselves until they die?
    In a different novel, the ending was satisfactory although the storyline was very interesting and I was left wanting more, I simply did not want the book to end. When I discovered a sequel of course I bought it immediately and was even happier to find a further sequel, making a trilogy.
    Happy ever after endings are good enough for fairy tales and those short Mills&Boon romances my mum used to read so many of. But modern day romances can take more reality.

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    • That’s true. I don’t think readers want to be left hanging, but if there’s a sequel, then that will solve the problem. There has to be some resolution – up to a point, at least, but, as you said, not necessarily that happy ending.

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  3. I have to have an ending that leaves me feeling at least a little inspired at the end. It’s what I like to write, so it’s what I like to read. Congratulations on getting through that writer’s block. Keep on, keeping on.

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    • The rewriting will be much easier than the first draft was. I think I’m okay now. Thanks for your views on endings. I, too, like like a book that makes me think about it after I finish it.

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  4. Maybe I’m odd, but I love an ending that leaves me a little bewildered… leaves me not quite with a definite end… is there a sequel to follow?? Did she walk away or did she forgive him? did they win or lose? Now that might be odd, but it always seems to get me buying the author’s next book … finality might not always be the answer… take a good pudding… not too big to fill you, tasty enough to make you want more, and interesting enough to want you to look at the menu again…. to me that is what the restaurateur would want, is that what an author would want? Interesting discussion I think…

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    • I’m so glad to hear that you don’t need that romantic storybook ending, Rob. When I wrote The Wind Weeps, one of my beta readers liked it but didn’t like the ending. “You can’t do that to the reader,” she said. So I rewrote the ending, but then a different reader didn’t like the ending. She preferred the previous one. I rewrote that ending eight times! Finally I had to go with the ending that I felt was right. All the clues the reader needs are in the last two pages, but still I had many different reactions from readers. Some told me it creeped them out, some said it left them wondering, and one said it made her so angry that she woke up her husband who had fallen asleep as she finished reading it in bed.(At least I got some emotion from her, so that can’t be all bad.)
      It just goes to show, though, that you can’t please everyone. But most people who read it wanted a sequel, so that is what I’m working on just now. I think they’ll all be satisfied with this ending. Well,… most people will.

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