The Obligatory Happily-Ever-After
You’ve heard me state that I write for hope. Some of you have, anyway; for those of you who missed it when I said it earlier— I write for hope. That, I have found, is one driving force in all of my stories. Hope is not dead, and this world’s darkness is not all there is.
This makes endings massively important, and I’ve developed some very strong views about how endings should or should not work.
There’s a trend going around these days—beginning somewhere around Shakespeare’s time or earlier—encouraging depressing endings. “It’s more realistic,” they say. “There’s no happy endings in real life.”
Indeed, being realistic in stories can be very good. These people assume one thing, though: that happy endings aren’t realistic. I know of many happy endings in real life, both in my life and in the lives of others. My savior died to rescue me, that I could live eternally, but He didn’t stay dead and evil didn’t conquer. My dad should have been in the building where a terrorist attacked several years ago, but a meeting he was in ran late so he didn’t get to work on time. There have been many happy endings to historical events, but most of you probably know those, so I shan’t go into them at the moment. Happy endings don’t necessarily mean the very end of a story. In most novels that you’ll read or write, the people will go on to live longer lives than the book shows, and yes, they’re most likely going to have troubles, but that doesn’t mean that their story hasn’t ended happily.
There are a million different kinds of happy endings, so to summarize, I simply define a happy ending as an ending that isn’t tragic. When I say I’m for happy endings, I’m in reality saying that I’m against tragic ones.
Let’s go back to the basics of tragic endings, folks. In short, what the writers is trying to make happen is this:
Step One: Make the reader fall in love with the character.
Step Two: Give the reader something to want for the character, something that the character desperately needs. (For example: a friend, salvation, survival, ect.)
Step Three: End the story with the opposite of what the reader wants. (For example: If your character needed a friend, have them betrayed by the one person they trusted and sink into lifelong depression. The End.)
Maybe that’s a little bit exaggerated; I don’t know. I’m not a huge fan of tragedies and so don’t read very many of them.
A little while ago, I accidentally came across one when watching a television show with the rest of my family. We had watched two seasons of the show with all of us, even the youngest, around. When a show came up about a man with an addiction to a medicine after he had hated himself for years when he ran from a battle, I wasn’t too concerned; in the past, they had done a show about a man who had an addiction to alcohol, and they had handled that fairly well.
The writer and director of the show very carefully made us like him before ending the episode with the man committing suicide. Thank you for the uplifting episode, writers.
When we end a story, there are two things our audience can take away from it. They can take away hope when the story made them smile and built them up, or they can go away feeling heavy and discouraged.
What concerned me very much with that episode was what if someone who had that problem watched it? The character had a problem which the writers, whether purposefully or not, told their viewers was hopeless. The television show was wide-spread, and there’s a large chance that someone who needed something to lift them up and tell them that there was hope in that situation watched the show and came away feeling shocked and altogether numb, asking themselves, “Is that the only way it can end?”
It’s not the only way it can end. There is hope.
Whenever you publish something, someone will read it. Someone will be affected by it, and someone will come away changed.
Words change worlds.
When people go in to see a movie, or open a book and start reading, they let their guard down almost entirely. If you tell them something, they’ll believe it. If you tell them that this world is terrible and there’s not point to living, they’ll believe it; if you tell them that there is hope and death isn’t the end, they’ll believe it. They might not believe it immediately, but your words are going to change the way they look at life.
In particular, your endings will change people. What message are you sending?
I’m not saying to have your stories be all fluff and happiness. The world is broken. We are living in a terrible place and time, but there’s more. There’s more than tragedy and death; there’s life, too. At the end, when we draw everything together, it’s important to let your readers know that this world isn’t the end, the death isn’t the end, the hurt isn’t the end.
Words change worlds. And people. And hearts. How are your words affecting people?