Thursday, April 16, 2009

And they all lives hopefully ever after...

By Kim Dare.

I look at happy endings from two different points of view.

Firstly as a reader…

I hate reading sad endings. I’m not just talking about romances. I don’t approve of unhappy endings in any genre. The only author who I’ll accept an unhappy ending from is Shakespeare – and that’s because I read them for the language rather than the plot.

For everyone that isn’t Shakespeare, the ending has to be happy. Or, to be more accurate, it has to be hopeful. If I want to be depressed I’ll watch the news.

There’s more than enough to get upset over in the real world. If an author has gone to the trouble to create a fictional world peopled by fictional characters, I really don’t get why they wouldn’t want to make it better than our real world. I’m not saying bad things shouldn’t happen. I don’t object to a little bit of reality in my fiction. Make me cry in the middle by all means – but when I reach the last page and close the book – I want to have hope.

Yes, I know there are terrible things happen in the world. Yes, there are often terrible things happening on our own doorsteps. But given the choice I want to read something that makes me believe that the light at the end of the tunnel is something better than an oncoming train.

It’s not so much escapism as it’s a desire to be reminded of the good things and good people that often pass unnoticed and uncommented upon in the midst of all the trouble in the real world - a desire to dwell on the nice bits of peoples lives that don’t get reported in papers.

In my opinion, fiction like all other art forms, should lift spirits rather than crush them, it should inspire hope rather than despair. That’s its reason for existing, that’s its job.

From a writer’s point of view…

I have a job to do too.

Before I go any further, I want to make it quite clear that I do realise the fictional characters in my books are indeed fictional characters. I am aware that on a strictly technical level they don’t exist.

That said…

I have a deal with my characters.

People turn up inside my head. They tell me their story so far. Sometimes they are happy stories, sometimes they are quite the opposite.

But, whatever’s happened in their past, from then on its my job to get them to a happy ending. I introduce them to another character (or sometimes a few characters – but more about ménages in a few weeks time) and I write down what it would take for those characters to find the happy ending that they need together. That’s what writing is all about for me.

Sometimes the characters have to go through a few different versions of hell before they find that happiness. No one said finding a happy ending is easy! Some characters don’t arrive ready to leap straight into the ending. That’s why I promise the characters a happy ending, not necessarily a universally happy journey towards it.

But by the end of it all, I expect characters wounds to begin to heal heal. Their faith in humanity, love and the world in general should be restored. They ought to find the other half of themselves. They should discover that the world is more than the doom and gloom always preached on the news.

Okay, all that doesn’t happen in every story.

Sometimes it’s as simple as two people who don’t actually have much to angst over discovering that they’ll be finding their happy ending with someone unexpected. Sometimes the characters are reasonably happy to start with. Sometimes it’s nice to write about people who not only have happy endings but have happy lives in general – light hearted feel good books that don’t dwell on too much any sort of angst.

But at the same time, I will admit that I have a soft spot for characters that have been severely put through the ringer by life before they arrive in one of my books. Maybe that’s because they are the characters who need a happy ending the most, maybe it’s because they represent something of the tragic real world stories that I can’t get out of my head until I’ve written a happy ending for someone who found themselves in that situation.

I can’t change the whole world (although I’m far from giving up trying) I can’t give everyone in the real world the happy ending I believe everyone deserves.

But in my little world, in the world that exists in my books. I can do that. I can make sure every single character who deserves a happy ending gets exactly what they need. That's a good feeling and maybe it’s part of the reason I write, to remind myself as well as the characters that there is hope.

As a writer and as a reader, as you might have guessed, happy endings are very important to me.

Happy endings and hopeful endings – long may they thrive.

Kim Dare.
Kink, love and a happy ending. Do you Dare?


  1. Well, you've said what I was going to say on Saturday, Kim. I'm in 100% agreement. I love to handle damaged characters and even if I make matters worse for a while, I won't let have an unhappy or unhopeful finale. I didn't use to mind watching sad movies - now I can't. If I know it's sad I won't go and see it. I'm not going to pay to cry!

  2. I like the idea that in addition to HEA you include hopeful endings for those who should get their happy ending in the next book. It keeps me coming back for more. I love trilogies and even longer series. I especially like series in which the character who appears mostly behind the scenes, the boss, etc. gets his/her own HEA. In one romantic suspense series I kept asking, "When is the boss lady getting her own story?" When she finally did I was in heaven.


  3. Hi Kim!

    I dunno.

    I understand what you're saying, and certainly when it comes to adventure and romance genres we want the couple to work things out, the hero to win, the bad guy to lose and so on. And its true it doesn't always happen that way in the real world. I think for me, I want the ending that seems inevitable. In Shakespeare, there's no way to have a happy ending to Othello or King Lear that works like the sad ending does. And the sad ending for those characters makes perfect sense, when the story is over it appears to have grown organically from the flaws in their natures. It appears honest. And the double suicede of Anthony and Cleopatra sticks in my mind longer than the happy endings I see in some movies.

    I think in my case that is what I want to learn to achieve, and what I aspire for in my own stuff. I want an ending that sticks in the mind long after you finish the book. A good story haunts me. That's when I know its good.


  4. Hi Kim,

    So it's happily ever after, or at least going that way for you. Sometimes it works, and as a writer you're well aware of the characters having a mind of their own. LOL

    I still have to stick with my take on it. The ending has to fit the story. I've had a few that simply wouldn't have worked at all if I'd tried for a different ending, but then, they were never meant to be romance.

    Labels can be a good thing.


  5. Hi, Kim,

    I like this comment of yours:

    "In my opinion, fiction like all other art forms, should lift spirits rather than crush them, it should inspire hope rather than despair."

    I agree with you completely. But I don't necessarily think that HEA is always the way to do that. A sad ending can inspire hope - can lift the spirits. Romeo and Juliet ends tragically, yet in some sense it's sublime. Their love becomes more than human, powerful enough to reconcile their warring families. Their deaths save them from just being another teen couple who probably would have run off and got married, had kids too early, and finally broken up...

    Okay, I'm being a bit facetious here. But Jude is right, I think - a story has to have the ending that suits it. And in many romances that I read, the happy ending is either trivial, or forced.

    Just my opinion. I like ambiguity and complexity, in characters and in fiction. If it's too easy, I won't enjoy it - even if it's happy.


  6. Hi Kim,

    Well, I'm with you. People keep throwing Shakespeare into their comments and I wonder why they're comparing apples to, um, kumquats. We're writing for the "erotic romance market". Readers want HEA.

    Sorry if the ending feels forced, then I guess I didn't do my job well enough. But if I write it, it's going to end happily.

    Take care!


  7. Hi Barbara,

    The perils of being the last to have their say, lol. I won't go to see sad films either. Sometimes I think I'm the only m/m writer on the planet who hasn't seen past the first half hour of Brokeback Mountin - but I still have no intention of seeing the end!

    Thanks for commenting,

    Kim Dare.

  8. Hi Ray,

    I'm just starting work on a series like that at the moment. I do like to have one character who has to live through everyone elses happy endings before he gets a chance to have one of his own - it makes his final happiness all the sweeter :)

    Thanks for commenting,

    Kim Dare.

  9. Hi Garce,

    I think you're right that the ending has to flow organically from the characters in the story. But I do think that the best stories I've read, the ones that stick with me, do have hopeful endings - in at least some respects.

    I love Shakespeares tragedies. But maybe I'm weird - I don't usually see them as entirely without hope. If you take Macbeth as a typical example - society as a large has a happy ending, even if the Macbeths don't. The monster is vanquished, for want of a better expression.

    I want a story that doesn't just tell me that the world sucks. I know that bit already. Tell me how it can be made better - even if it's only for one person - and I may well remember the ending long after I've forgotten all the others.

    Thanks for commenting,

    Kim Dare.

  10. Hi Jude,

    I agree that labels can be very useful for any reader who likes to be sure what their getting.

    I can't say I've ever had a story that couldn't end happily or at hopefully. Althought sometimes it's not easy, and it takes a lot of work to make the character's happy ending realistic - and I do agree that it has to be realistic.

    If I'm honest, I don't think I could write a sad ending for my characters - it would feel like a betrayal of them. I have to persever and find a way for them to be happy. Until I can do that, I won't write their story. In a way, until I could do that, I'd feel that I didn't deserve to write their story.

    (Yeah, I am aware I have a somewhat strange relationship with the people who live inside my head, lol.)

    Thanks for commenting,

    Kim Dare.

  11. Hi Lisabet,

    I'd agree that complexity and realism are good. I just don't think they negate happy endings. A complex, realistic happy ending is the goal for me.

    Romeo and Juliet - interesting from a social and historical perspective. Fantastic use of language. But I've never found it to be the least romantic. And I didn't like the ending - mostly because I found it contrived rather than sad.

    From the point of view of society as a whole, Romeo and Juliet had to die in order to make the other characters see sense. He killed them off to make sure society learned it's lesson - he killed them to ensure a happy ending for everyone else. Broke the eggs to make an omlet, if you will.

    For my money, it would have been far more realistic if they hadn't died, so the ending you suggest might not have been as dramatic, but in many ways it is more complex and it is more realistic :)

    Thanks for commenting,

    Kim Dare.

  12. Hi Jamie,

    Glad to see another vote for happy endings, lol!

    Your right - it's what a lot of readers want. And publishers. And editors. And I'm pretty sure the characters want to end happily too!

    People's concentration on the idea that happy ends seem forced in some books is somewhat missing the point in a lot of ways. That's not a problem with the happy ending - it's a problem with the writers skill in reaching the ending. A forced unhappy ending would be just as bad.

    Just because some people do something badly, is no reason to dismiss the posibility it can be done well!

    I agree - if I write it, it's going to end happily, too :)

    Thanks for commenting,

    Kim Dare.


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