Tuesday, April 14, 2009

I'd be happy to....

Happily ever after endings sometimes fit and I adore when they work and make sense. I have to admit though that I enjoy a less than happy ending at times. When writing romance, or erotic romance, readers expect the HEA and an author is obligated to supply it. Don't and you risk losing readers, possibly permanently.

HFN, or happy for now, also works a lot of the time. Again, I'm all for it, when the story goes that way and the characters need that kind of ending.

Okay, get your rotten tomatoes and other assorted tossables. *G* I've written a few stories where the ending isn't really clear. Usually, when I get an idea for a book or story, I know how it's going to end. I may not have the complete story line or plot, but I know Jane is going to rescue Joe from the kidnappers and they'll live happily ever after, or not. There are some stories that simply don't have that clear cut an ending. There are times when the characters don't deserve happy endings. Heck, I've written a few pieces where the characters die horribly and deserve every moment of their torment. *G*

And what about the character who doesn't want happy? Joe Shmuck murders someone and is haunted by the ghost. Joe has a love interest, a nice job and all the trimmings. But, deep down inside, poor Joe wants this ghostie to scare the pants off him. Maybe literally. LOL Say Joe is slipping it to his wife and ghostie whispers something naughty into Joe's ear. Scares him spitless and his wife must know somethings up... errr down... and Joe is happy as a clam. He's paying for the deadly deed but can still take care of his family. Okay, so maybe that wasn't the nicest of scenarios, but life isn't always nice. Right?

Romance is escapism and thus the happily ever after. Apparently it's doing extremely well right now too, and that can't be a bad thing. I think if a book is clearly marked romance, a reader has every right to be upset if a HEA isn't supplied. You really want what you're paying for and an unhappy reader is an scary thing... gulp!

What's your take on how a book ends? Do you think the good guy should always win and the mystery solved or is there room for the not quite answered questions to leave you wondering? Perhaps that ghost really isn't finished with Joe. Perhaps Joe's wife is going to get into the act later.


  1. I agree that if you call something romance, you create certain expectations, including HEA. Personally, I'm not a HEA devotee. I like to be surprised and not be able to predict the ending.

    Which is who I tend to describe my own stuff as 'love stories' and 'erotica' and 'smut'. Not romance. Although I sneak a HEA ending in every so often, just to keep people on their toes!

  2. All right, I already said yesterday I love HEA, so I won't beat that horse to death. But I think the type of book you're describing, about Joe and the ghost, might better fit into a different category. It could be horror, and it could still be erotica.

    I've done a few ghost stories early on that ended ambiguously, and I got feedback from the readers who really didn't care for that.

    I think the main thing is letting the reader know what he or she is getting. It's a big world out there, and every book is not for every person. As long as the blurb, category and description let the reader know to some extent what they're getting (maybe even in the advisory), then an author should be able to tell whatever story he or she wants.

    Whew! Sorry you asked?

    Great blog, Jude.


  3. Yeah - what Jamies said, lol.

    Personally I'd skip the warnings that tell me if there's going to be swearing, sex, violence or anything else in the book and exchange them all for a simple tick box that said happy ending or no happy ending. I can cope with whatever happens in the middle as long as it turns out okay in the end.

    Kim Dare

  4. Interesting post and comments! I agree with Jamie -- mostly I want to read books with HEA or HFN. But I also read mysteries and sometimes they don't end as expected! Surprise can be good! I have to disagree with Kim though - I do want the warnings as there is just some stuff I don't want to read with sooo many choices!! Over the last year I have read one or two very popular authors and been really disappointed by the language in the books...just turned me off! Of course - that is just one little ol' reader's opinion. Different strokes of course!!

  5. I've read books where the ending seemed to be up to the reader. Sometimes, it works; sometimes, it doesn't. As for the happy ending, life isn't a fairy tale and there are times when I've wanted to throw a book across the room because there is no way the hero and heroine could have lived happily ever after.

  6. Hey Jude

    Tonight, when I get off work, I'm going to go book hunting for "The Smart Bitches Guide to reading Romance Novels". I think its twelve bucks or so. (more in Canada). This is a book for folks like me that don't yet get romance but would like to. Happy endings? HFN? I understand the idea of them in the case of pure storytelling. I grew up with Conan the Barbarian, and the different Edgar Rice Burroughs series, arguably romance novels for boys, and they were all about the happy ending. But later I learned to love Shakespeare's tradgedies where the end of the last act is a massacre of dead bodies like dollar bills littering a strip joint stage. Those endings stick in your mind. Consequently some topics are difficult for me to get a grip on so to speak, and I have to improvise on these themes more.
    So I need further education in this genre. Much to learn from you Jude, and everybody else here.

    Garce (comtemplating The Magic Hoo-Hoo)

  7. My preference is HFN. I don't personally like stories where everything turns out sunshine and rainbows. To me as long as the hero and heroine end up together (dating) then it is a happy ending.

    I like books to end on what I call an upward positive note. I really don't want everyone to get married and/or end up pregnant.

    Like I said, as long as they're together, I consider that happy.

    Now, if I'm reading a series, I don't expect each book to be a HEA. I enjoy just ending on a "positive note" and picking up in the next book. I think that's the whole point of a series, romance or not. Wow. I've had too much coffee:)

  8. I'm afraid I'm going to do a blanket thank you to all of the comments today. A visit to the dentist plus a fall that left me with a sprained ankle has done me in today. I'll be better very soon.

    Bryn, Jamie, Kim, Martha, LuAnn, Garce and Tracey, I truly appreciate your thoughts on a happily ever after. I think right now, most people buying books, whether it's erotica, romance or pretty much any genre are after escapism. The economy has made reality a tad difficult to deal with and a good book is an inexpensive way to get away from the worry.

    Thank you all so very much for taking the time to comment.



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