Why do we (readers and writers) need to justify happy endings?
I want to finish a book with a sigh and a smile, encouraged about the goodness of life. Recent research from Global English Editing and Written Word Media ( What Readers Want) reveals some interesting facts about reader habits and inclinations, in 2022, including which genres rack up the most sales.
- Romance books always have an emotionally satisfying and positive ending.
- Crime-Thriller books–Good will conquer evil in the end.
- Religious and Self-help–people are more interested than ever in improving themselves. They sure don’t want to focus on the dark side of life.
- Fantasy and Sci-fi–Fantasy and Sci-fi constantly reaffirm an ultimately positive world view.
I’m tired of the criticisms of happy endings.
Sometimes a happy ending just doesn’t fit with the storyline.
That really isn’t a criticism of happy endings. It’s more of a statement about books that have sad depressing endings that grew out of bad situations. That makes sense–the ending should follow logically from the storyline. I avoid reading those books.
When a couple reuniting or girl getting her dream job doesn’t feel like a viable ending to a story, it shouldn’t be thrown in to make the reader happy. I agree, although there’s nothing wrong with making the reader happy. The book Sophie’s Choice is a great example of a situation that was always going to end badly. If you really want to write about a bad situation then a sad ending is pretty much what you have to write.
Happy endings aren’t realistic.
Orson Welles said, “If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.”I’ve been to weddings where I thought this couple is not going to work, and sure enough, two years later, they’re divorced. Does that mean I can’t wish the happy couple well and hope with the best? Apparently not, according to those who think that sad endings are great because happily ever after is not realistic.
A sad ending helps readers relate to the story and the characters, and readers learn from the characters’ mistakes.
I disagree. I really liked the characters in The Bridge To Tarabithia right up until Leslie died. What should I relate to about her death? The fact that Jesse had a friend who died? What lesson should I learn from that? Don’t swing across a stream on a rope? At least not by yourself? Should I have realized the bad things happen to good people? I already knew that. How about the book Waiting for Alaska? In this story and emotionally disturbed girl gets in a car drunk and dies. What does a reader learn from that? Don’t drive drunk?
Bad endings can be more meaningful than happy ones because they help readers to understand the consequences of The characters’ actions and the importance of making the right decisions.
Duh, look around we are surrounded by wrong decisions and their consequences every day.
Sad endings make readers feel like they’ve been through an emotional journey (more like an emotional wringer).
I guess some people are emotionally kind of dead. Maybe they don’t have enough bad stuff going on and need to read about other peoples problems to feel some emotion. If that’s your bag, I’m happy for you to do that, but don’t pretend it’s in some way beneficial or that books with unhappy endings help readers understand that there are no guarantees and life is hard. I think we’ve all got that.
The saddest endings can be the most memorable.
People focus on failure for the same reason freeway traffic slows down to view an accident. The problem is that if you do get a good view of something really gory, you wish you could unsee it as easily as your car drives on by. You can’t.
It’s true that the bad stuff in our lives seems to come more easily to mind that a happy day. A happy day doesn’t motivate us like a broken arm (We’ll be more careful in the future). But tales of overcoming adversity or our enemies are very motivating. It feels good to be shown that good can triumph. Rather than feel bad for the character who failed and sank into depression, ultimately committing suicide, I choose to be happy for the one who succeeded in her quest.
A happy ending is more commonplace and commercial.
A literature professor at the University of Texas in Austin once told me that. I take offense at that description. It says that happy endings appeal only to common folk, those of lower values and intelligence, certainly not to us professors and similar high minded people, we who are above commercialism. God forbid that someone should want to be entertained! Apparently, a lot of people do, since romance with its happy endings outsells every other genre. (but there I go being commercial.)
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