This week we are discussing whether we prefer happily-ever-after, (HEA), or happy-for-now, (HFN), endings to stories. Tragic endings were not offered as an option, but all of us touched on that type of ending.
[If you don’t recognized the title, it is a line from the movie “The Addams Family”. Gomez asked it of Morticia, who breathlessly smiled,“Oh, yes, completely!”]
After studying the readership of ‘romance’ novels some years ago, the researchers were astonished; they had assumed that they would find the majority of the readers were single women who were semi-reclusive who had little social life and non-existent love-lives, or unhappily married middle-aged women. They expected to find women who were under-employed or subservient in their workplace. What they found were women who were in every walk of life, whether married,( even quite happily), or dating, (even wildly), and at every social, professional and economic level. And they found a surprising number of men in the same situations as well, all reading romances.
For generations men were the leaders in literature and women used fictitious male names to be published. In the world of romance writers, for years many male writers used female pen names. Fortunately, we have moved beyond that. Case in point, our Hound, Jeff Salter.
I personally know no less than five practicing and former female lawyers who write romance. Most have said that they see/have seen so much unhappiness in their work that they want to give HEAs to their creations, and fortunately, to us all.
I think most people prefer happy endings. Through the week the other Foxes and the Hound brought up sad-ending stories and there is something to be said for a “good” tragedy.
I had a boss who complained about unrealistically happy endings and pointed out that he hated the movie, “Sommersby”. When I told him that it was based on the great, but heart-wrenching, “The Return of Martin Guerre”, he asked to borrow my copy of the movie. He wanted to see more substance and what he considered to be a realistic ending. (That movie isn’t for the faint of heart, trust me.)
We went through a siege of unhappy movie and book endings in the 1980s.(The 1970’s had many novels/stories/movies with no actual endings. It was annoying, but I digress.) I hope they are mostly gone.
I generally prefer happy endings and hope for the future. What we did not have in our topics is ‘Bittersweet’ endings, endings that are hopeful and/or redemptive after much loss or suffering. I just read such a book, and it will stay with me. (Rachel Joyce’s “Prefect” There is some happiness and much hope, after a roller-caster of unfortunate events. Perhaps that is the most ‘realistic’ we can expect in a book or story. Since life is far from perfect, a bittersweet ending, a hard-earned or long over-due bit of happiness and hope, might satisfy those who find it hard to relate to the sweetness of HEAs. I think hope is what most of us look for in a romance which is why my WIP will have HEAs for more characters than my protagonist and hope for more to come for others.
What about your thoughts? Do you think bittersweet endings help after tragedies in a storyline? Do they become HEAs or HFNs, or do you find yourself dwelling on what was lost or endured?